Down on the Upside

By Sonya Rehman

Speaking about the current music scene, a friend of mine, quite scathingly stated: “Music in Pakistan has gotten too predictable somehow. It bores me”.
While he may’ve been right in some ways, I begged to differ. In the early 90s, the Pakistani music scene was hardly flourishing. With a few musicians churning out songs/albums every now and then, the ‘scene’ in those days was diminutive, struggling and save a few, was practically non-existent.

But then came the influx of TV channels, and our choices, suddenly, became a whole lot more diverse. And so, there we were, tapping our feet to Fakhr-e-Alam, Sajjad Ali, MC Hammer, Hadiqa Kiyani, and a preponderance of Bollywood tunes. Our ‘options’ so to speak – grew.
And ever since 2000, till the present, newer local musicians/singers seem to be crawling out of the woodwork. Those who’ve been around for years – still very much, have a strong, lucrative foothold within the industry, and others – the newer lot, the ‘freshies’ very conveniently happen to get their stuff ‘out there’ without much of an effort. So much so that, the line between genuine talent and pseudo talent seems to be fast shrinking…or may have even shrunk by now already.

So why are we bored? And by ‘we’ I mean, the college-going (or working), young, twenty-something adults. Are we being far too elitist in our approach to local music? Why have our expectations sky-rocketed? The answer here is: far too many music channels, sparse ‘new’ talent, and way too many alternatives.
We’ve got the B4U’s, the Channel V’s, the MTV’s (Asian and foreign) and the local tele stations. Our ‘time-off’ days are valued and therefore channel surfing an hour of our lives away resorts in some amount of resentment. But why resentment? That’s because since we’re so busy punching the remote control, the good stuff may at times get missed, and in its place: the bunk.

Funnily, the ‘masses’ seem to be pretty content with the Pakistani music scene; they’ve got their Annie ‘princess’ crooning ‘Mahiya’ in their paan-chai-joints, dhabbas and shops, they’ve got Abrar-ul-Haq and Jawad Ahmed giving them a jolly good excuse to break out into the bhangra, they’ve got their Faakhirs, Shiraz Uppals, Ali Zafars and Atif Aslams – and hey, life’s good.

But if you think about the upper-middle vein of local society, many simply can’t be bothered anymore. They’ve got their iPod’s and their berry’s (chock-full with international music) – that they carry everywhere – almost as if it’s an extension of their anatomy.
And down on the upside, our youth pooh-pooh’s local music, save a few of their favourites.
I understand that this is a very liberal generalization, but it’s hardly far from the truth. I think it all simply boils down to our elitist approach, our utter disinterested attitude which should be slightly more encouraging.

In this decade alone, minus the mediocre rubbish, look at the ‘good stuff’ that’s been churned out; we’ve got Mekaal Hasan (even though he’s been around far longer than the newer lot), Call, Co-VEN, Jal, Sajid & Zeshaan, Abbas Ali Khan, Raeth, Mauj, Haniya and Zeb (a promising new girl band), Overload, Roxen, and a few others.
Looking at it from that perspective; only makes one thing all the more apparent: that our music scene truly is thriving.
Now let’s just hope that what is genuine, always remains so – and never, ever, undergoes a metamorphosis into anything plastic…nor tipping over into a static lull of pseudo-mediocrity.

Instep Today, The News


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