Music of Pakistan – Then & Now

The word ‘Pakistani Music’ – Suddenly, a thought hits our mind immediately ‘Coke Studio’, no matter wherever we are. No doubt, Coke Studio is one of the most promising platforms to ever come out from Pakistan which set a unique new path and the world follows it. But, has our music been only limited to Coke Studio? Has our music industry faced the same phase that previously Film Industry had faced? Has our music remained only to Facebook, SoundCloud or YouTube? Or is it the turmoil throughout the country which caused the downfall of what could be Pakistan’s most creatively powerful voice? Sigh. It seems so; as a vast majority of us aren’t aware of much of our own local talent. How can we celebrate and appreciate our very own when we don’t even know about their existence.

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Looking back in time, we see marvelous musicians who haven’t only gracefully maintained their names locally and internationally but also, successfully broke boundaries and created bridges despite political and religious interventions and pressure in the past. They are still remembered in our hearts even years or decades after their death. Some of them are Sabri Brothers, Nazia Hassan, Noor Jahan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ahmed Rushdi and countless more; they were remarkable gems of Pakistani music industry who set up a place for Pakistani music in the world of music, they redefine the music of not only of Pakistan but of entire South Asia.

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Comparing the past with our present where we see huge development and changes of ideas, instruments, and technology; we also observe the problems such as vulgar lyrics, obscene dresses, auto-tuned voice, close to zero or no promotions, meaningless and uninteresting music video. Today, Music can be made by money without talent; such as ‘Eye To Eye’, while many talented musicians don’t get proper opportunities, resources, and platforms to trim their talent. Today, the Internet has made it almost impossible for new singers to be signed by well-known labels. One of the major issues is piracy. Albums sales are close to zero and so, there haven’t been that many album releases in the past. Record companies are disappearing; as music today is just one click away; millions of track are just one click away over the internet.
It’s highly fantabulous to see events such as Music Mela, Uth Studio and Nescafe Basement providing a platform to new local talent to share their magic; which has been reviewed highly positive by both critics and audience. On the other hand, channels are blaring popular Bollywood item numbers instead of Pakistani music and despite having lots of channels; apart from few, hardly any is ever playing Pakistani music. Mostly they play foreign music. It’d be sufficed to say our music rules in Bollywood but does it indicate if one has to be successful they’d have to sing for Bollywood?! Although, I believe Art has no country or boundary but it’s unfortunate how we often don’t appreciate our own – the moment, we start accepting and appreciating our own we’ll no longer have to sing for Bollywood to prove our worth or to be successful.

Political and peace disability in the country also has its vital role in the downfall of Pakistani Music Industry. We all remember the blast in the concert of Sonu Nigam in Karachi back in April 2004. Afterward, everything changed. More security protocols, expensive ticket prices, higher artist costs, less or no advertising of concerts, etc. I personally believe it is not feasible organizing concerts anymore and in the 1990s or early 2000s, artists used to be passionate about their music. Everything now is commercialized, that everyone wants more money. A decent artist charges somewhere above PKR 0.5 million and goes up to PKR 4 – 5 million plus the additional costs therefore if you look from a boarder perspective then everyone who is involved has a big role to play in dampening of the Music industry of Pakistan. I fear the same end for our Film industry as well, which after great push has finally reviewed a bit.

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