Thursday, October 08, 2015

Stupid’s economy 2.0

Weekly article - Stupid’s economy 2.0 - October 8, 2015

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Friday, October 02, 2015

The Middle East and global power play

Weekly article - The Middle East and global power play - October 1, 2015

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

National language?

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

He should at least sing

Weekly piece for Daily Times (that got lost in editing) 

Determined I was to write on the ever-going political engineering experiment by the powers-that-be to install the leadership of their will. But then I have not fully learnt avoiding useless arguments. And I indulged in one such with a few friends on Atif Aslam’s much talked about Tajdar-e-Haram for a popular fizzy drink sponsored music show that gets a lot of limelight on media, both regular and social. My disdain for the show is pretty well-known among my friends and when a friend was all praises for Atif for the song, I could not help but point out that Atif’s singing lacked the basic understanding of melody and does not adhere to basic rules of singing. That, of course, did upset a few there and we went into a long argument. In the singing sensation’s defense, the best my friends could muster was that yes he lacks basics of music but one should look at the devotion with which he sang. To this lousy argument, my response has always been for devotion he should just read it out loud rather than singing it, for if and when he has chosen the medium of singing, one will judge him on singing, first and foremost.
Then one of my friends blamed Amjad Sabri, the son of late Ghulam Farid Sabri, for it for according to him, it was his incompetence that had led to others, not so skilled, try their hands at the master piece of late Sabri brothers. My friends were unaware that we have an Amjad Sabri version of Tajdar-e-haram as well and when I pointed out the fact, they blamed it on him again for not promoting it enough. That highlights the limited universe of media exposure we all live in, even when it comes to basic forms of entertainment including music.
The fact that in the era of media ratings and glitter and glaze of MNC sponsored cultural activities, it requires being pushed by a fizzy drink MNC sponsored show to register your version of classic, highlights the intellectual constraints most of us unwittingly choose to settle for. For those of you who have not, Amjad Sabri’s version of Tajdar-e-haram is much superior in terms of melody and basics of singing than the youth’s singing sensations’ is. It is far from perfect. Nowhere close to what the great elder Sabris had to offer but definitely a good listening experience. Agreed that Amjad Sabri (and for that matter many more singers from traditional singing families) choose not to focus a lot on main stream media but rather on their private shows charging millions. Agreed that most of traditional singing families are not willing to share their craft with outsiders and have guarded it as a secret family fiefdom out of insecurity and greed. But none of this takes away from them the fact that their adherence to the basics of singing and melody and music is superior to a lot of stuff that has been shoved down our throats through MNC sponsored, media-driven music bonanza. And this is precisely the reason the glittery, fizzy stuff does not last longer. If you would recall, one such boom of MNC-sponsored, media-driven music came two decades or so ago as well. An d its impact on the cultural scene, barring maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s sufi music, can be seen only in some self- proclaimed Sufi or half-baked religious scholar cum fashion designer. The era created no new maestro with lasting impact that could take the cultural tradition of Pakistani music forward precisely because it was based on “singers” and “musicians” who were not equipped with basic understanding of singing and music. And even in five decades into it, even when it comes to national songs, we still had to dig Shehnaz Begum for Sohni Dharti.
I have no qualms with sponsors or producers of such shows. I believe, most of them are acting with good intentions to promote the music in Pakistan, barring a few marketing managers at MNCs or in media-entities who may have a financial vested interest in this. Most of the exercise may be with good intentions to discover and promote musicians in the country and should continue. And I indeed am yearning for new singers and music maestros outside traditional music families who would institutionalize and document his craft for generations to come and make music more inclusive. But the next time you try to shove a “musician” down our throats as the “singing sensation” or “music maestro”, he should at least sing.
I am a layman when it comes to music and am rural enough to have any basic sense of culture and finesse. But my problem is I heard the definition of melody and song from none other than Madam Noor Jehan. And I have seen over the years that lasting musician has been the one who adhered to that simple definition by arguably the greatest musician this country has produced.  And so, despite the glitter and glaze of media and MNC sponsorships and all, the audience, though tricked temporarily by over-exposure, ultimately picks who can sing and who cannot. For a singer’s main job is not to devote or reform or to do social work, it is to sing and it is on this basic criterion he gets judged. And so the next time you try to shove a “musician” down our throats as the “singing sensation” or “music maestro”, make sure, he should at least sing.

Determined I was to write on the ever-going political engineering experiment by the powers-that-be to install the leadership of their will. But then I have not fully learnt avoiding useless arguments.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Aylan Kurdi and shaken beliefs

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Will the PML-N be next?

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

India, Pakistan and the fictional world

Weekly article - India, Pakistan and the fictional world August 27, 2015

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

China and the global economy

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