Fragile Rock

Posted by sepoy on November 12, 2009 · 2 mins read

In a (somewhat cringe-inducing*) video report at NYT, Adam B. Ellick takes aim at some of the very popular Pakistani pop stars and their lack of attention to the Taliban.

Not that we could tell much about US campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Af-Pak since 2001 ("Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" anyone?) from US pop registers, it is still an illuminating look at what a *certain* segment of youth is consuming.

Here, for Mr. Ellick, are couple of recent anti-suicide bombing/Taliban songs. You may not understand the punjabi/urdu but you can easily follow the visual story. Both of these singers are just as popular, if not more, than Ali Azmat or Shehzad Roy featured in the NYT report.

Abrar ul-Haq, Awain Na Kar Zulm (Do not do such tyranny)

What heaven after you blow up heaven? What heaven after you kill children? What are these lures of virgins? These are victims of conspiracies. Where will you hide from God?

And here is Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, the nephew of maestro Nusrat, Khuda Zamin say giya nahiN hai (God has not left this world). This is the title song of a new PTV serial which does shine forth in all patriotic glory. But still.

* to be explicit, Ellick narrates this with more than a modicum of sneer as to why Pakistani rockers are singing of extraneous issues like "meddling America" or "torture at Gitmo" or "corruption or poverty" or "drone attacks"instead of, you know, "Taliban". Sure the Noori kids are idiotic. But what exactly is his point in "Would you sing a song about Taliban blowing up schools?" or "the words don't even mention 'taliban' or 'terrorism'". Is this a reality that is somehow missing from Pakistan? Obviously not, since he does show news and views channels expressly against them.


Tweets that mention Fragile Rock -- | November 12, 2009

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Jonathan Dresner | November 12, 2009

Interesting stuff. I was a little surprised that the second one was as ambiguous as it is; or, to put it another way, without your introduction, I would not have been at all certain who was being lionized and who deprecated until very late -- the Rambo/Top Gun references in the last two minutes kind of give it away, though there's still a more documentary, less moralistic tone than I expected.

Qalandar | November 12, 2009

Is the Rahat Fateh Ali Khan song for the same serial that is being produced by the Pakistani military?

elizabeth | November 13, 2009

Even the musicians who come off badly in the clip are at the mercies of what looks like some pretty shifty editing (and, as you said, responding to loaded, bullying questions apparently premised on the notion that anyone who doesn't share the reporter's perspective is de facto dishonest). The portrayal of 'Yeh Hum Naheen' was particularly odd. Anyway, someone needs to send the dude some Laal tracks, and a reminder that political song in Pakistan involves a lot more than just "singing out against the United States."

As far as popularity goes, | November 14, 2009

Abrar-ul-haq's sales exceed the sales of Ali Azmat, Noori and EP put together. The last three really only have a niche market in the urban elite whereas Abrar truly is a pop artist. That said, it really was disappointing to hear Ali Noor and Azmat say those things. It's hard enough to see artists like them, with so little originality become so popular with our apish urban youth. Our art really can and should have more indigenous references, symbols and notes than these people would have us believe.

Salman | November 16, 2009

NYT says it, so it must be right. Yes, "So much for zehni ghulami!"

Nostalgic | November 17, 2009

There is no doubt some shoddy editing in the video... Ali Azmat was part of Junoon for over a decade, and nobody can accuse Junoon of being quiet about this problem... they could easily have gone to Salman Ahmed, Ali Azmat's bandmate in Junoon... he may be ruining his legacy by trying to actually sing instead of playing guitar, but he is quite articulate and his "Rockstar and the Mullah", despite all its faults, talks about these things quite explicitly: Shehzad Roy's two songs are in fact from the same album... The Co-VEN song, presented as "proof" of the narrator's arguments, is actually a terrific, raw, warning that the militants "have multiplied": Co-VEN and a few other underground bands also played benefit concerts for the Swat IDPs... There is no mention of Laal, whose songs denounce "Mullah Raj"... "Sajid and Zeeshan", friends of Fasi Zaka and proteges of Nadeem Farooq Paracha, would have been vocal in their condemnation of the terrorists, given how they are from Peshawar and badly hit by this... the same goes for "Zeb and Haniya"... Also missing were the Christians who are a part and parcel of our rock scene... Gumby, Shallum and the like have in the past been clear in their criticism... ** However, we must pause to wonder why some of these stars have bought into these conspiracy theories... take Ali Noor for instance... editing or not, who in their right minds can claim that terrorism is the smallest problem Pakistan faces, and that it is only the West that opposes the militants... how insulting to the memory of all those who die daily in our streets... Ali Azmat is the saddest case of the lot... he used to boast about how he beat up two Jamaati thugs who once came to beat him up... a notorious womanizer and alcoholic in his very recent past, he now shares the stage with Maulvi Zaid Hamid and the two have on occasion invited Maulvi Imran Khan along too... I hate to bring sect into this, but it is shocking that the Shia and Ismaili stars, whose communities can be expected to be at the top of the militant hit-list, are so ambivalent about this threat... Ali Azmat, Ali Noor and Ali Hamza are Shia and Shehzad Roy is Ismaili...

Salman | November 23, 2009

Nadeem F. Paracha on 'Tuning out the Taliban'

Nostalgic | November 24, 2009

Ali Azmat's Facebook page makes such depressing reading... he and the majority of his fans have fallen for Zaid Hamid's rants completely... NFP, who for so many years was the ideologue of this crowd, is attacked viciously, alongside Fasi Zaka... Where did this Zaid Hamid fellow come from? Its been a year or so since he skyrocketed to superstardom, and there appear to be hundreds if not thousands who have taken the bait he dangles before them...

sepoy | November 24, 2009

I confess I haven't seen much of this Zaid Hamid - odd youtubes and a reference somewhere to him as Zion Hamid - due to his propensity for conspiracy theories (which cracked me up. Incidentally, this bears discussion:

Nostalgic | November 24, 2009

Sepoy, "Zion" Hamid was what NFP called him in a recent satirical article in Dawn: Ahmed Rashid says it like it should be said... unfortunately, he is likely to be dismissed as a CIA/RAW/Mossad agent by the Zaid Hamid crowd... One thing is for certain: the electronic media matters like never before in Pakistan... during the Swat operation, they were able to mold opinion in favor of the army and against the terrorists in a way that would never have been possible in the old PTV days... if there is any silver lining in their coverage of the recent carnage in our cities, it is that they are still anti-Taliban, even if some of them do insist that Hakimullah Mehsud is living in luxury at Bagram and the "funds" are coming from the infamous CIA/RAW/Mossad nexus... I suppose eating one's cake and having it too is a bit much to ask for...

Salman | November 24, 2009

I'm not a fan of Paracha, but he has a point about Zion Hamid. Fasi Zaka on Hamid: "The whole body of work that Zaid Hamid has on television is derived from opportunistic amalgamation of facts to create conspiracy theories. One look at him on screen, and one can easily believe he is sincere, which I am sure he is. A handsome man in the vein of Che, he professes to bring out the truth that the mainstream media ignores, and says himself that he brings it out at some personal risk by battling the powers that be. Whenever a question is posed at him he goes into an erudite, but factually questionable, explanation of the answer without pausing, giving an air authenticity by not harbouring doubts. But the gist of most of it is a belief that what has happened to us collectively in our underdevelopment is at the hands of evil non-Muslims, traitors in Pakistan and the trio of the CIA, RAW and Mossad." The Pakistan report card 12-June-2008 The man is a fiery orator. He is an entertaining character, his engrossing narrative is built on some facts and some known conspiracy theories (Protocols, Amero etc.), emptying politics of politics resulting in all politics/conflicts/events being explained in terms of a reductive essentialist theory (the nefarious designs of the Free Masons, Jews and Zionists, and Hindus/"Banya" are in unison with one another). I'm more cynical of his theories in retrospect than I was while viewing his program and for a while Zaid Hamid's programs did hold my attention. But then the ever broadening scope of the conspiracy theories turning into an entire worldview, got to be too much to bear for the sake of entertainment or acquiring information that I didn't have (like Ford being an anti-Semite portrayed in Zion Hamid;s narrative as a brave person who was on to the evil cabal). To a lay man who has at best a tenuous grasp of history, Zion Hamid's narrative and style might have enough of a hook. He talks about famous historic Muslim military men and while narrating his stories about these men, he rocks back and forth in reverence as if in a trance. In a growing cacophony of “What went wrong?” his internally coherent narrative does attempt at resurrecting some pride in his audience. But then the “Us vs. them” paradigm, prejudice & crass racism, bad analysis and a sort of anti-intellectualism that he offers is too big of a price to pay. No need to understand what Zionism is, or what is or what is going on in the occupied territories, or Israel, or the U.S, or India. Why bother when you know that “they” are doing this because “they” are evil by nature or are under the grip of an evil ideology i.e. Zionism/free masonry/Hindu Zionism or whatever. In one of his programs, he said something to the tune of Muhammad Bin Qasim and his companions were thought of as devtas by the Indian population. I watched his "Hindu-Zionism" program but still don't know how he defined this neologism. May be it was supposed to be self-explanatory, but I'm not smart enough to understand it. Other ZaidHamidisms include: Hindus are a "paleet" Qom of "Banyas", Indian state is expansionist by nature and is in pursuit of Akhand Bharat (as if Pakistan or any other state is not expansionist/hegemonic), and Indian State is overly heavy-handed in dealing with rebellion and insurgencies (Never mind Pakistan's handling of Baluchistan, East Pakistan, or Swat). His most humorous moment was denying that the Mumbai attackers were not Pakistani because “their faces are not like Pakistani's faces, and they were wearing wristbands that Hindu Zionists wear.” I was on the floor laughing. Oh, and he also rants about how Indian military strategists fervently and ardently follow Chanakya. Every twist and turn in his narrative of post-partition Indian history is explained away with a reference to what Chanakya said, and soon enough it becomes Chanakya also said such and such, and look this is what India is doing. So if you want to understand “India's next move”, read Chanakya. It is akin to the textbook ploy of Islamophobe, who reduces history/current affairs to what he thinks Quran/Hadith/Ghazali/IbnTaymiyyah/SyedQutb “says” or doesn't say. Paracha, himself, might know a thing or two about that.

Salman | November 24, 2009

Part2 of Fasi Zaka's piece on Zaid Hamid Hate speech -- II: The Pakistan report card By Fasi Zaka (25-September-2008)

Salman | November 24, 2009

"His most humorous moment was denying that the Mumbai attackers were not Pakistani" should read "denying that the Mumbai attackers were Pakistani" *** Also check out How to concoct a conspiracy theory

Nostalgic | November 24, 2009

Yes I remember these articles by Fasi Zaka, after which Zaid Hamid's fan following launched a smear campaign of sorts against Zaka online... As for Mumbai, Zaid Hamid even "proved" that Ajmal Kasab was a Hindu, complete with name and domicile... after the government admitted that he was Pakistani, there was to the best of my knowledge no admission from Zaid Hamid or the devoted fan following about the misleading information... Also, once when pressed about the sources of his information, he said that he gets "forwarded emails from all over the world"... one of these days he will lose his fortune to a poor Nigerian widow...

Khartum | November 25, 2009

Fantastic post, Nostalgic, but if you read last week's column by Nadeem F. Paracha in Dawn, you can get the overall gist of the documentry. It's actually about how many 'modern' middle class Pakistanis are now falling for conspiracy theories and Taliban apologists. The docu just uses musicians as a reflection of this scary phenomenon. Cheers.

Khartum | November 25, 2009

I discovered Paracha only a few years ago, but I'm told he's been around since the 1990s. Whatever the case, he along with Fasi Zaka, Irfan Hussain and Hassan Nisar have been the most consistent critics of Hamid and other cranks out there. The following article was forwerded to me some months ago. In this one Paracha takes apart Hamid piece by piece. It's a great read.

Salman | January 21, 2010 "Even though Pakistan is bleeding from terrorism and suicide bombings, no mainstream pop music artist has come close to condemning or questioning the spread of militancy through music and lyrics. A recent video from The New York Times highlighted this issue"... "Q. If the goal was to initiate dialogue, why not compose Urdu-language lyrics? A. I do realise that it's rather elitist of me to have done the song in English, which limits the audience in Pakistan. At the same time, the song now has global reach and can be understood by people the world over." -- umm yea! "You see that the main character has taken all the steps to commit an act of terrorism, but what is more important is to look at the events that lead the character to that point. Also, one thing I wanted to highlight was the cyclical nature of these events. At the end of the video, one pretty much ends up at the beginning, except there is a man walking into a mosque in the background. The idea was to highlight the fact that unless there is a change in the events leading up to the climax, this horrible cycle will continue." - Yes, unless people stop going to the mosque, the cycle will continue. Don't quite see the relevance of burkah clad woman having a baby to "all the steps to commit an act of terrorism."

Tilsim | January 25, 2010

First we have the jihadis, then the Taliban and now this. How much punishment can we take. Zion Hamid reminds me of the Pied Piper. His bansuri is truly irresistable to many. The same fate as those little children in the folk tale will fall on his followers. Thy are confusing an agenda of hate with truth, intellect rand national pride. Looks like ARY has jumped on the Wakeup Pakistan wagon. V.V. Scary. Black shirts and Jack boots coming next. Watch this space.