Pakistan’s Music: From radio to coke studio

“Music is a piece of art that goes in the ears straight to the heart”. Indeed, a sensible man can’t negate the effect of music on him and several psychological researches have proved it.

Music is in the blood of subcontinent natives. Our ancient books along with special status of musicians during Mughal era prove the love of this region for liberal arts. After the creation of our country, Radio Pakistan was the only sources for news and music. The tracks like “ay watan kay sajelay jawano” & “ay puttar hattan tay nahi wikday” were used to energise the nation during the war of 1965 and with the passage of time these tracks have gained cult status.

In the 80s, a typical mindset was given the free hand to impose their Islamist agenda. Hardcore Islamist mindset deepened roots in a country that had a rich history of music, culture, and other forms of arts.

Our music industry reinitiated its journey in 90’s when Vital Signs and Junoon took pop music to new heights. The tracks like “Dil Dil Pakistan” and “Jazba Janoon” reshaped patriotic chant trend.

Legends like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have followers from Faisalabad to Finland. Videos can be seen in which foreigners can be seen dancing on tracks like “dama dam must qalander”.

In the past, our music industry was highly dependent on folk and classical music. Singers like Noor Jahan, Abida Parveen , Zubeida Khanam, Ghulam Ali and Mehdi Hassan were the pillars of our musical legacy. They were highly professional and set high standards for new comers.

On GT Road or any mainstream highway in Sindh and KP, one can easily find the trucks going on full music and truck hotels, where music wouldn’t stop throughout night. In villages, a ceremony can’t get into full swing unless a local singer does not entertain the public through his/her melodious voice.

But the pity is, in our country, the artists were not given the due respect which is given in art loving countries. We don’t have any credible national institute for music and government never dares to challenge the status quo.

The war on terror, apart from economic and life losses, also defamed Pakistan on international media and our citizens had to face discrimination on airports and in embassies. However, in this hostile environment, our music artists were the flag bearers of Pakistan and through their music, they tried to soften the image. But inversely, a majority doesn’t want to consider them more than “miraasi”. Just president’s medal can’t change the existing mindset.  We should be proud on our cultural exports like Ali Zafar, Arif Lohar and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

In 2008, a former member of famous Vital Signs decided to do an experiment and started working on the project of Coke Studio Pakistan on the model of Coke Studio Brazil. It was a television series program, in which leading artists from all genres like Qawwali, folk, classical, bhangra and pop sang their songs. Rohail Hayat fueled the passion of youngsters by popularising the concept of fusion, first time on Pak TV. It was widely acknowledged and got positive reviews from critics.

Leading singers set the tune with musicians of the modern genres. The first episode was aired in June 2008 and today the 9th season is creating magic through electronic media.

The mystic, melodious, soulful music pieces with the touch of Sufism amazed the music lovers. The tracks like Jugni, Aik Alif and some other attracted millions of listeners on YouTube. Those who don’t understand the Urdu language could not let ears free from the feel of music.

Our coke studio has a worldwide fame and apart from Pakistan, its fame in India is incredible. I was checking comments on the music videos where an Indian fan had written that if in one field Pakistan had excelled from India, it was music. In Asian context, we are the pioneer of this concept and after Pakistan’s Coke Studio, similar initiatives were introduced in other countries too.

Now, the introduction of new singers along with traditional ones has added more taste in the quality of music. The positive note of this venture is that singers like Naseebo Lal and AttaUllah who were considered to facilitate a limited number of regional followers came up with amazing numbers. The coke studio in its journey did not show any discrimination.

The experimentation that coke studio is doing, should have been done in music schools of universities, but here we are more interested to produce low quality graduates in regular fields of engineering and medical.

Through coke studio, we have a platform to pay respect to our music legends of the past. Through this new wave of innovative music, situation has come to this far that Indian films’ music albums are unable to attract the audience unless they do not add two or three tracks of Pakistani singers.

The reason why India became popular in the world lies in the rise of bollywood. Their artists, singers and cinema did not spare any corner of world and their culture has hit every region. The way Hollywood showed the US to world helped the United States a lot to retain its superpower status.

Our land is fertile in this context, we have brilliant minds but the hurdle is that the parents are unwilling to send their children to such fields. Why? Because as a society, we are caged in some ideas. Our people love to listen to songs and see dramas but when their children want to take part in these arts, their dignity and respect comes under danger.

Also check: Pakistani songs from 2000s that’ll take you back in time

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