19 comments on “Videos by My Favorite Contemporary Pakistani Rock Band

  1. Even though their Punjabi pronunciation is not at all there :), and even the singing is pretty suspect at times: I know that, but I still enjoyed their videos and music!

  2. I liked the last song quite a lot, and the flute is heavenly.

    The songs are enjoyable so you are excused this time, Richard :-D

  3. Bawa and Pacifist, I am glad you enjoyed this…

    Musically, the last song is my favorite too. It’s not only because they bring in more of the classical-Indian influences and the heavenly flute :), but also because I like that nice new strain of “electronic ambient” style slipping in from the first notes, which reminds me a little of some old Brian Eno. :) (Though they remain very much a rock band – I don’t think they’re going to turn into “Indian electronica” any time soon. :) )

    Of course, lyrical content has a lot to do with why I like them, considering the stuff they draw upon. :) And I do like the political focus… Given a wide range of choices, I probably wouldn’t join their exact political faction, but I’m not going to quibble over that. I mean, wow, so nice to find a rock band like this with mainstream appeal, speaking about the things that they speak about, considering what’s been going on in the world (see comments to last post :) ) and also given what I know about what’s been going on in Pakistan. (Though I think the lead singer has spent more of his life in the UK, and he left to become involved in activism in Pakistan… There are interesting documentaries about them floating around on YouTube.) And, oh yes, at least given what I know/see about them, I do also kind of like them “personally.” :)

  4. I do like the fact that content is not always romantic.
    Have you heard Rabbi Shergill? So far it has been only one good first album, but its really worthwhile. Especially songs like Jugni. the album comes with the lyrics translated.

    translation: http://www.free-lyrics.org/Rabbi-Shergill/223074-Jugni.html

    The famous Punjabi singer, Gurdas Mann, also burst upon the scene in my teen years singing things that were on issues other than just romance. Sometimes comic, sometimes serious, he sang about a lot of stuff that was going around us. Not serious poetry like Shiv Batalvi, more popular and light, but it was refreshing change!
    Unfortunately I cannot videos of his first live perfomrnaces with the “dafli” on jalandhar tv (they repeated it often enough- no one recorded?), rather versions of the songs that were used later in films. Only audio of his first album. Oh well.

    And lastly, my niece forwarded this to me. Two of NusratFAK’s nephews, singing this beautiful quawali with a high-quality band. What do you think?

  5. Bawa, thanks for sending more song clips – always welcome here. :)

    I’ve seen clips of Rabbi Shergill before. I like his “Bulla Ki Jaana Maen Kaun.” I haven’t gotten into the song that you sent; it doesn’t seem as quite interesting to me.

    I haven’t been able to get into the Rizwan & Muazzam song either. The vocals are certainly nice, but the song has a bit too much of a mellowed out “cool jazz” quality for my tastes. (I think I much prefer mellowed out dub-style versions to mellowed out cool jazz. :) ) But these might just be superfiial impressions; I haven’t really had enough time to see if I could absorb this.

    The Gurdas Mann song is my favorite of the three that you sent.

    I don’t mind romantic content when it’s really romantic (I love a lot of ghazals – for the lyrics as well as the music, when I can get adequate subtitles/translations :) ), but much of the contemporary popular pop music, from everywhere (as you know), contains “love songs” or breakup songs that are banal and/or narcissistic. :)

    By the way, I kicked myself hard for missing the Sufi music festival in New York City this past summer. I was actually in NYC the day it happened, but I was out of NYC for much of the time around that, so I never learned that it was happening. As I think you know, I love Abida Parveen!

    I’ve posted clips of this performance in a couple of ther places… It’s really fun to see her perform in the context of a free outdoor concert in Union Square Park(!)… Makes for a very nice contrast…

  6. Abida is just brilliant!
    Enjoyed this one. I would be furious with nyself for missing her too. One of my wishes is to make it to india sometime in March to make it to the Jahan-e-Khusrau festival in Humayun’s tomb….Abida is fixture there, and my sister hasn’t missed once.
    Abida first came into stardom by winning singer of the year at PTV awards with the song, Sone yaar di gharoli bhardi. As I had missed the original programme where she appeared, I was greatly annoyed, as she pipped my own favourite Tahira Syed to it (don’t rememebr the other nominees but they were all good). But when she cam on to give a live performance of the winning song, I just had to acknowledge that she bowled me over!

    I love romantic songs too, but it is also good to have songs on other subjects from time to time. Gurdas Mann made us think on several lines- he had songs on Punjabi (Punjabi zubaniyen), the rampant copying of western customs by indian youth (kee banu duniya da = what will become of this world), and also a bit of the opposite in Dil saaf hona chahida (nothing matters, as long as you are honest about what you are and do), the stages of a perosn’s love life (Mamla gadbad hai). Even his romantic numbers were something different, on the how everything about your lover is rosy-hued despite the reality (sajna ve sajna), how not to behave with your partner (inj nai karinde). He is an enthusiastic live perfomer, in another take on Jugni, pus also a hindi number by Rafi:

    As for Rabbi, his Bulla ki Jaana, I love the version he did of this famous poem.
    Jugni is a traditional punjabi song, and consists of comic versus where Jugni, defintiely not a typical submissive (Indian) woman, goes to different cities and gets into sitautions.

    Rabbi’s song uses the same tune, to paint a very sad picture of current India: intro talks about Jugni going to see what have we made of the country form which the English were chucked out: Kashmir (the useless killings of men and women), Punjab (young men selling everything to emigrate abroad, probably to end up in menial jobs), Mumbai with its financial underworld wheeling-dealings, Delhi, representing any number of Indian cities with their unemployment,crimes against women, corruption. The news items being read out in the background are related, sometimes ironically. the last news item is about somebody talking about the new brilliant India…..I have just realised the translation I sent you is not very good at all! I just think it is such an intelligent song and it never fails to move me.

    You don’t have to like it, I just wanted to tell you why I do!

    I am glad you liked Shaukat Ali Khan. He is just great isn’t he?

    Lastly, as we brought up the Sufi fetival, this what I was listening to while driving in the wilderness of northern scandinavia this summer.Shubha Mudgal, whom I love, andt the Iranian Mahsa Vahdat is truly outstanding in this song. From a live performance at the Jahan-e-Khusrau festival: hence the opportunity for 2 such artists to sing together.

    Again, the album comes with a translation, link here

    The whole album of 5 songs is available on the vimeo link, I think each one is a gem of a song.

  7. Bawa, thank you again for all the suggestions and links!

    I admit, sometimes with my responses, I want to answer you in a timely manner but I really haven’t had a chance to go through everything. So with Rabbi’s Jugni (which I keep wanting to call Jugnu :) ), I was just relating an immediate impression of the sound of the song and hadn’t yet looked at the translated lyrics. The lyrics are interesting…and more so when you explain the roots of the song.

    By the way, you refer to the line about the people of the Punjab selling their land to go abroad, but the line that caught my attention in that stanza was the one about educated people being unemployed. Ha, I know what that’s like! :)

    I’ll write more comments as I get to more of all this good stuff…

  8. well, that as well! Well, considering how many posts by you I listen to a week or 2 later, I am surprised you keep up.
    Panjab: a complex issue, for another time.

    When you have half an hour, you may watch this long trailer of a work-in-progress (I am translator and background provider in it). Full documentary- still unfinished- was shon in NYC on 23rd oct at sikh arts film festival – and I totally forgot to tell you! Next being shown at sikhlens festival in Ca. but once it is finished at the end of this month, it shall be sent to all sorts of film festivals, hopefully…


  9. Fun Fact: The main vocalist (not in the two later videos) was a year senior to me in my undergrad and did take some classes together (there was interesting discussions in the last as you can imagine, and the slacker in me was challenged to interfere in those discussions because otherwise it would be too boring for me to be awake in the class). He was a good fellow, and I believe that we briefly shook booty together when we gatecrashed their farewell party.

    As for the vocalist in the last two videos (the main guitarist) Taimoor Rehman was an instructor in the said college. Now, i don’t abhor people, but I attended only one lecture by this guy, once! and I hated him! I don’t mind people who have well formed, radical ideas of the world (in fact its a delight to interact with them). However, the certitude and his confrontational nature rubbed me in all the wrong places! Good thing they are singing poetry by other famous poets.

    Though, am a huge fan of Sharam’s vocals (listen to “Jaag Meray Punjab” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0t26_Pb-ho )

    The jury is out how they evolve in their second album!

  10. And on an unrelated note, if you liked classical indian music with a tinge of rock and blues, then I would recommend Mekaal Hasan Band, who in my opinion are one of the best contemporary musicians from the country

  11. Dishoom, thank you for those fun facts about these two singers in Laal.

    That is funny what you say about Taimur Rahman. (I’ve skimmed through some of his English-language speeches on YouTube and, yes, he does shout a bit. :) ) It is the downside of discussing things with people who have well-formed radical ideas that many do have a certain certitude that could be annoying and they argue among themselves quite a bit. (I might say “we argue among ourselves quite a bit,” but I haven’t gone to many live political discussions in recent years; I admit, I really should try to be more “active” again, and not just at the computer keyboard…)

    I have no idea how I would get along with Taimur Rahman. :) He is a pretty straightforward old-guard Marxist-Leninist, and while I may be a Marxist of sorts these days (well I think Marx’s political-economic analysis makes a lot of sense, and so, often, does Rosa Luxemburg’s), I’ve never been a Leninist. (Should I go more into what my political philosophy is here? Nah, maybe I’ll skip that for now. :) …) Anyway, I hope Taimur isn’t the kind of guy who would shout at me for not completly following his party line. :) (Just from seeing him in Laal, I like to think he wouldn’t.)

    I agree with you that Shahram Azhar’s vocals are very good. He’s got quite a voice there. The Laal Web site says he’s known for using that powerful voice at political rallies. Of course, this is their PR, so it’s going to talk them up a little, but I believe this.

    The Mekaal Hasan Band clip is good. I like it for the most part… Sometimes the music kind of meanders in a jazzy way that I don’t always take to, but they certainly seem like fine musicians.

    It’s actually not that usual for me to go for rock guitars and that sort of thing when I’m listening to contemporary “east-west” fusion music. (Though of course, Indian rockabilly in films from the ’50s is another matter entirely!) My contemporary Indian-western fusion tastes have tended more toward blends with electronica and maybe some dub or hip-hop mixed in occasionally (as some people know if they saw how this blog started over three years ago ;) ), and not so often with western drum kits and guitars. Maybe these Pakistani bands will help me to “rediscover” rock music and guitars. :)

  12. Bawa, I’m finally looking into some of the other artists you suggested… Not sure I can find the last specific song performance that you were talking about (?), but I looked up Shubha Mudgal and Mahsa Vahdat… Shubha Mudgal is pretty eclectic – she goes all over the place, doesn’t she? – but I think I like her more cassical material more. One or two of her songs reminded me a little of what Natcha Atlas does. I’ve talked about Natacha before (and maybe you know about her?)… I’ve been a fan of her singing since the early ’90s, when she was the singer for the global techno band Transglobal Underground. In recent times, she’s gotten more into the Arabic music of her roots (she grew up in an Arabic neighborhood in Belgium :) ), but she still dips into a varity of western styles, such as reggae, hip-hop, etc.

    I really like Mahsa Vahdat… When I listened to her singing, I couldn’t help thinking of Dead Can Dance doing the “Persian Love Song.” I’ve been listening to Dead Can Dance for close to 25 years. They started in the ’80s as a gloomy goth band from Australia, but they soon delved into medieval European influences, moving deeper into Mediterranean as they went along, and in the early ’90s, they got very much into Arabic, Persian, and Indian influences. They did a bunch of singing on the soundtrack to the film Baraka… In the past, I have posted clips of them and their singer Lisa Gerrard (who also sang on the soundtrack for Gladiator). Anyway, as I was saying, I just couldn’t help thinking of that “Persian Love Song”…

  13. Well, if you have time and inclination, perhaps we can go on a musical discovery. Thats because contemporary Pakistani music scene is my forte.

    Yes, well the jazzy feel is what Mekaal Hasan Band aim for, and thats is their charm for me. However, some crazy ass musicians can be found very easily..

    As you talked about crazy guitar riffs from 50s Bollywood, we had a similar phase in Lollywood in the 1970s, and ive done a few blog posts on them. Just a teaser is this psychedelic instrumental from 1970s

    And, something which has moved me recently. This singer has done a electro-inspired (not actually total all out electro) remix of this Reshma classic http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsqI41FGU-M
    This is Meesha Shafi, who surprisingly only started singing professionally last year (esp after 4:30 mark)

  14. Dishoom, yes, a Pakistani musical discovery sounds good to me – lead the way!

    Will have to get back to you on the other stuff a little later… Just got back into NYC and am writing on my friend’s computer, but apparently the audio isn’t working at the moment! And I have yet to pull out the laptop and set up the wireless. (Stay tuned… :) )

  15. Bawa, I seem to recall your showing me this film, or part of it, before. (I remember the subject matter pretty clearly…) I’ll take a half an hour to look at it again, and maybe some other time to look for our old exchange about this in the comments archives. :)

  16. Dishoom, I recently got back to the things that you posted (with good connection and good audio again)… Of course, the psychedelic guitar stuff that you mnention for Pakistani films happened with Indian films too. But what I meant was that I really like the rockabilly sounds that seeped into “westernized” Indian films of the 1950s. I am sure there was some similar stuff in Pakistani films at the time too. (I don’t remember rockabilly so clearly, but certainly there was some of the Latin-beat jazzy type music in Pakistani films that you might hear in Indian films around the same time.) That is the earlier “westernized” music that I really like.

    Thanks also for the elctro-inspired Meesha Shafi remix of the Reshma classic. That one’s not bad and, yes, it’s siimlar to a bunch of “global” quasi-electronica that I have heard. :)

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