News / Asia

Rock Musicians 'Carry On' in Pakistan

Rock Musicians 'Carry On' in Pakistani
March 20, 2013 2:35 PM
Pop and rock bands used to play in clubs across Pakistan in the more liberal 1980s, but have largely receded from the public eye. VOA's Sharon Behn catches up with one band that is still playing and reaching out to other musicians, though, in an effort to keep Pakistani rock and roll alive.
Sharon Behn
Rock and roll never really died in Pakistan. But it did fade away.

Pop and rock bands used to play in clubs across Pakistan in the more liberal 1980s, but have largely receded from the public eye. One band is still playing and reaching out to other musicians, though, in an effort to keep Pakistani rock and roll alive.

Drummer Allan Smith of the band "RockLite" says 20 years ago there were dozens of bands playing in clubs, discos and parties across the country. Now he says there are only five.

"A lot of people went abroad from Pakistan. And, we have this whole new group of people that have come into Pakistan and have changed the idea, you know - totally believe that this music shouldn't be played, that you shouldn't have this outfit, you shouldn't have long hair, and we usually do get pressured by that. We've got nothing to do, we simply play music," said Smith.

Rising intolerance

Pakistan’s increasing conservatism and threats from some extremist groups have led sponsors to pull out of rock concerts. TV channels rarely promote bands.

The shrinking audiences for Western-influenced music are part of a broader trend against diversity, said university professor and human rights activist Farzana Bari.

"There is an increasing intolerance, there is lack of acceptance for plurality and diversity of thoughts, so I think that is increasingly what we feel. If I think, even myself, when we were growing up, I think our society was far more tolerant and secular and accepting of all kind of diversity," said Bari.

Rocking hard

Even though they cannot play in public, the musicians still jam in private homes, or play house parties like this one. They say performing is still fun.

Indonesian DJ Balqis Natasyrah, who sings with the band, said Pakistan’s art and culture is much richer than the violent images that frequently make the news.

"In the end, I feel like Pakistan is not what you see on TV - it is full of artists. There is a lot of potential here. And, that is what I would like to show to the world, instead of war and conflict and bombs, I would like to introduce Pakistan as what I see in my eyes right now," said Natasyrah.

Musicians like Smith survive by playing in several bands. "I keep telling our musicians, don't give up hope. It could get better," he said.

Until then, he said, let the good times roll and have fun.

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Comment Sorting
by: Shawez from: Ottawa
March 20, 2013 8:10 PM
I'm very sorry to point this out but this article doesnt have one iota of anything resembling the music scene in Pakistan. Let me explain:

- First of all, the 1980s that you mention as the 'more liberal' was actually the least liberal period in Pakistan's history. Gen Zia was the president and had clamped down on all music activity in the country to the point that bands were going abroad to record and release their singles.

- I have been attending concerts since as far as I can remember in Pakistan. Just last year there were a few concerts by Romanian stars Edward Maya, Akcent and Vika Jigulina at different times in the country. Other than that local concerts are always happening in schools, colleges, universities, and local hang out spots. They're going on ALL THE TIME. I can point to dozens just by going through my facebook 'suggested events'.

- Lastly in the past few years music has gotten a tremendous boost from the likes of Coke Studio, Ufone Uth Records, that has given artists (new or old) new avenues of creating amazing music. Coke Studio is recording its 6th season this year. But even before that Pakistan has been having local underground 'battle of bands' type events for young rock'n'roll talent to come up.

So i dont know where exactly all this came from but you're not really giving a correct view of whats going on in Pakistan in terms of the music situation.

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