Classics: Ali Azmat – IM on the Fringe

This video of Ali Azmat on IM on the Fringe is highly entertaining. Ali is entertaining not only for the way he speaks, but the insight that he gives into his career and the lives of musicians. I particularly love the line where he says, ‘These poor guys make nothing…they don’t make shit…now upar se ur going to take taxes…why don’t u take my ‘chaddis’ as well man’. On the Fringe is a very well done show and Fasi Zaka, the host, makes it a point to ask probing questions when interviewing musicians rather than indulging in glorifying talk about their achievements.

One thought on “Classics: Ali Azmat – IM on the Fringe

  1. here another piece by fasi zaka, we have had wonderful adventures together.

    Conventionalism, Nationalism and Dil Dil Pakistan

    Fasi Zaka

    The birth of punk rock in the U.K. and pop in Pakistan couldn’t have been more different. The Sex Pistols launched themselves into mass consciousness with God Save the Queen, and in Pakistan the Vital Signs did the same with Dil Dil Pakistan.

    The former song is concentrated sarcasm that decries English conservatism and monarchy, while the latter celebrates Pakistan ’s landscape.

    The polar opposites of the sentiments both have can be explained by the times in which both songs were released. When the Sex Pistols came out with God Save the Queen the U.K. was in serious decline and had severe chronic unemployment.

    On the other hand the Vital Signs with Dil Dil Pakistan signaled the start of an era that gave us democracy (sadly since culled) and the end of a socially regressive dictatorship.

    Punk rock has since moved on in terms of the themes it embraces, in fact with Green Day and The Offspring it has become mainstream.

    Unfortunately, Dil Dil Pakistan twisted a few things for us. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fantastic song. In fact for its time it was one of the best routes to take for a public that would have been suspicious of western looking youth, and this is two decades ago, singing about love and girls. It pacified the masses to know that Vital Signs were singing about their country in terms they knew well from milli naghmas, even if they were visually alien.

    This is where one of the conventions of Pakistani pop begins. Other bands were tuned into Vital Signs’ success and began to release nationalistic themed songs too. A slew of patriotic songs came out, most of middling quality.

    Despite the upbeat tempos most of these songs had very conservative lyrical content. None of these songs talked about the need for secularism, pluralism of federalism. The only focus was on the land, and occasionally Kashmir .

    There is a really good business reason to come out with a patriotic song. On the four or five national days, channels search desperately for content. So even if your songs are not doing well generally, you are guaranteed some airplay during this period.

    Patriotism is a good thing, but too much love of the current order can become a fear of those who are different or want change on behalf of those who are disenfranchised.

    That’s how patriotism can shift to nationalism, a fundamental love of the land and conservative values as if it were somehow inherently better than all others (which automatically leads to a fear of democracy). Fascism begins like that, and so does romance with militarism and unilateralism.

    So oddly enough bands like Vital Signs and others that began with respite from dictatorship actually ended up making videos of songs that lavishly played into Pakistan ’s armed forces.

    Patriotism was therefore actively confused with the air force, infantry and navy. Jawad Ahmed, Najam Shiraz and others all played into it. The videos of many singers have symbolism that confuses love of country with love of military.

    Most bands end up following the convention of nationalism with good reason. Our education system teaches us active respect and obedience for the symbols of authority like the military and bureaucracy. The anti-India content in the syllabus just ingrains an inherent fear that the land we live in is under constant threat, and the method for rallying support is to demonize the outsider (and the Hindu religion, despite the fact that practicing Hindus make up a sizable percentage of the Pakistani citizenry).

    Fear of the outsider, militarism, xenophobia and support for non-representative civil service all benefit the establishment because people will support you despite your imperfections and authoritarianism if they believe their existence is constantly under threat. Innocent pop songs play into this trap.

    With the exception of Junoon in the early days (before their corporate conversion into respectable and sedate Sufism), most have simply led themselves into this kind of retrograde thinking by using pop songs to support the establishment via the patriotic song.

    Recently the website UMR asked me if I thought bands had become less patriotic because they were releasing fewer patriotic numbers. It’s an interesting question. On the contrary, I think that shows evidence of greater patriotism.

    Bands that don’t make patriotic songs for the heck of it reflect a sincerity of thought that has not been sold to the desire to follow convention or pander to popularity. If they don’t feel like it that makes them more sincere than those who do so for other reasons that are far from love of country.

    That’s why it not hard to fathom why so many of these patriotic pop songs are so uninspired, it’s because they are manufactured and not born from inspiration.

    On a historical footnote, even Dil Dil Pakistan was made for a PTV competition of national songs and may not have even existed if there wasn’t a reward of airtime for a patriotic song.

    Also, and bizarrely, it contains a musical part that was ripped off from the theme of Airwolf. We should have seen the Vital Signs choice of plagiarism as the premonition of things to come.

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