since ca. 2007, the number of public concerts in Pakistan has gone down considerably (this is a purely qualitative statement stemming from observations and I have no numbers to back it up but welcome counter arguments that prove it wrong). It is too blatant however to ascribe this solely to a worsening security situation. Musharraf’s demise may have also coincided – if less abruptly – with the demise of a music era.
When I went to the Tribute to Baber Concert at St. Anthony’s School in Lahore in 2007, some of the finest rock musicians from Lahore and environs hit the stage. But the concert was not only a reminiscence of Baber, but also of their own days as active band members – Coven was an exception, that night they were the active young guns (who just had a new album out) and like young inexperienced kids they behaved. One band member has already scorned me for this criticism.
The great performers that night all had other jobs and otherwise did not perform in public anymore, or if, very rarely. The Rock days had passed. What I experienced live of the remnants of the stars whose great recordings I still listen to often is a bold guy whose coolness may have increased but not so much his artistic output (bomphatta some glimpse of what is still there), some guy with a wool cap at New York dinner parties, twins whose live appearances take place abroad and who have gone rather silent, a long haired drummer who is still active – now with Coke Studio – and the greatest guitarist of all who has always been rather silent when it comes to public appearances and still fosters new talent in his own studio.
Bands who tried to fill their footsteps – and there are a large number of them – never last long or are simply awfully poor – never again did I attend so many rock concerts of abysmal quality as in Lahore between H Block, Fortress and Gadaffi in such a short time.
I am not doing justice to a number of formations here of course who still exist and produce work of great quality – as much as I loathed Coven at above mentioned concert, they still come up with great music and there are unbelievably great musicians who don’t fit in squarely with a category and live on without much regard to changing trends.
But without much regard to the fusion complex (what is pooled in Coke Studio today, which in the long run is going to remain a footnote in the musical history of the country I believe) or bands like Zeb and Haniya or Sajid and Zeeshan, I am looking here at the scene that when portrayed by Adam B. Ellick and Declan Walsh two years ago was perceived to be the modern music of Pakistan abroad when it was actually already on the waning side.
The writer who combines insight, wit and readability the best in Pakistan in my view, has coined this change with the term ‘post-rock’ in an article in DAWN more than a year ago (he is also the author of the piece on Coke Studio that prompted me to write a response then). Ahmer Naqvi has quite a quick and straightforward explanation for the change of eras I would have tried to explain at great lengths with some historical-sentiment narrative. In vain probably. Naqvi’s arguments hold. He writes that epochs of music and the ensuing popular taste changes with the availability of technology. With the advent of the electrical guitar rock grew big, with music video channels filmy-pop thrived (the present author had his few frames of fame in the latter genre). Today, with the internet and easily accessible sound-processing software, it is electronical music that will take the lead – and as Naqvi himself acknowledges, the term ‘post-rock’ does not do justice to the multitude of different styles currently gaining traction.
Since then, one of those artists, Asfandyar Khan, has written another overview with links to music available online by different artists.
Apart from the electronical side, there is also a wide range of Metal Bands, and the initiative The Iron Markhor is documenting the ongoing in this genre regularly.
I will leave some thoughts on critique of music in Pakistan to the next part. Meanwhile I have attempted to collect links to downloadable music in one place at our Pakistan database, work in progress, suggestions are most welcome.