Skip to main content

VIEW: Signs of Our Time

Old Old Piece Published In The POST, May 10, 2007

Update: Imran Khan's Karachi Jalsa (2011) turned to yesteryear's idols to liven up the proceedings....

2014: JJ puts his foot in it by declaring women should not be allowed to drive. Time to Boycott his clothing.

It is the 1980s.

Sounds of music emanate from a garden where some youngsters strum a guitar to the amusement of a small captive audience of neighbourhood children perched on the wall, the best seats in the house.

Some years pass; destiny fashions this unlikely albeit glamorous hobby into a career; a pop icon emerges with the phenomenon of Vital Signs, one of the most recognisable and well-loved hit songs of that time and a fan base ranging from admiring youth to stern-looking aunties.

As the Signs rejuvenate Pakistani pop culture, their wholesome image and evident musical genius quickly establish them as a class act. Music flourishes despite the stifling media policies and good songs with great musicians surface to define the 90s.

Now that music is fast becoming endangered in some areas of Pakistan, some former advocates of this vocation have crossed over to the other side of reason, leaving their legacy highly vulnerable. The implications of such radical shifts, the derivative risks and farcical charges against an art form make for an intriguing study.

In a group, and later as a solo act, front-man Junaid Jamshed was the most vocal of his group, whose candour and charismatic personality captured the imagination of the nation. The youth looked up to this group, especially Junaid, as a role model who displayed none of the airs of a celebrity or the stereotypical lifestyle usually associated with Western pop/rock culture. Vital Signs effectively bridged Western standards with Eastern conservatism and the blend appeased all but the hidebound traditionalists and confused moralists. Music and the musician seemed to get on well together, which is why the breakup of Junaid's musical relationship, when it came, was hard to fathom and even harder to accept for the legions of devoted followers.

Today, Junaid denounces his past life and undermineshis former profession - the same profession through which came something more lasting than wealth from any amount of endorsement deals, through the respect of a nation, renown both at home and abroad and admiration of peers. In fact, casting aspersions on his musical past makes it appear like it was Crystal Meth and not music he was promoting.

Does he still regard the Signs music as worthy or their work to be a noble endeavour that evoked patriotism, conserved the musical/cultural heritage, uplifted this nation and gave us some of the finest songs? Would he now concede that his past devotion to music and observance of cultural norms attested to love of country and not frailty of character? The public's disappointment stems not from renouncing fame and fortune but denouncing the music that brought honour, not disgrace, songs that touched many and earned accolades along the way. This says something for the kind of work the Signs did, with music that was profoundly patriotic, facetious yet poignant, stirring the spirit of nationalism and the effervescence of spirit.

Aging pop stars/celebrities do eventually reach a place where they seek fulfillment away from the glitz and glamour of show business. This is perfectly understandable. The good news is that the power of celebrity positions it very well to bring the positive change they seek in their society. Celebrities elsewhere manage to reconcile their quest for salvation with their work. Hence we saw our Fakhar-e-Alam successfully rallying the nation after the October 8 earthquake, rock star Bono promoting his 'One Campaign' to eradicate poverty, and even Shakira comes with a 'Fundacion Pies Descalzos' (Barefeet Foundation) for her country's impoverished children.

Music and art are professions much like engineering, architecture, politics, medicine or cab driving; each can bring renown and also lead to infamy. Personal choices play a role in how professions are tackled. Who do you suppose would be recommended access to the Pearly Gates, a crooked architect/politician/engineer or the honest musician or cabbie?

Part of the myth about religion is that it is an obdurate philosophy that suppresses expressions of humanity by binding the soul in rigidity of norms which define right and wrong and insist on conformity to this bleak notion. The true spirit of our belief, however, lies in rejecting the radicalism of ideals. Know that the faithful are recognised by good deeds, not by dress code alone. It is merely a symbolism and nothing more. By itself, it does not reflect the strength of character or force of conviction. There is no confusion in this religion. Clear cut diktats will tell what is prohibited, logic will support these assertions, and the heart will accept them as right.

Now, to take a detour believing that no other road leads to God, salvation only lies in renouncing the world, associating art with vice, asking the flock to do the same will further widen the chasm between extreme interpretations and the new found concept of 'modern enlightenment'. Careless comments and condemnation of the finer things of life can only fan the flames of bigotry, which are becoming harder to extinguish as it is. The young generation must realise now that they do not need to give up a respectable life for an acceptable afterlife.

That religion must never infringe upon reason is a given and while reactionaries try to re-sculpt societies, only the presence of genuine role models can truly establish that rationality of theological beliefs is, in reality, at par with progress.

This is not a comment on the changing priorities or the determination of which path is most rewarding. It is, however, about protecting the intellectual property rights that foster balanced development of civilised societies. All societies do hold the right to artistic expression within defined boundaries and, therefore, must stand up somehow to counter this cross-pollination of radical concepts.

'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing' - Edmund Burke.

Images Courtesy of: http://j4jumpy.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Sings-640x480.jpg

http://www.imran.com/pakistan/music/pakipop/pics/humtum.jpg

http://www.j4jumpy.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/vitalsignsband-3.jpg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Op-Ed: MQM in Hot Soup

First Published in Economic Affairs - Islamabad based Magazine (Pakistan) / Aug 2013
BY Afrah Jamal


‘What was it for
?' The BBC Two anchor asks Farooq Sattar (MQM’s Deputy Convener and Parliamentary leader) with an impassive face, referring to the stash of pounds found after a raid on Altaf Hussain’s London pad.

‘Whatever it was for’, he answers, at his inarticulate best.

The word ‘body bags’ ominously flashes on the screen, Mr. Sattar changes tactics; ‘we were all laughing’, dismissing it as a joke.

The savvy anchor runs more damning clips.

‘It is out of context’, Farooq declares. ‘There is no reference to context’, he adds helpfully.

But your own SC took notice…

‘o’ that’, ‘mere emotional outburst.

Unlike those ‘media types’ this party member would not speculate on the origins or purpose of the stash. He, like other loyalists filed away the latest episode under ‘more malicious propaganda’ and ‘sinister witch hunts’, accused BBC of falling prey to Taliban influences and conti…

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

Rebuttal: ‘Finding a Safe Place for Pakistani Christians’

Published in Global Village Space under the title: Is Pakistan as extremist as portrayed by the Western media?/ Sept 2017

‘Finding a Safe Place for Pakistani Christians’ by Marijana PETIR, Member of the European Parliament – finds systemic persecution in Pakistan’s backyard, implying a clear and present danger to minority groups while bypassing an inclusive society that honors and respects the contributions of its minority communities or a nation that deems the eradication of discriminatory laws and radical ideology an essential pillar of its counter-terrorism policy.

An impartial review must also consider the state funeral given to a German nun, the national flag flown at half mast as a mark of respect and the military men who carried her casket; remark on the monuments named after Christian martyrs who served their country, meet Roman Catholic Bishops or Franciscan nuns awarded highest honors and note Christian war heroes who are the pride of the nation. The civil society that forme…

The Book of Davis - Reading between the lines

Published by Global Affairs / Aug 2017

Raymond Davis is a champ. A team player, who puts the needs of his comrades in arms before himself. He is savvy. He is a man of integrity - a survivor - a trooper. Ray, the epitome of courage runs headlong towards danger and into a minefield - literally. He is all this and more. This is his story after all.

6 years ago, he was a trained Special Forces SF, undercover ‘contractor’, forced to navigate the cramped alleyways of Lahore on a routine mission – the details of which remain a mystery. His book ‘The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis’ with Storms Reback, revisits the scene of the crime to solidify his innocence and along the way take a few potshots at random players who helped secure his release. It’s a hair-raising ride.

His style is conversational, his demeanor - amiable. The case is still fresh in people’s minds and his intent to set the record straight ignites yet another round of controversy…

OPED: The Afghan Policy in Perspective

Published in Global Village Space / Aug 2017

True to its reality show inspired template, the Afghan strategy was rolled out after months of speculations, suspense and dithering. It used memorable taglines and inflated figures. ‘Agents of chaos’, sunk costs described as ‘billions and billions’ and going all in seeking victory against all odds. It offered to be tough on Pakistan, even as it was vague on the outlines and predictable in its deployment.

Reading between the Lines

This is essentially the new, improvised policy meant not just for Afghanistan but also Pakistan and India. With it the U.S. administration appears to have heeded the advice of keeping the enemy in the dark. They have also dismissed the necessity of keeping their allies close and have instead embarked upon a strategic vision that aims to expand the theatre adding India to the volatile mix and potentially widen the gulf between allies.

Yet it is not the public performance of the commander-in-chief that catches the e…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

VIEW: GOING DUTCH (2008)

Published in THE POST May 18, 2008

What does Cadbury have to do with 12 sketches and a 17 minute film? Nothing, really. Cadbury is neither Dutch nor Danish. But by now most Pakistanis - if not all - have probably received a text message stating otherwise. And thus begins a boycott campaign of all things Dutch or Danish. The self righteous lot, in their overzealousness, would acquiesce willingly. Yet, few who have received an email or sms that proclaimed the success of this boycott and lobbied for its continuity - or witnessed the demonstrations meant to convey outrage against both Denmark and the Netherlands for their alleged laxity in safeguarding certain religions’ sanctity - will stop to reflect on the virtues of pushing a hostile policy intended to coerce but neglecting to convince. Fewer still will bother to dig deeper and corroborate details of such episodes.

The cartoon controversy returned in 2008 – helped on by the aptly titled film ‘Fitna’- similarly denounced for its unflat…