Pakistani band paints the music scene red

May 26th, 2008 - 12:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Zofeen T. Ebrahim
Karachi, May 26 (IANS) A new song, “Mein Ne Uss Se Yeh Kaha”, which has taken the Pakistani music scene by storm, is neither the usual crooning for a lost love nor does it take the usual cynical view of society. The song is a satirical poem by the late Habib Jalib, a poet with leftist leanings, written some time in the 1960s, when Pakistan was reeling under the rule of its first dictator, Ayub Khan. Jalib was incarcerated and put behind bars many times for his verses.

Sung by the little known duo that forms the music band Laal, the song is part of an album titled “Ummeed e Seher”. Incidentally, the album name is after a poem by the late Faiz Ahmed Faiz that has also been set to music.

So what is so special about “Mein Ne Uss Se Yeh Kaha” that it has listeners yearning for more?

“I believe the poem captures the spirit of the times. It struck a cord then (in the 1960s) and it is certainly striking a cord now,” says Taimur Rehman, 33, one of the Laal members.

He is referring to the events that unfolded in 2007 after the chief justice of Pakistan was suspended by President Pervez Musharraf. So numbed was Rehman with the events that he found himself humming the song “unconsciously all the time”.

Rehman, the composer, who teaches political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), introduces himself as “a political activist” and defines his profession as “social change”.

“Teaching, music and activism are all dedicated to the goal of social change,” he told IANS. “Music is yet another way to reach outside the classroom and stir people to not allow injustice to go unchallenged.”

In fact, his students have been the group’s biggest supporters. “I’ve been getting e-mails, calls, Facebook and Orkut scraps. My students have encouraged us the most.”

The vocalist, Shahram Azhar, who has been learning and practising sub-continental music since he was seven, was Rehman’s student at the university. “He was one of my most brilliant students, but in music, I am his student,” responds Rehman wryly.

What is about Laal that is causing such a tizzy among youth?

Perhaps it’s all in the name - “laal” means red, which is “the colour of the labour movement, of revolution, of socialism”.

Also, one cannot draw any parallels with other contemporary groups in Pakistan’s burgeoning music industry.

Laal comes with a cause celebre - bringing about social change. Its message, not in the style of a sermon, definitely, is clear - fight for social justice so that Pakistan emerges as “an equitable and just society” where no person remains oppressed because of class or creed.

“We are committed to the tradition of the Progressive Writers and Artists Association and consider our work to be a small contribution to that great South Asian movement that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” says Rehman.

Since March 9, 2007, when the chief justice of Pakistan was suspended, Rehman has seen “a new Pakistan emerge”.

In all the crises that beset the country, where “a lot of terrible things happened”, Rehman also points out that “some equally wonderful things” were also witnessed. For example, he says: “The political awareness of the people increased and they began forming informed opinions.”

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