Enabled by Pakistan's youthful population's embrace of the new media, the hit videos Aalu Anday and Paki Rambo are the latest examples in a long tradition of protest music, poetry and literature in the rich and diverse culture of Pakistan.
In recent years, Pakistan's protest culture has entered a new and exciting phase. The artists no longer feel stifled by the heavily censored state electronic media which dominated the national landscape for most of Pakistan's existence. In fact, the new talent does not rely even on the corporate-owned commercial media that have emerged and become powerful during the last decade of President Musharraf's rule. With the growth of Internet in Pakistan, the rapidly expanding online population is feeling more empowered than ever to engage in free expression as part of their political and social activism.
The best known Pakistani protest poem is Habib Jalib's "main nahin manta" (I refuse to accept) from the Ayub era of the 1960s. Though Jalib passed away in 1993, his words have continued to give expression to discontent against unpopular leaders who have come and gone since the 1960s. His timeless poems still serve as a clarion call of resistance against the tyranny of the status quo. And Jalib's legacy continues to inspire new and youthful creative talent to produce protest songs and music which spread virally through new social media like the Internet-based social networks including Facebook and Twitter, and video repositories like Youtube.
Given the global reach of the Internet, the new social media are now enabling individual Pakistani protest musicians to attract international attention. For example, the Beyghairat Brigade's trio who created Aalu Anday have found fans in other South Asian nations with glowing reviews in the Indian media.
A Youtube video titled "Paki Rambo"` by Adil Omar, a young Pakistani hip hop artist, has reached across the oceans to fans around the world, and found coverage in the Washington Post. An American group Cypress Hill discovered his music on the Internet and invited him out to Los Angeles to record together. The Post also reports that "Omar has now recorded songs with several other American rappers, including Everlast from House of Pain, Xzibit and one of the members of Limp Bizkit. He plans to release his first album next year and has established himself as Pakistan’s biggest — and perhaps only — rap star."
With expanding educational opportunities and growing access and use of the modern social media by the nation's youth, Pakistan is now in the midst of a dramatic social transformation that is likely to change the face of politics in the coming decades. The arrival of this new era has the potential to end the old feudal style politics of patronage, and replace it with a truly participatory democracy and vastly improved governance.
Here's a video of Aalu Anday by Beyghairat Brigade:
Here's a video of Adil Omar's "Paki Rambo" (viewer discretion advised):
Twitter Revolution in Pakistan
Pakistan's Demographic Dividend
Pakistan Launches 100 MBPS FTTH Broadband
Higher Education: Pakistanis Studying Abroad
Pakistani Graduation Rate Higher Than India's
India and Pakistan Contrasted in 2011
Educational Attainment Dataset By Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee
Quality of Higher Education in India and Pakistan
Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital
Intellectual Wealth of Nations
Pakistan's Story After 64 Years of Independence
Pakistan Ahead of India on Key Human Development Indices
Pakistani Social Network
Institute of International Education--Open Doors
UK's Higher Education Statistics Agency Report
Austrade on Education in Pakistan
It might be a good movement but what is the reality of the judge moving to saudi after giving death senstence to taseer killer.
Satwa: "what is the reality of the judge moving to saudi after giving death senstence to taseer killer."
Protest music is a harsh and unsparing critique of what is wrong with today's Pakistan.
You should watch the Aalu Anday video to get a sense of the musicians' outrage at the excesses of the mullah, Ajmal Kasab and Mumtaz Qadri trio and their supporters who are a vocal and violent minority.
And then there is a quote by rapper Omar Adil in The Washington Post that says “violence seems to be totally acceptable in this culture, but sex and bad language in music and art seems to be totally unacceptable.”
Thanks again, Riaz Saheb,for keeping our hopes high. You observe:"The arrival of this new era has the potential to end the old feudal style politics of patronage". As we say in Urdu, "Aap ke muNh meiN ghee shakkar!".
You mentioned Habib Jaalib's "MaiN nahiN maanta". I was amused by Shabaz Saab's recent rendering of this poem, because he conveniently forgot that Jaalib had written this poem against his brother's godfather and mentor, Gen. Ziaul Haq. As the saying goes, "Naqal ko aqal chaahiyey" (it requires intelligence, even to copy someone!) I hope the awakened public will beware of false prophets.
liked the protest music writeup
wish you had included Habib Jalib and Laal band as well
A few excerpts from NY Times report today on Aalu Anday:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A satirical song that takes a tongue-in-cheek swipe at religious extremism, militancy and contradictions in Pakistani society has become an instant hit here, drawing widespread attention as a rare voice of the country’s embattled liberals.
The song, “Aalu Anday,” which means “Potatoes and Eggs,” comes from a group of three young men who call themselves Beygairat Brigade, or A Brigade Without Honor, openly mocking the military, religious conservatives, nationalist politicians and conspiracy theorists.
Their YouTube video has been viewed more than 350,000 times since it was uploaded in mid-October. The song is getting glowing reviews in the news media here and is widely talked about — and shared — on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The name of the band is itself a satire of Pakistan’s nationalists and conservatives, who are often described in the local news media as the Ghairat Brigade, or Honor Brigade.
Local musicians have produced work in the past vilifying the West, especially the United States, but rarely do they ridicule the military or religious extremists, and none have had Beygairat Brigade’s kind of success.
Sung in Punjabi, the language of the most populous and prosperous province, the song delivers biting commentary on the current socio-political milieu of the country, in which religious radicalism and militancy have steadily risen over the years and tolerance for religious minorities is waning.
Just this year, a governor who opposed Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy law was killed by one of his guards. The assassin was then celebrated by many in the country, including lawyers who greeted him with rose petals and garlands.
The song rues the fact that killers and religious extremists are hailed as heroes in Pakistan, while someone like Abdus Salam, the nation’s only Nobel Prize-winning scientist, is often ignored because he belonged to the minority Ahmadi sect.
“Qadri is treated like a royal,” wonders the goofy-looking lead vocalist in the song, referring to Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the elite police guard who killed the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, in January after he challenged the blasphemy law.
Another line in the song, “where Ajmal Kasab is a hero,” makes a reference to the only surviving Pakistani gunman involved in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Still another line, “cleric tried to escape in a veil,” alludes to the head cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque — which was the target of a siege in 2007 by the Pakistani government against Islamic militants — who tried unsuccessfully to break the security cordon by wearing a veil.
The song even makes fun of the powerful army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, for extending his role for another three years.
Potatoes and eggs “never tasted so good,” wrote Fahd Husain in a commentary on Tuesday in The Daily Times, a newspaper based in Lahore. “They will always be credited for being politically incorrect when most needed, and giving voice to all those Pakistanis who live in fear.”
There are certainly enough provocations to rile nationalists and conservatives. At one point in the music video, the lead singer holds a placard that reads, in English: “This video is sponsored by Zionists.”
The band members chose to upload the song on YouTube instead of handing it to television networks because they said the work was too offbeat and might be censored. Not surprisingly, some have criticized the song and its taunts as pedestrian and in bad taste.
He said the assassination of Mr. Taseer was the inspiration for the song and its lyrics.......
Here's a Daily Times report on "Social media playing major role in reshaping society":
KARACHI: Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Sharmila Farooqi has said that the social media was emerging like a revolution, enabling to connect with the people around the world without any boundaries of language, caste, creed or distance.
This she said while speaking as a chief guest at a three-day workshop on social media for media professionals at Arabian Sea Country Club Karachi on Saturday, organised by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).
Fourteen media professionals, working in the conflict-zone of the country, participated in the workshop. Farooqi said that social media had brought the world closer and also increased individual to individual contacts, which helped in disseminating the information within seconds.
She said that in the present era of technology, the social media had become so important and an easier way to become a source of information as well as connectivity to get maximum response from the people.
Farooqi appreciated the
PPF for organising such an informative workshop for the media professionals.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary General PPF Owais Aslam Ali said that journalists could get maximum benefits from the social media as they could bring their work before the world without any limitations of space and time.
He said that through this workshop, the journalists could get knowledge and learning through which they could build their credibility.
They said social media is the future of journalism as it gives journalists the maximum space and time for their news, views and opinions without any editing and restriction with maximum reach and connectivity.
On the occasion, journalists from Quetta, Landikotal, Bajaur Agency, FATA and Swat shared their experiences. ppi
More protest music..
Most nations of the world protest against corruption, violence and extremism by pelting rocks on the streets, but Pakistan is now mining an additional avenue – rock music.
The phenomenon is not new. We had poets like Habib Jalib as well as bands like Junoon who took music and entertainment to a new level to expose what people generally hesitate in discussing. But in a country like Pakistan, can protests through music really work?
This was the question raised in AlJazeera’s show The Stream which took onboard Basim Usmani from The Kominas as the main guest.
The show highlighted the rising wave of protests through rock music in a country which is considered by the world to have been taken over by the Taliban.
In the show, the Pakistani band Laal, for the first time, aired the video of their song called Deshatgardi Murdabad as Taimoor Rehman from the band thought it was too controversial to be released in Pakistan.
Ali Aftab Saeed from the new Pakistani band Baygairat Brigade also joined in the conversation via online streaming to share his comments on the increasing importance of the role music plays in the Pakistani society.
Here are some excerpts from Washington Post blog on Veena Malik:
The controversy comes on the heels of a tense week for Pakistan, in which NATO airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, an incident Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) blamed on ISI, which he said was actively supporting terorrist organizations. Senior officials in recent months have repeatedly accused ISI of supporting militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Pakistan has denied such allegations.
Sharma says having ISI written on Malik’s arm was just intended as a joke. “In India we joke about this . . . if anything goes wrong . . . we say the ISI must be behind this.”
But Pakistan’s media aren’t finding it funny, with the Express Tribune staunchly declaring that the “viral photo is fake.”
Malik has stirred up controversy before. In 2010, she outraged conservatives for appearing on Indian reality show “Bigg Boss,” a show similar to “Big Brother.” In March of this year, she challenged a Pakistani cleric on television.
Male Pakistani actor Osman Khalid Butt also rose eyebrows back home this week after he recorded a “foul-mouthed” video. In the video, Butt attempts to use as many of the 1,500 English and Urdu words recently banned by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority from use in text messages that he can.
Here's a brief excerpt from Time Magazine about "Protestor" as "Person of the Year" for 2011:
Once upon a time, when major news events were chronicled strictly by professionals and printed on paper or transmitted through the air by the few for the masses, protesters were prime makers of history. Back then, when citizen multitudes took to the streets without weapons to declare themselves opposed, it was the very definition of news — vivid, important, often consequential. In the 1960s in America they marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War; in the '70s, they rose up in Iran and Portugal; in the '80s, they spoke out against nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Europe, against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, against communist tyranny in Tiananmen Square and Eastern Europe. Protest was the natural continuation of politics by other means.
And then came the End of History, summed up by Francis Fukuyama's influential 1989 essay declaring that mankind had arrived at the "end point of ... ideological evolution" in globally triumphant "Western liberalism." The two decades beginning in 1991 witnessed the greatest rise in living standards that the world has ever known. Credit was easy, complacency and apathy were rife, and street protests looked like pointless emotional sideshows — obsolete, quaint, the equivalent of cavalry to mid-20th-century war. The rare large demonstrations in the rich world seemed ineffectual and irrelevant. (See the Battle of Seattle, 1999.)
There were a few exceptions, like the protests that, along with sanctions, helped end apartheid in South Africa in 1994. But for young people, radical critiques and protests against the system were mostly confined to pop-culture fantasy: "Fight the Power" was a song on a platinum-selling album, Rage Against the Machine was a platinum-selling band, and the beloved brave rebels fighting the all-encompassing global oppressors were just a bunch of characters in The Matrix. (See pictures of protesters around the world.)
"Massive and effective street protest" was a global oxymoron until — suddenly, shockingly — starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.
Prelude to the Revolutions
It began in Tunisia, where the dictator's power grabbing and high living crossed a line of shamelessness, and a commonplace bit of government callousness against an ordinary citizen — a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi — became the final straw. Bouazizi lived in the charmless Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, 125 miles south of Tunis. On a Friday morning almost exactly a year ago, he set out for work, selling produce from a cart. Police had hassled Bouazizi routinely for years, his family says, fining him, making him jump through bureaucratic hoops. On Dec. 17, 2010, a cop started giving him grief yet again. She confiscated his scale and allegedly slapped him. He walked straight to the provincial-capital building to complain and got no response. At the gate, he drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2101745_2102132_2102373,00.html #ixzz1h2cwmt4W
Imran Khan attends blog awards in Karachi, talks about revolution:
To the audience’s delight, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan made a surprise entrance at the second Pakistan Blog Awards that kicked off Friday evening at the Regent Plaza hotel.
Acknowledging bloggers in Pakistan, Imran said that a silent revolution is building up in Pakistan and that the bloggers are a vital part of the revolution.
“Political class is in a state of shock due to this revolution,” the PTI chief said. Stand-up comedian Sami Shah had his reservations about Imran’s presence, saying, “It turned political all of a sudden”. However, Shah said that the event was a positive step.
The awards were attended by prominent, as well as the not-so-prominent faces of the Pakistani blogosphere and cyberspace. The popular opinion remained that the blogosphere has shown an exponential growth.
“This year around, it is great,” blogger Sana Saleem said. “You can gauge the importance of media from the fact that almost every news organisation’s website has a blog now,” she added.
Applause roared across the hall, which housed around 300 people, as Rabia Gharib, the host for the event started to announce the winners.
“Each nomination represents a different hue of Pakistan,” Gharib said.
“The environment is electric,” remarked CEO P@sha Jehan Ara. “Blogs are definitely going to go a long way.”
Jehan Ara, who began blogging a few years back, said that there were about 25 blog nominations in every category.
However, prominent talk-show host Faisal Qureshi said, “Pakistani blogs have quantity, but don’t have quality. We are a nation of complainers, not advocacy. We should be more responsible about our content,” he added.
“Internet usage is converging in Pakistan, which is helping new and social media,” said Badar Khushnood, the Google Pakistan’s country consultant. “There is always a certain level of noise and hype, but in my belief, blogs have done a lot of good to citizen journalism.”
Here's a Washington Post blog about Internet censorship attempts in Pakistan:
... government ad in Pakistani newspapers Thursday calls for bids for a national firewall for “filtering and blocking” of content on the Web, the technology and culture blog Boing Boing reports.
For many Pakistanis, the ad — posted by the Ministry of Information Technology’s R & D department — prompted flashbacks to the last major incident of Internet censorship in the country, on “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” last May. The cartoon contest spurred Pakistani authorities to order that Internet service providers block access to Facebook and other social media sites, later adding YouTube to the list. Cellphone company Mobilink said access to other sites with “blasphemous content” were also blocked, and a Post reporter said Wikipedia was not working.
The day after the cartoon contest, those sites went back up, but the incident had a lasting impact on Pakistan’s Internet censors.
The following month, a petition presented to the Lahore High Court called on Pakistani Internet service providers to filter content labeled as “smut.”
Also in June, users of Mobilink reported that they were unable to search for several politically sensitive keywords, including the name of the country’s president, according to Opennet.net.
And now this. More information about the proposed filtering and blocking system is on the Ministry of Information Technology’s Web site (here and here.) The site says the content to be blocked is anything deemed “undesirable” by the ministry “from time to time.”
Each hardware box, the ministry also says, “should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs ... with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds.”
Here's an ET opinion on the latest season of Pakistani Idol TV show:
The year 2011 marked the discovery of various musical gems through the emergence of Pakistani talent shows like “Uth Records”. The show played a key role in turning raw Pakistani talent into seasoned musicians and singers of today. Every episode had a unique flavour and charm; as it showcased a different musician, singing a different genre, belonging to a different ethnic background and representing a different part of the country. From the catchy tunes of Natasha Ejaz to the folk rock belted out by Yasir & Jawad, every artist created a cult following of their own, becoming a regular feature on the local radio channels. Of course, none of this could have happened without music producers Omran Shafique and Gumby who were integral in the success of the first season of “Uth Records”.
So when 2012 started and the second season of the show was announced, there were even higher expectations from it. However, this time, there was a slight variation in the line-up. Gumby had taken over Shafique’s spot as the solo producer of the show. The fact that Gumby was producing music left many confused as he is better known for his drumming skills than anything else. However, people had been talking about his creative input in producing “Coke Studio” for a long while and this would’ve been a great opportunity for him to put his talent to test.
However, Gumby couldn’t come even close to what was expected from a seasoned musician like him. With artists like Jarar Malik, Affaq Mushtaq, XXI, Sara Haider, Orangenoise and Rahim Saranjam Khan who featured on the show, only two managed to stand out — Khan and Mushtaq. The rest of the artists made no lasting impression and were not extraordinary by any means.
Here's an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal blog post on a Pakistani rapper Adil Omar:
For mainstream hip-hop fans used to hearing lyrics about East-West rivalries and other American concerns, Adil Omar rhymes in unfamiliar territory.
The Islamabad, Pakistan, native gives a shout-out to cricketer Shahid Afridi and riffs on his country’s traffic jams and weather (“You wonder why I’m cocky, ‘cos I stay burning hotter than a summer in Karachi”). His lyrics are punctuated by shouts of “Islamabad, get up! L.A., get up!” He also plays up his outsider status (“I’m a foreign damnation at your borderline waitin’,” from “Paki Rambo”), while mocking the globalization that facilitated his rise (his song “Ten Thousand” ends with a skinny vanilla latte order).
The 21-year-old got his big break in 2008, when Cypress Hill rapper B-Real came across his music online and invited him to Los Angeles to collaborate on his album “The Harvest.” Two years later, Mr. Omar released a track online, “Incredible,” and followed it with another single, “Off the Handle,” featuring L.A. rapper Xzibit and produced by Fredwreck, who is known for his work with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
Mr. Omar is now working on “The Mushroom Cloud Effect,” an album slated for release this year that will feature Westerners such as Xzibit, Everlast and B-Real as well as Pakistani singer-actress Meesha Shafi.
He spoke with the Journal about Pakistan’s hip-hop scene, working with Xzibit and what he listens to in his down time.
The Wall Street Journal: How did you get started in hip-hop?
Mr. Omar: I’ve been writing since I was nine and recording since I was 13. I don’t remember how I started exactly, but it’s always something I wanted to do and be a part of. I grew up listening to everything, but hip-hop is what spoke to me most and what I enjoyed writing most.
Who are your musical influences?
Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails, Everlast, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, House of Pain, Cypress Hill, Kool G Rap, Big Pun, Tupac, Eminem, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, Dr. Dre, the Beatles, N.W.A., the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Wu-Tang Clan, Motorhead, Gang Starr, Nas, Rakim, Ice Cube.
Why do you rap in English rather than Urdu?
I grew up with English as my first language. I was educated in British and American schools and born to a mother who grew up in the U.K. and only spoke English with me. I’m pretty whitewashed. I do love my culture, but me rapping in Urdu would sound forced. I’d rather leave that to good Urdu and Punjabi MCs. I also work in English because I write in English and I’d rather reach a wider audience than limit myself just to Pakistan and India..
Here's Indian writer Aakar Patel in FirstPost on Indian version of Coke Studio:
Why did Pakistan produce the lovely Coke Studio music series and not India? Why is Pakistan’s Coke Studio more popular with many Indians over the new Indian version? Is it because Pakistan’s musicians are better or more creative than India’s?
One evening Ifti, who is sadly no longer with us, took me to the Waris Road residence of Masood Hasan, later to become a fellow columnist of mine at The News. We had a few glasses of the good stuff with some other guests, and then Hasan took us to a part of the property where his son Mekaal had built a studio and was playing with his band.
This was when I first heard the music that is now so distinctively the sound of Coke Studio. I would define it as a folk song or raag-based melody, layered with western orchestration. This included a synthesizer wash, guitars, a drummer, a bass punctuating the chord changes, and backing vocals and harmony. Essentially it was traditional Hindustani music made palatable for ears accustomed to listening to more popular music.
Mekaal did this very well and his band’s first album, Sampooran, is as good as anything produced by Rohail Hyatt at Coke Studio later.
Indeed, many of the musicians Mekaal worked with, eventually ended up at Coke Studio. Gumby, the Karachi drummer on Coke Studio’s first four seasons, played on Sampooran. Zeb and Haniya, the stars of Coke Studio 2, were originally produced by Mekaal.
The first-rate Hindustani singer Javed Bashir who adds depth to the singers who are not classically trained, used to be lead singer with Mekaal’s band. The great Ghulam Ali was on a flight with me from Ahmedabad to Bombay once and I told him I was friends with Javed. “Mera hi bachcha hai,” he said with great pride.
Lahore’s Pappu, Pakistan’s best flutist, has played flute for Mekaal’s records.
Gumby and I went to a concert next to my house where guitarists Frank Gambale and Maurizio Colonna played. Gumby says Colonna’s playing brought tears to his eyes. Javed and I have drunk a few places dry, and been banned from one. Mekaal is of course a dear friend, as are Zeb and Haniya.
Now to understand why India did not produce Coke Studio but Pakistan did. The reason is linked to what I said earlier – that Coke Studio is a popular interpretation of India’s traditional music.
India’s talented musicians and producers have a commercial outlet:Bollywood. This is where money is made and this is where Pakistan’s singers who want commercial success must also come.
Their talent, however, is spent on making music that is purely popular, because that is what they are paid big money for. Indian musicians like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Kailash Kher can make
Coke Studio’s sort of classical-popular mix of music easily if they set aside a couple of months for it. They choose not to however, because their working day is spent making music
that makes them rich (Kailash, whom I’ve known since before he sang for Bollywood, today charges Rs 20 lakh for a two hour concert).
In Pakistan there is no commerce in music, and even the most talented musicians must do something other than sing or play to get by. Mekaal for instance, rents out his studio. The disadvantages of not having a commercial outlet for your talent are many. The only advantage of this is that musicians are free to make popular music that is still non-commercial.
Fortunately for all of us, whether Indian or Pakistani, Rohail Hyatt and his team have used this space to produce the music that we love so much. The reason why Coca Cola produces it is that the Pakistani public will not directly pay for it, unlike Indians and Bollywood.
It is cruel to say this, but it is true.
Here's ET on "Khoon", a song by Topi Drama on continuing carnage of Shia in Pakistan:
With its new song Khoon, the band Topi Drama hopes to make listeners more aware of their surroundings. The song is about the blood that Pakistanis have on their hands for the silence and apathy shown by the government, media and citizens towards the persecution of the Shia community. A smooth listen on the ears, Khoon has gone viral since its release two weeks ago and Topi Drama has struck a chord with the audience right when it was needed.
Here's a WSJ story on how some people are using fake twitter accounts to boost their "followers":
One day earlier this month, Jim Vidmar bought 1,000 fake Twitter accounts for $58 from an online vendor in Pakistan.
He then programmed the accounts to "follow" the Twitter account of rapper Dave Murrell, who calls himself Fyrare and pays Mr. Vidmar to boost his standing on the social network. Mr. Vidmar's fake accounts also rebroadcast Mr. Murrell's tweets, amplifying his Twitter voice.
Mr. Murrell says he sometimes buys Twitter ads to raise his profile, "but you'll get more with Jim." He says many Twitter users try to make their followings look bigger than they are. "If you're not padding your numbers, you're not doing it right," he says. "It's part of the game."
Mr. Vidmar offers a window into the shadowy world of false accounts and computerized robots on Twitter, one of the world's largest social networks. Surrounded by a dozen computers at his home overlooking a golf course near the Las Vegas Strip, Mr. Vidmar has been buying fake accounts and unleashing them on Twitter for six years.
Today, he says he manages 10,000 robots for roughly 50 clients, who pay Mr. Vidmar to make them appear more popular and influential.
His are among millions of fake accounts on Twitter. Mr. Vidmar and other owners manage them to simulate Twitter users: they tweet; retweet, or forward, other tweets; send and reply to messages; and follow and unfollow other Twitter accounts, among other actions.
Some entertainers pay for fake followers. But false accounts can be political tools as well. In 2011, thousands of fake accounts disrupted anti-Kremlin protesters on Twitter.
The fake accounts remain a cloud over Twitter Inc. in the wake of its successful initial public offering. "Twitter is where many people get news," says Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. "If what is trending on Twitter is being faked by robots, people need to know that. This will and should undermine trust."
Mr. Ding, the Barracuda Labs researcher, says the fake-account market is "going very strong." He and other researchers say Twitter doesn't appear to be applying the Berkeley researchers' techniques to root out other fake accounts.
Mr. Vidmar's robots have helped make his clients "trending topics" on Twitter, giving them special mention on Twitter users' home pages. The trending topics appear just below the "promoted trend" that the company sells for as much as $200,000 a day. The trending topics aren't marked as "sponsored," so they appear more genuine.
Rapper Tony Benson says hiring Mr. Vidmar to promote his account on Twitter is "the best decision I ever made." Mr. Vidmar's robots made the rapper, known as Philly Chase, a trending topic so often around Philadelphia that he attracted attention from local newspapers. Prominence on Twitter led to gigs, fans and ways to promote his videos, Mr. Benson says.
Mr. Vidmar uses software to follow tens of thousands of accounts for his clients, another tactic Twitter prohibits. Being followed prompts many Twitter users to return the favor, and follow his clients.
In September, Mr. Vidmar used software to follow more than 100,000 Twitter users in a week for the Australian rock band The Contagious; that boosted the band's following by 20,000.
The band has a "verified" account, meaning it has taken extra steps to prove to Twitter that the account is real.
Here's a story about Karachi's vibrant indie music scene:
The disconnect is emblematic of a new cultural era for the world’s seventh largest city, characterized by variety. Outsiders are noticing, from Rolling Stone to Pakistan's neighbors in India. A writer for the Delhi-based magazine Caravan recently dove into the city’s secret clubs and concluded that a “shift” aided by the internet is producing an unprecedented range of sounds, "reflecting [Karachi's] frenzied character.”
Even the band names seem designed to stir things up, with an almost overwrought indie sensibility: Mole, //orangenoise, Dynoman, Basheer & the Pied Pipers, Alien Panda Jury, and DALT WISNEY are a few of the current hottest indie acts. Because Pakistani hits historically come from the classical world or the movies -- meaning Bollywood, or the Lahore analog, Lollywood -- these independent artists are forming collectives that act as labels, helping bands put out albums and promoting each other.
As in any good music scene, there are turf wars. In an interview last fall with Vice Magazine's electronic music spinoff THUMP, the rising Islamabad-based producer Talal Qureshi distanced himself from “that word ‘trippy.’” According to Qureshi, his peers in Karachi are limiting themselves by sticking to “music which is good to dance and be on drugs to.”
The comments rippled through the Pakistani music scene. In a counter interview with THUMP, FXS hit back at Qureshi, using their respective cities as ammunition. “Karachi,” said one member, “is a living city.” Meanwhile, “after 8pm Islamabad shuts down. All the house lights are switched off. It’s a town full of retired army uncles.”
There is one meeting point for every young Pakistani hopeful: the internet. Scour YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, and you’ll soon be an expert in subcontinental indie.
But domestically, traditional venues still count. The Caravan article names a trigger for the "shift," when the band Mole performed on the popular Pakistani concert series, Coke Studio, in 2011. Sponsored by Coca Cola, the televised series tends to launch the careers of mainstream acts, as it did for the Pakistani pop star Atif Aslam.
The Mole appearance jumpstarted what the cautious are calling an “overly experimental approach” at Coke Studio HQ. (Notably, one of Mole’s members is the son of a Coke Studio founder.)
Hearing "drone beeps" of electronica mixed in with otherwise standard fare, a journalist at The Friday Times, an independent weekly in Pakistan, praised the new era at Coke Studio, marked by "the humility of the old learning from the new."
It’s not all revolution. Drinking alcohol is still illegal in Pakistan, a rule that ghettoizes the music scene into underground house parties.
But limitations bring their own opportunities. In the THUMP interview, DALT WISNEY compared Karachi to "a prison." As a kid, he wasn't allowed to roam due to threats of violence and kidnappings. It was on his daily circuit, from home to school to a pirated music store and then back home, that he found a CD of music-making software. "That's how I started making music," he told THUMP. "So I think I mean prison in a positive sense, maybe like being stuck in a library. You make the most of it."
Here's an excerpt of a NY Times Op Ed by Bina Shah on new media censorship in Pakistan:
But having experienced decades of political oppression and dictatorship, Pakistanis are used to finding alternative ways to get access to and spread information. So when YouTube was shuttered, they started using proxies to gain access to it, while also uploading to other video-sharing sites.
Of course, the government began blocking the most popular proxies, but couldn’t always keep up. Even today, YouTube occasionally becomes accessible on some Internet providers for a few hours.
In any event, young Pakistanis, having been raised on satellite television, the Internet and smartphones, already have an insatiable thirst for information and the public space in which to think freely. So their appetite has been whetted, and many of them now are challenging the establishment’s societal mores.
“We are building a movement of defiance among the youth and larger Internet users by providing them tools to circumvent the government’s policy of censorship,” says Shahzad Ahmad, the country director of Bytes4All, an organization of young Pakistanis who use digital technology to promote human rights and sustainable development.
Since 2012, Bytes4All has been petitioning the Lahore High Court for a writ against the ban on YouTube, and lately the issue has become dramatically politicized; Mr. Ahmad has accused government lawyers of threatening that if YouTube is opened, there will be “bloodshed on the streets of Pakistan.”
Anusha Rehman Khan, state minister for information technology and telecom, was ordered to appear at a hearing in March, but failed to show up; it was the third time she had done so. Instead, lawyers from banned religious outfits appeared in court, an indication of how far the government would go to sway the judges and intimidate Bytes4All.
Alongside the legal battle, an irreverent social media campaign called #KholoBC has also emerged. Engineered by the Pakistan for All movement, a collective of young Pakistani tech enthusiasts, it features a song released by the Pakistani musician Talal Qureshi, the rapper Adil Omar and the comedian Ali Gul Pir with lyrics too rude to print in this newspaper. (So is a translation of the campaign’s name.) Ziad Zafar, the head of Pakistan for All, says the vigilante-style campaign has been successful on social media, and has struck a nerve in the government: A senior figure in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the party of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, complained to Ali Gul Pir about being “mocked” in the video.
Officials repeatedly assure the public that YouTube will be unblocked soon, even as the government tries to build a huge firewall modeled on the one in China. It’s a cat-and-mouse game that speaks volumes about the impossibility of damming up an ocean, but also about the amount of energy the government is willing to expend trying.
Technology-savvy Pakistanis are determined to thwart the government’s dreams of a toothless Internet, even though, as Mr. Ahmad says, “In Pakistan, there will always be a reason to block the Internet.” Needless to say, any videos that are part of the movement have to be posted on Vimeo, Dailymotion and other sites, because they still can’t legally be seen on YouTube.
Pakistani Indie Rock Band to Perform at Lincoln Center
Poor Rich Boy Brings its Pakistani Indie Rock to the Lincoln Center Atrium on June 19th
By Rich Monetti
Singer, songwriter keyboard player Shehzad Noor of the Pakistani Indie Rock Band Poor Rich Boy grew up a middle class life - son and grandson of English Literature professors. His introduction to music began with classical music from the subcontinent before American masters like Tom Waits and Bob Dylan took hold. The Indie Rock sound that generally tags the six member band would follow, but there was definitely a gap between the start of his contemporary evolution and taking up music as a professional pursuit.
Shehzad Noor(SN): When I was 15 I knew I wanted to pursue music, but it wasn’t until maybe a year ago that I actually had the balls to pursue it fulltime.
Times Square(TS): How old are you?
TS: What else do you do?
SN: I teach music and drama to kids in school.
TS: I guess by the area code, you are in D.C. now?
SN: Yes, our first show is at the Kennedy Center. Then we play in Rhode Island, New York and at a couple of universities.
TS: Is this your first time here?
TS: Well, how does it look?
SN: DC looks beautiful. The people are really warm. We went to a bar the other night where they had live music – very, very welcoming.
TS: How would you describe the style of music of Poor Rich Boy?
SN: The thing is we’re a six-member band with six different tastes in music, and so it happens when we all come together, it sounds a lot like Indie Rock. But we all still play different kinds of music. We pride ourselves on that.
TS: Where does your band stand in popularity in Pakistan?
SN: Our band happens to be popular among middle class and upper middle class people. That makes us a small part of the country, but that makes up a large percentage of the arts. So to answer your question, compared to what - I think we’re well known in the new wave of art and music.
TS: Your songs are in English, I assume most of your fans are also English speaking?
SN: Yes, they speak and understand English.
TS: Obviously Pakistan has a segments of very religious or overly religious people. How can that be a problem for you?
SN: I haven’t had a very bad experience, but I don’t go around telling people that I’m a musician because we are generally looked down upon. It’s kind of unavoidable. As soon as the security threat goes up, fewer people come out, and we don’t get as many gigs. It affects us no matter how you look at it. We live pretty cushy lives compared to many Pakistani’s. I keep bringing that up because it’s really important – how many different experiences there are in Pakistan. I guess I feel a little self-conscious.
TS: We’ve all heard about the horrible stoning that took place last week. Unfairly, that kind of thing can paint a broad picture of a people. How can you present a more diverse picture for the world?
SN: My wife was at a protest yesterday at the high court. They really didn’t do shit. I can’t even think about it because it’s that upsetting. But to answer how do we show that Pakistan has many more aspects – just by simply being who we are. That’s the best we can do. In terms of Poor Rich Boy, what we’re trying to do is return a more accessible narrative to the American Public.
TS: How about when you hear about some of our crazy stuff – mass shootings for instance?
SN: I understand that bad things happen everywhere, and it’s really important to have a balanced perspective. That’s what I was taught. It’s one event isolated in time. This does not paint a cohesive and detailed picture of what a country is. Unfortunately, what we end up doing is oversimplifying these questions. What are Americans like? What are Pakistanis like? What is Islam like? These are broad questions, and that’s why I love the arts because it allows you to represent variations
- See more at: http://www.timessquare.com/component/k2/item/4270-poor-rich-boy
Pakistan’s Saad Haroon is the second-funniest man in the world. The title was bestowed on him at the American comedy club Laugh Factory’s first international competition in October, during which Haroon got more than 7,000 votes in a public poll, beating comedians from France, the UAE and Spain. Haroon, who has been touring in the United States, will perform at the Holiday Inn Dubai Al Barsha on Wednesday, December 17, in a show hosted by Dubai Laughing Comedy Club.
Haroon’s 10-year career has been full of firsts: he created Blackfish, Pakistan’s first improv comedy troupe; he headed the first English-language political and social satire show on national television; and his Saad Haroon: Very Live! tour made him the first Pakistani comedian to perform standup routines in English across Pakistan. Ahead of his show in Dubai, Haroon tells us why, now more than ever, social and political satire in his country has become necessary and relevant.
How did you get into comedy?
I started around 2001, at the time the 9/11 attacks occurred. It was a depressing time for Pakistan – all the war and terror. We were going through a tough time. I wanted to do something that would keep people happy on a daily basis. I was working with my father back then and started to do comedy on the side. It was like I was leading two separate lives. At the time, I thought I’d be a good desi boy and sooner or later give up comedy. But I quit my job instead. I’ll be sharing a chunk of those stories from that journey on my show.
How is political and social satire received in Pakistan?
Pakistan has definitely gone through some hard times recently. As far as politics goes, people will talk about anything. It’s like we are honest to a fault – we call a spade a spade. Generally, when you are part of a society, you tend to gloss over things, but I’m proud that in Pakistan no one glosses over anything. We are still a young country, we’ll see how this honesty ends in the national character and scheme of things.
But is any topic off limits on stage?
There are definitely social taboos. You can say things about politics and you may or may not get into trouble depending on what city you are in and its affiliations. So it does get tricky. Of course, Pakistan is a very religious country, so people don’t appreciate humour about religion. You’ve got to respect sensitivities – performing in the UAE is the same way. My approach is to talk about things in a certain manner and make people laugh.
Offstage, what’s a typical day in your life like?
Very boring. Out of bed at 8am and then it’s just answering emails, writing and correspondence. I don’t have a manager, so I have to handle everything, right from writing, producing, directing, acting and getting through the show. It’s a full-time job.
When you won the title of the second-funniest person in the world you said that even if you had come last you would not have been disappointed. What would have been the consolation?
Just getting nominated would have been the consolation – at least someone is confident of my ability. And in a competition such as this, you meet all kinds of comedians, each with a different style. Just the whole experience was worth it. There is no good reason why I do comedy. It’s a very chaotic and neurotic profession that I’m addicted to.
If you were to run into an alien on Earth, what joke would you tell?
Gosh, I’d just say run and don’t look back. That’s my sad interpretation of what’s going on. I’d ask them what they were doing here and tell them to run for their life.
Pakistan has vowed to take action against the promotion of terrorism online, but some experts say there is little the government can do about it.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government in January announced a 20-point National Action Plan to crack down on terrorism after the December massacre of 133 schoolchildren at an army-run school in Peshawar. The plan calls for "concrete measures against promotion of terrorism through Internet and social media" and declares a "ban on glorification of terrorists and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media."
The plan does not elaborate on what the "concrete measures" would be, and officials have not outlined the steps.
Tech-savvy militant organizations use Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media channels to post videos, press releases and speeches in support of their agenda.
A Twitter account in the name of Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan posts written and multimedia content almost daily, in English or Pashto. While the account has a tiny number of followers by Twitter standards, at 223, it can be accessed by anyone online.
A media unit associated with the Taliban launched a Facebook page in late 2012 to recruit writers for a propaganda magazine, but Facebook shut down the page a week later, the London Telegraph reported.
There is also a proliferation of anti-Taliban sites, including several pages on Facebook. One, whose title translates to "The Taliban Are Extremists and Oppressors," has 25,420 "likes" or followers.
Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman calls online dissemination of propaganda by militant groups "cyberterrorism." She says the government has moved to block certain websites.
"Only that content would be blocked that is considered a threat to the country's security," Rehman told News Lens.
One such site is a web portal called IhyaeKhilafat, which means "reclaiming an Islamic system of government." Ehsan's Twitter account links to the portal, purported to be affiliated with the central media department of Jamatul Ehrar, a faction of the umbrella militant organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
However, attempts to open the site since March result in a page displaying only the message "This Account Has Been Suspended."
The government has proposed legislation that would set up an independent agency to deal with cybercrime, including the use of social media by militants.
"The government has proposed giving authority to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block websites that go against the constitution of Pakistan," Rehman said.
Sana Ejaz, a Peshawar-based human rights lawyer, said militants are using social media "for the propagation of their agenda, broadcasting content against the Pakistani state."
"The social media accounts of militants should be blocked," Ejaz told News Lens Pakistan. "However, blocking is not a lasting solution as users will simply set up new accounts."
Ejaz advocates a "proper counter-response policy," that would include a dedicated think tank, she said.
"The government should establish a social media think-tank team to respond to propaganda of the militants on social media."
Farhan Khan Virk, an Islamabad-based social media commentator, said militants first start sharing religious material on Twitter or Facebook feeds to attract users, then begin broadcasting material against the Pakistani state.
"They mostly broadcast content against the Pakistani military and brand them American agents working against jihadis," Virk told News Lens.
"Extremists are really active on social media," he said.
The world's most bizarre #YouTube star is from #Pakistan. Here's the proof. #TaherShah #TaherShahAngel #Karachi
At a time when Pakistan finds itself in the news for grisly bombings and a soaring rate in executions, an unexpected angel has swooped in with a message of peace, love and harmony.
Two years after "Eye to Eye" baffled the country by giving birth to a huge cult following, the Pakistani singer Taher Shah returned this weekend with a second music video, "Angel," that has gone viral. Topping Twitter's trending list in India and Pakistan (and ranking third across the globe) and racking up millions of plays, this new classic may cement Shah's position as the world's most unlikely YouTube sensation.
Shah is a businessman from the port city of Karachi and doesn't seem to be a trained singer. His voice and the bizarre aesthetic of the videos have led some to believe that his shtick is an elaborate ruse. For most of the new video, Shah walks around a golf course wearing a tiara and a purple gown (bathrobe?), showing off his chest hair. One of the top commentors on the video for the song joked, "That awkward moment when you think you are an angel, but in reality u r a brinjal," using a common South Asian term for eggplant.
With anything this weird, it is probably good to hold on to a bit of skepticism. But in interviews, and in a blog post on the "ideology" behind "Angel," Shah comes off as a genuine believer in his power to inspire humankind's better side.
"Mankind is a beautiful 'Angel,' " he writes on his blog. "All humans' internal and external elements should be like an 'Angel' and spread their essence like a flower as an 'Angel' along with all of the world's entre [sic] value with respect so all 'Angel' like humans together can make their own and family world heavenly."
Shah's Urdu is immaculate, but his English, which he uses for some publicity and for his lyrics, is the source of much mirth. The two songs are filled with lyrical gems, but one of the most memorable from "Eye to Eye" is: "Without you/I am a butterfly/without fly."
The sudden star looks as if he could be Pavarotti's pudgy nephew, though with lovelier locks of curly hair and without the sonorous voice. His orchestra is made up of synthetic flutes, saxophones and percussion — as if straight from Kenny G's vault. The songs are tormentingly easy to get stuck in your head. So much so that many on Twitter — especially in neighboring India — have alluded to their weaponization:
For his part, Shah explained in a TV interview in Pakistan that the message behind his music is one of great optimism. "Please, please, please be entertained," he said in English, before switching to a mix of English and Urdu. "Be positive and feel the good things in your heart. When you feel good, then definitely you will be able to portray yourself better."
The world needs that message, and by extension, these songs. Here's hoping someone does a dance remix.
#Pakistan's social media celebrities: Taher Shah, AwaisLovely, Qandeel Baloch, #YouTube #Facebook https://globalvoices.org/2016/04/19/how-pakistans-taher-shah-took-viral-culture-to-the-next-level/ … via @sheema_kh
In 2013, Taher Shah released his quirky and outlandish debut song ‘Eye to Eye’. The low budget video went viral in Pakistan, generating endless memes. It took the Pakistani singing sensation three years to grow wings and make a comeback with his “Angel” song.
The video opens in a picturesque meadow with a rainbow. Taher frequently changes outfits and wears tiaras over his signature long black hair, adorns flowing velvet gowns, studded brooches, hair wigs, coloured contact lenses, and masquerade masks. He walks around with what seems to be his angel family. There are some incomprehensible English lyrics and some off-tune singing.
But that isn't what Taher is about. He is creating viral art. Art that is reappropriated and takes a life of its own on the internet. His video was viewed 2 million times in two days, topped Twitter trends in Pakistan and across the border in India, and has inspired endless viral memes and videos.
In this video, one of Pakistan's top singers Ali Zafar takes on Taher Shah's Angel. The video has over 100K views on YouTube, and more than 90K on Facebook.
And then there's a heavy metal version, which has been widely shared on Facebook.
Pakistan's first YouTube star
Taher is not the only Pakistani to be operating in this space. In 2011, Pakistan found its very first YouTube star in AwaisLovely, a young man from one of Pakistan's smaller cities Sialkot. Within a short time, Awais’ amateur dancing videos and conversations about his city and romance mixed with epic music became a viral hit among the country’s internet population.
AwaisLovely generated lots of memes and probably would've taken his fandom to some heights, if YouTube wasn't banned in the country in 2012.
And then there is Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani entertainer who has taken social media by storm for uploading videos on Facebook about her daily routine and her take on politics at home and in India, usually while sprawled on a bed in clothes that are considered risqué by Pakistani standards. Sometimes she just uploads videos of herself in a hot tub or hilarious edited videos of herself created using third-party apps. She also reposts mixes or memes of her videos and has embraced viral culture completely. Agence France-Presse has called her Pakistan's Kim Kardashian. Her Facebook page has close to half a million fans.
#Islamabad #ChaiWala (tea-seller) is instant #socialmedia sensation in #India, #Pakistan. Signs modeling contract
A blue-eyed tea-seller from Islamabad has scored a modelling contract after featuring in an Instagram post that went viral.
Even more unlikely, the 18-year-old’s picture topped trending lists across Indian social media, warming an icy patch between the neighbours that has included calls for Pakistani actors to be banned from the Indian film industry.
Photographer Jiah Ali snapped the chai-wallah at a bazaar in the Pakistani capital on Sunday. Her Instagram post spread to Twitter and Facebook and kicked off a search for the name of the vendor.
He was identified on Tuesday as Arshad Khan, a teenager from Kohat district, who had been making tea at the Itwar Bazaar for three months.
Khan told the Dawn newspaper his first inkling of the scale of his fame was when he spotted local boys with flyers depicting his face. He was also mobbed by media outlets clamouring for an interview.
He told local media he was flattered by the attention but, ever the professional, said he preferred people not to shoot his picture while he worked.
On Wednesday a savvy online retailer, Fitin.Pk, seized on Khan’s sudden fame to sign him up to model a range of its clothes.
His picture – and posts swooning over it – were shared worldwide across social media, including in India, where ire towards the Pakistani government is running high after militants in Kashmir killed 19 Indian troops last month.
Patari Tabeer--A Platform For New Music Talent In Pakistan
Pakistan’s largest music streaming site, Patari, recently launched Patari Tabeer, a project that has stirred up the local music scene thanks to its unique line-up of artists from Islamabad to Sindh, and beyond.
With its sixth and final song soon-to-be released, the project brings unexposed talent from humble backgrounds to centre stage: a tea-seller, a cleaner, a 12-year-old peon and more, pairing up each artist with a well-known music producer.
Far from the mainstream pop ditties and Bollywood-inspired numbers, the tracks part of the Tabeer series offer the listener earthy, unpretentious vocals paired with a contemporary sound: funk, downtempo and chill-hop lounge.
Speaking about the project, Ahmer Naqvi, the COO of Patari, revealed that Tabeer was inspired by a man called Nazar Gill, a sweeper who made a living working in an apartment building in Islamabad where Naqvi lived.
Approaching Naqvi one day by knocking on his door and asking him if he could give Gill’s song a listen, Tabeer was ultimately created to give unknown talents like Gill a chance at music and a chance at a lifelong dream.
“We thought of taking his ambition and talent and pairing him with a contemporary producer in order to let his voice be heard at a grander stage,” Naqvi states about Gill, “He composed a song about finding the Divine inside every heart, and on Christmas Day, we went to [his village near Faisalabad] and filmed [him and his family] hearing the finished product for the first time.”
The experience, Naqvi mentions, left him moved.
Talking about his song, ‘Jugni,’ which features as the fourth track on Tabeer’s playlist, Gill states in the project’s video; “What I am trying to say in [the] song is that when we love, we should love from the heart. Love shouldn’t be about empty words, it should be true,” adding that he hopes the “whole world” gets a chance to hear his song.
“[Gill] was our starting point, but every singer's discovery was different,” Naqvi says, talking about how he and his team went about in selecting artists for the project. “There wasn't any one process, just the same goal - to unearth a hidden gem from the places no one bothers to look at.”
But what comes after the last song is released, what’s next for Tabeer’s artists?
“There has been a lot of interest by the media, but generally in Pakistan, this is hype-driven and fades fast,” Naqvi states, “Our aim is to help each artist record at least one more song, and start getting them performances and gigs so that they can earn. We don't expect them to become superstars, and certainly not overnight, because that doesn't quite happen in our current state. So what we are looking to do is to create something more sustainable for them.”
With plans to launch similar initiatives which continue to highlight raw talent in Pakistan, Naqvi mentions that this isn’t the end of the Tabeer series.
Home-grown #streaming app helps #Pakistan's musicians find voice. #music #talent http://reut.rs/2k1ibmZ via @Reuters
For years, violence kept most of Pakistan's aspiring young musicians from following their dreams, whether the threat of Taliban militant attacks or gang wars in the crowded southern port city of Karachi.
Now, as law enforcement crackdowns slowly improve the security situation across the nation, some musicians are getting help from two-year old Pakistani start-up Patari, a music streaming and production company.
Both the startup and the musicians' efforts are helping to carve out a new creative space for young people in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where those below 30 make up 60 percent of a population of almost 200 million.
Karachi rap ensemble Lyari Underground was once afraid of putting its music on Facebook, deterred by episodes of bloody gang war in the precinct of the same name that many Pakistanis consider the most dangerous in their largest city.
But the same violence has inspired many of the group's songs, taking cues from the music of U.S. rapper Tupac Shakur, said its founder, who uses the name AnXiously.
"In a ghetto, rap exists naturally," he added. "If there is no rap, then it is not a ghetto. Rap is a product of this reality and these surroundings."
Band members said when they first heard the music of Tupac, although half a world away, it reminded them of their own experiences living with violence and poverty.
Lyari remains one of Karachi's poorest areas and financial limitations often force its young people to forego creative pursuits.
FROM STREAMING TO PRODUCING
Launched in February 2015, Patari now boasts a library of 40,000 Pakistani songs and podcasts, and subscribers exceed half a million, said Chief Executive Khalid Bajwa.
Nearly 30 million of Pakistan's people use the internet, mainly on mobile telephones, says digital rights organization Bytes for All.
Bajwa declined to discuss revenue, apart from saying the company was "self-sustaining", mostly by producing events for established firms such as drinks company Pepsi, consumer goods giant Unilever and Pakistani clothing brand Khaadi.
The company's latest initiative, Tabeer, or 'Dream Come True', pairs established artists with unknown musicians to produce six songs and music videos, completed on a budget of $15,000, and features on its app.
Patari exploited the fact that Pakistan's tiny pop music scene comprised a couple of "corporate branded shows" featuring the same artists every year, but excluded amateur musicians.
"We saw an inefficiency in the market, where you have all this talent, all this interest, but there is nothing bridging the two," said Chief Operating Officer Ahmer Naqvi.
The first two videos, featuring Abid Brohi, a rapper from remote Sibbi in southwestern Balochistan province, and 13-year-old tea vendor Jahangir Saleem, have drawn more than a million views, matching Coke Studio, Pakistan's premier music programme.
Another video features Nazar Gill, from the capital, Islamabad, who was one of the cleaning staff at an apartment building where Naqvi once lived.
One day, Gill knocked on Naqvi's door and asked to sing a song he had written.
"I sang my song for him and he liked it," recalled Gill, a member of the country's tiny Christian minority that prides itself on its musical tradition.
"He said, 'Nazar, I will not let your voice go to waste.'"
Pakistani singer Ali Sethi wows Coachella crowd with Pasoori
The Punjabi track was 2022’s most-searched song on Google and has surpassed half a billion views on YouTube.
A tale of forbidden love with an infectious hook, Ali Sethi’s song Pasoori has become an international phenomenon, fusing poetic tradition with global beats to fuel the rise of the Pakistani singer’s star.
The Punjabi track whose title roughly translates to “difficult mess” was 2022’s most-searched song on Google and has surpassed half a billion views on YouTube, offering a melodic metaphor for conflict between India and Pakistan in the form of an impassioned love song with an eminently danceable flow.
The song’s origins stem from when Sethi was asked to pen a song for the popular Pakistani television programme Coke Studio, which occurred just after an experience where an Indian broadcaster had pulled out of a creative partnership because the 38-year-old is Pakistani.
“You’re a Pakistani, and India and Pakistan are at war, and now we can’t really put up a billboard saying we are working with you because extremists will set fire to our building,” the singer recalls being told.
“As a Pakistani, I have grown up with that… ‘Oh you can’t do this because it’s prohibited, yada yada.'”
‘All true love is prohibited’
The experience got his creative wheels turning. “Of course, the theme of prohibition is such an eternal theme in South Asian love songs – all true love is prohibited,” he told the AFP news agency following an electrifying party of a performance on Sunday at the Coachella music festival in the United States, a cherry on top of his remarkable year.
“So I wanted to write a song that was sort of a flower bomb hurled at nationalism and heteropatriarchy,” Sethi continued, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and black button-up with colourful embroidery alluding to styles of the American southwest. “With all the fun innuendos and all this camp energy.”
Sethi says he drew on Punjabi folk songs of his youth, imbuing the lyrics with puns and double entendres, “a nice way to slip in and subvert orthodox views without really appearing to be out beyond the veil”.
He performs the track with Shae Gill, a singer born to a Christian family in Lahore.
Sethi was “astounded” by the global response to the song, which has the improvisational framework of a traditional South Asian “raga” mixed with the region’s contemporary sounds, along with Turkish strings, flamenco-style claps and the four-four Latino reggaeton beats keeping rhythm for much of today’s reigning pop.
Post a Comment