Henry Wadsworth Longfellow defines music as the universal language of mankind. What expressed through music is the musician’s inside or around. Love, betray, patriotism and joy are emotions that are usually expressed through tunes. Hate, corruption, prejudice, war, riots, conflict, extremism and terrorism are the bad sides of society and unfortunately we, the Pakistanis, have witnessed them badly since our country’s inception. This is the time when one is concerned about his/her society and this is where the music depicts it too. Pakistan has witnessed some great music on social issues.
As music is simply human emotion, social issues music’s history is old too. Rage against the machine (An American band of 1990s) presented fiercely polemical music with heavy metal instrumentation. One of the greatest names of western music Michael Jackson also raised voice against prejudice.
In Pakistan, Junoon was the first band that dared to raise voice on social issues. In 1994-95, Junoon were courted for their controversial video and song “Ehtisaab” sung with Najam Sheraz from album Kashmakash. “Kitni aankhen dekhengee aadhi sadi purana khwab, ehtisab ehtisab… Kitni bar pukarengay zindabad aur murdabad!” The video of Ehtisab depicted the corrupt Pakistani elite. The PPP’s democratic government immediately banned the song and video. In their last album Deewar, Junoon again pointed out the social evils in the song “Dharti ke khuda”. Throughout their career, Junoon has been a socially-concerned band.
Talking about Najam Sheraz, his song “Yeh baat kisay maloom nahin”(1996) is a curious song. The song highlights the deprived part of the society and how the “sarmaye ke bhookay sher” (capitalists / politicians) exploit them. This song was censored on national TV and the reason was its being against establishment. “Sona chahta hoon” (1995) is a song where Najam sheraz wildly cried for Kashmiris. The one-of-its-kind screaming song was banned on national radio (reason: the lyrics and vocal performance was too wild for the youth).
Jazba, a band appeared in early 90s, were also one of the few musicians who raised voice against Indian aggression in Kashmir. Heavy vocals, gloomy composition and revolutionary lyrics made it something never made before.
Another band likely to be mentioned here is Strings who have just came back with Atif Aslam in “Ab khud kuch karma parega”. It is a message to Pakistanis to standup against terrorism and fear. Earlier, they’ve also done “Berut”, a song for Gaaza.
Karavan, the rock band of masters, also set a benchmark in social issues. ‘Rakh aas’ and ‘Yeh zindagi hai’ are the band’s social thoughts.
How can one forget the lahori band Entity Paradigm (EP) here? Kahan hai tu and Humain aazma represent youth and motivation while the aggressive song “Fitrat” questions the elite for exploiting people “Bol qabeel tu chahta hai
kya, uska haq ya ke uski dua?”… the lyrics are amazing specially at a place where he says “Kaghaz k tukray (money) to dikha jinhain jor ke tu bana khuda”. Tremendous stuff!!!
In 2007, when Pakistan faced the collision between Government and Lawyers, the socialist approach raised among common men. This is where a young band ‘Laal’ raised up and followed revolutionary poems of Habib Jalib and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. ‘Meine us se yeh kaha’ and ‘Umeed-e-Seher’ are inspiring enough.
Money is everything, says the band Azal in song ‘Aisi Taisi’. The song with excellent music arrangement and strong lyrics depicts society running after money. It is voice of a rebel.
Socio-political satire can’t be unnoticed when talking about social issues. Shehzad Roy tops the list with ‘Laga reh’ and ‘Qismat apne hath main’. His lyrics are always strong and thought-provoking and through satire, he has successfully delivered his wakeup call. As a social activist, Roy has wide eyes on society and surroundings. Awaz boy Haroon Rashid also presented social satire in his pop / rap style with ‘Corporation man’ and ‘Paisa’.
A lot of other musicians have also attempted music on social issues but the ones mentioned above were the milestones in the industry. Music surely reflects what’s around in our society and Pakistani music does it well.
Jibran T. Siddiqui