Off to greener (Indian) pastures?

It’s become a trend in Pakistan that any musician who gets a decent amount of fame, then moves over to produce music in India. I watched Sajjad Ali’s interview some time back and he said that it was now close to impossible to remain profitable by just producing music in Pakistan. While this route may work for those singing more mainstream stuff, albeit with awesome voices like Atif Aslam or Rahat Ali Khan, those who are more cutting edge and quirky ‘rock’ bands should really not cross the border. These bands just end up softening their rough edges, selling sickly sweet songs to Bollywood movies and that ultimately spells their demise.

Today while listening to one of the new Coke Studio songs I remembered a Pakistani band ‘Call’ and wondered if they had produced any songs with Coke Studio and why I hadn’t heard of them for a while. Call made it really big around 2003-2005 with their album Jilawatan. Their songs ‘Sab Bhula Ke’ and ‘Nishaan’ were on people’s repeat playlists for months. Everybody wanted to go to a Call concert.

Then they went over to the Indian side to sing ‘Laaree Chhooti” for a Bollywood film (the song itself wasn’t bad) and then another one ‘Dhadkay Jiya’ (a lot more mellow but still good) and that’s sort of it. The sort of edgy music they started off with is no where to be seen.I just googled to see what was happening with them and it turns out they are now reduced to making jingles for Walls ice cream! Listen to their songs ‘Sab Bhula Ke’ and ‘Nishaan’ and then listen to one of their new songs. It came as a shock to me.

I would be pissed off if it weren’t almost tragic that our musicians all go down this commercial route! Is it really not viable to produce original edgy music any more?

Mesmerizing music

Coke Studio is one of the best things that has happened to the Pakistani music scene in a while. Yes, I’m even willing to overlook the overt commercialization/branding that goes with a multinational like Coke. The music Rohail Hayat has produced has been absolutely phenomenal. The fusion of folk and western forms of music has worked so well. And it’s not even ‘fusion’ as we’re used to. It takes fusion to a completely new level. It almost sounds like a cliche but this really is mesmerizing music.

I’m in love with this new song ‘Alif Allah Chambey di Booti’…have been listening to it on repeat. Was a bit skeptical of Meesha Shafi’s vocal talents, but she hasn’t done bad. Arif Lohar has gained new-found respect. We grew up watching him with his funny bright satin shiny clothes and the quintessential ‘chimta’. The beauty of Coke Studio is that it makes you appreciate folk singers and their art without thinking it’s comical or out of place. Wonderful stuff! Enjoy!

‘Tuning Out the Taliban’ – Are we?

I recently saw this video posted on a few friend’s Facebook pages and the video left me feeling very uneasy. It was Adam Ellick’s report for the NYTimes which alleged that Pakistani musicians were not speaking out against the Taliban. The report’s selective editing and snippets taken out of context really did make it seem like most Pakistani musicians were conservative, ignorant “Islamist apologists” entertaining conspiracy theories and unaware of the real issues affecting their country. It even dismissed the Yeh Hum Nahin campaign as not going far enough.

I don’t condone everything said in the video by Ali Azmat or Noori, but I feel Ellick’s views were very biased and simplistic. I could not find the right words to express what I felt until I found some very eloquent comments on a CHUP article on the same topic. As always Kalsoom touches on very relevant and diverse topics that we’re all thinking about but she’s usually the first one to write about them and make them accessible for a debate and discussion. Thanks Kalsoom for that!

Here are a few comments on her article that expressed what I felt much better than I would have been able to:

“I am so incensed at seeing this report, I don’t even know how to respond. There is so much selective editing and editorializing and most of the videos used are all things that are at least 1- 2 years old. In no way does this reflect the current times.

4) There is a very real and persistent threat made directly to musicians and entertainers by the Taliban and their hardline sympathizers. From an Arts Festival being bombed last year, to CD shops being set on fire, concerts being cancelled due to death threat. I think they can be excused for not directly singing out against them for you know…fear of endangering their lives etc.
…I know I’m probably preaching to the choir, sorry to go off on a rant…but I was livid upon seeing this…the simple fact is that I personally do not know anyone who is still hesitant to condone the Taliban, and I feel that this article is truly damaging.”

1) Ali Azmat is one of our most popular popstars, but he’s also a provocateur who delights in taking anti-American views. He co-hosts a debate show with a certain Zaid Hamid, who as Ahsan will tell you is another psycho who has a personal fetish for anit-Semitism and Zionist conspiracies. Ali Azmat in no way shape or form represents the “collective view” and he certainly doesn’t speak for the musicians I know.

2) The Noori brothers are one of the most incredible performers in the country and for the video to imply that they are Taliban apologists/sympathizers is at best extremely irresponsible and at worst criminally libelous. I don’t know when this video was made but I’m positive it isn’t current. I’m also positive that had the rest of the interview been aired, then Ali Noor would have clarified his point a little better…. Read More

3) Shehzad Roy’s “Yeh Hum Naheen Hain” (This is not us) was a collective effort of all our major popstars getting together and trying to show the public that they do not condone or support the actions of the Taliban. But this apparently was merely an “indirect effort” for Mr. Ellick.

Another reader said this:

“Firstly, Ellick’s claims are entirely inaccurate. I won’t elaborate because they have said it better here:

Sorry for the long tirade, I’m just sick of people assuming that all Pakistanis are supposed to hate the Taliban and if they don’t, they obviously love and support them. I personally fall in neither of the categories and I don’t want a journalist telling me I have to either love or hate. Sorry but life’s just a tad bit more complex than that.”

Whatever one thinks of the Ye Hum Naheen movement, it happened and was an effort by a few artists to give a political statement(goes to show how effective such songs are anyway).

Secondly, no artist, musician, writer is ‘required’ to do anything. It’s not their job to educate lazy American political analysts on how Pakistanis feel about the Taliban. The responsibility is squarely on the learner. If they want to know how people feel about the war in their country, well ask and get a bit of a detailed analysis. I repeat it is NOT the responsibility of Pakistanis to prove to anyone that we don’t deny our problems. I can point at least 7 other conflicted countries that don’t have to go through pains to tell the world ‘look we’re fucked’ !

Thirdly Jolie and Bono aren’t good examples. Being a celeb against poverty or for AIDS awareness is just slightly different than being against the Taliban. The militancy in our midst is not as clear-cut as a fatal disease and one can’t expect all people to against it unequivocally.

Lastly, I don’t understand the need for specificity. Just because Ye Hum Naheen didn’t have lyrics that said I Hate the Taliban it’s not good enough? I guess what satiate the likes of Ellick would be lyric that go like


and really, that would make for terrible, self-hating music.

Stress – We can handle it!

Stress-ZebraStripes“I have too much work, don’t know where to start? I am stressed, don’t know if I can do it?”

“I have nothing to do, its stressing me out”

“God!! its stressful, I can’t handle it!!”

“I am too stressed, have lots to do for my exams”

At work, in social circles, within family, one of the most common phrases I hear day in day out is regarding stress. Stress is a fact of life and is actually a form of fear. Fear of what?? Well, that depends on what we are stressed about… We fear consequences, “all negative” in this case.

I personally think stress is a cause of negative thinking. It not only hinders our work, it can have a serious impact on our health too. Hence, it is very important to tackle it in time for a healthy mind and a healthy body. I am a believer in relaxation techniques. A state of deep relaxation actually counters the mental fear response, it decreases muscle tension (remember those stiff shoulders you get when afraid or stressed?), controls blood pressure & heart rate.

I’d like to share a few relaxation techniques I use for Stress Control, please try them and let me know of your experience:

Breathing techniques

Breathe properly; it’s really important. Stress makes us breathe in short breaths from high up in our chest. In all the relaxation techniques I have read, they always recommend breathing deeply starting from our abdomen i.e. fill in your abdomen first and then the top part of the chest to get more oxygen to our brain and muscles.

Try this simple exercise – Sit straight on a chair or lie down on your bed. With one hand on your abdomen, take a deep breath in through your nose, feeling your hand rise as you fill your lower lungs with air, then fill in your upper lungs. Hold your breath for a moment and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Get rid of all the air and along with it breathe out all the stress in your body. Yes, imagine doing that. This works for any aching parts of your body too. Focus on them when doing the exercise.

Repeat several times, until you feel relaxed. With practice, you’ll be able to use this technique whenever you feel stressed. I have used it. In fact I and Tamreez do these exercises sometimes with a relaxation techniques CD we have. It just takes a few mins and we are both sleeping :). Trust me it works!

Imagine yourself in a peaceful place

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a tranquil place… an island, a beach, your village, whatever you find peaceful. Feel your breathing and slowly relax yourself into the scene. Fill in the scene with details. What do you smell, feel, see and hear?

It takes your mind off stress and the body heals itself. Try it and let us know how it went.

Get out and exercise

Haha, I am saying it and Tamreez will laugh at me. I have become a lazy bum these days. Physical activity is a great way to get rid of stress. Regular exercise can improve breathing, blood circulation, concentration and energy level goes up, it also controls things like blood pressure and cholesterol etc.

I did a course in ‘Superworking’ a couple of years ago. This was one of the most important things highlighted for a healthy brain. It is recommended to do at least 20 mins of exercise everyday. It can be anything from brisk walking, going up and down the stairs etc. The key is to do it in one go i.e. 20 mins of exercising with no breaks.

Think about it, is your stress worth stressing about?

Each one of us look at the world from a point of view. These are the invisible goggles we are wearing that give us a different view of the world. Sometimes our stress is a cause of our perception of a situation rather than the situation itself. Reconsider the cause of your stress and ask yourself if you’re worrying unnecessarily. Talk to yourself, have an internal debate and reason it out. Sometimes it works!


Always works for me. Listening to relaxing music can help – Lata and Kishore work for me :) I also like listening to just instrumental music.

Hope these tips are helpful. Keep smiling :)