Pakistani pop music
|Music of Pakistan|
|Media and performance|
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Pakistan Media Awards
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Lahore Music Meet
|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
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Pakistani pop music refers to popular music forms in Pakistan. Pakistani pop is a mixture of traditional Pakistani classical music and western influences of jazz, rock and roll, hip hop and disco sung in various languages of Pakistan, including Urdu. The popularity of music is based on the individual sales of a single, viewership of its music video or the singer's album chart positions. Apart from within Pakistan, Pakistani pop music has also achieved an influential following and popularity in neighboring countries and is listened by members of the Pakistani diaspora, especially in the Middle East, Europe and North America.
Veterans like Runa Laila started the pop industry in Pakistan while the fifteen-years old pop sensation Nazia with her brother Zohaib Hassan ushered the birth of pop music all over South Asia tailing on the success of her British endeavours.
From Rushdi's pop hits to songs sung by the Hassan siblings, to bands including Junoon, Vital Signs, Jal and Strings, the Pakistani pop industry has steadily spread throughout South Asia and today is the most popular genre in Pakistan and the neighbouring South Asian countries. Songs sung by Pakistani pop artists are a regular feature on soundtracks of most of the Bollywood movies.
The genre has always been accepted in the mainstream youth culture but hindrances came in the form of changing governments, cultural conservatism, foreign influences and a stiff competition from neighbouring countries. Still, pop music thrived and survived with a steady growth. It was not until recent times that Pakistani pop music was to be admired throughout South Asia and the rest of the world.
1960–80: Rise and fall of playback singing
The Master of Stage, father of pop: Ahmed Rushdi
After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the most popular form of entertainment in the newly created Pakistan was the medium of film. Cinemas sprouted up in various corners of the nation, especially in Lahore, Karachi and Dacca in East Pakistan and playback singing became popular. People that tended to move into the genre had to be trained in classical music, usually trained by ustads who mastered its various forms and styles. In 1966, a talented young playback singer Ahmed Rushdi (now considered as one of the greatest singers of South Asia) sang the first South Asian pop song “Ko-Ko-Korina” for the film Armaan. Composed by Sohail Rana, the song was a blend of 60s bubblegum pop, rock and roll twist music and Pakistani film music. This genre would later be termed as ‘filmi pop’. Paired with Runa Laila, the singer is considered the pioneering father of pop music, mostly hip-hop and disco, in South Asia.
Following Rushdi's success, Christian bands specialising in jazz started performing at various night clubs and hotel lobbies in Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore. They would usually sing either famous American jazz hits or cover Rushdi's songs. Rushdi sang playback hits along with Laila until the Bangladesh Liberation War when East Pakistan was declared an independent state. Laila, being a Bengali, decided to leave for the new-found Bangladesh.
The 1980s saw a nose-dive in the progress of cinema in Pakistan as the nation was left in the state of turmoil over the changes in the government administration. Number of cinemas decreased rapidly and people preferred watching television over going to a cinema.
New era and revival: King of Pakistan Pop Alamgir 1972
While the cinema in Pakistan was declining, the neighboring India was gaining in strength in film content and quality. People began admiring the Indian playback counterparts. And when it seemed that music in Pakistan had no hopes of surviving this foreign influence, Anwar Maqsood and Shoaib Mansoor launched the career of Nerissa, Beena and Shabana Benjamin (collectively known as the Benjamin Sisters) in 1972. The sisters filled television screens with their melodious charms and tabloids started calling it the Benjamin Sisters Phenomenon.
A few years later came Alamgir. Like all people from his generation, Alamgir was raised listening to songs by bands like ABBA and Boney M. He would do renditions of popular new wave songs in Urdu. In 1973, influenced by disco and funk, Alamgir sang Albela Rahi, an Urdu song literally translated from a famous Cuban hit originally in Spanish. Alamgir brought a new form of music to Pakistan, one that blended the classical forms with a tint of modern Western music. Hit after another, he proved to be the most successful singer and musician of his time. Alongside Alamgir, Muhammad Ali Shehki also rose to fame with his renditions of the Hindustani classical forms with mediums like jazz and rock.
Hassan Jahangir (اردو:حسن جہانگیر) is a Pakistani Pop singer. He gained fame in the 80's with hit singles such as "Hawa Hawa", "Hato Bacho", and "Shadi Na Karna Yaron". He released his first single "Imran Khan is a Superman" in 1982 and went on to release his one and only internationally famous album Hawa Hawa. It sold approximately 15 million copies in India.
New wave of music and New genres (1980-2000s)
The Queen of Disco Pop: Nazia Hassan
In 1980, Nazia Hassan, a fifteen-years old Pakistani girl residing in the United Kingdom was approached by Indian actor and director Feroz Khan along with Biddu Appaiah, an Indian music producer who asked her to sing the song Aap Jaisa Koi for the film Qurbani. She was selected for the nasal quality of the song's delivery. The song became an instant hit in the UK and the Indian sub-continent. Influenced primarily by disco beats and hip-hop, Nazia along with her brother Zohaib Hassan produced successive hits. Their songs Disco Deewane and Tere Qadmon Ko became the rage all over Asia to the extent that their very first album was declared the best selling album of the time in Asia.
The hype did not last for long as with Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's regime came drastic decisions to Islamicise the nation. Almost all music videos were banned to air on local television. The religious leaders found the two Hassan siblings dancing together on the stage most un-Islamic. When shown the videos would feature Nazia waist-up to hide her dancing feet. Hence, this came as another blow to the music industry.
Rock music and Zia years (1980-1989)
Despite Zia's tough rhetoric against the Western music, the 1980s era is the widely regarded times of birth and rise of Pakistan's homegrown and ingenious rock music. Immediately following the military installation of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq as President, measures were taken to put in place to limit the distribution of music and the only source of entertainment was the government-owned television network Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). A state of union speech to the public in 1979, President Zia denounced the Western culture and Western music and banned all the music videos in the country.
Despite the hardship and problems faced by the music industry, the siblings, Nazia and her younger brother Zohaib Hassan, teamed up to produce more pop albums, but in the turmoil that Pakistan was headed through, the duo lost viewership and sales in their own country. They managed to reach UK Top 40 with the English version of their song "Disco Deewane" titled "Dreamer Deewane". The album sold over 14 million records, not only in Asia, but as far as South America, South Africa and Soviet Union. Nazia Zoheb later produced many other albums in 1980s e.g., Boom Boom (1982), Young Tarang (1984), Hotline (1987) and Camera Camera (1992) and completely dominated the Pop music scene of Asia during the 1980s.
A new rage of Pop/ rock music, began to rise during the regime of President Zia-ul-Haq. Throughout the 1980s, there was a popular wave of cultural change and the 80's fashion hair styles and clothing was beginning to be notice by the public. The homegrown rock music bands, out of ordinary to the culture, came to be perceived by many Pakistani fans and country's cultural observers as a "promising new era of cultural revival". Their enormous popularity significantly opened a new wave of music and a modern chapter in the history of Pakistan. The public generally welcomed the new hair styles and fashion wear (popular among university female and male students).
During the peak and end times of Zia's conservative regime, there was a popular wave of cultural change, and the Western fashion style and music stormed the country. In the 1980s, various music arrangers held underground rock music concerts in the five star hotels and university campuses. Ironically, it was the conservative regime of President Zia-ul-Haq when the rock music exploded and underground rock music concerts were held all over the country, including Islamabad and near the residence of Zia-ul-Haq. In 1986, the pop band, Vital Signs, released its very first singles Dil Dil Pakistan and, Do Pal Ka Jeevan, which became an ultimate success in the country.
The success of Vital Signs helped others to follow their suit, and the rock music in the country skyrocketed for the first time in the history of the country. In a time when there was no hope for the industry to survive, rock/pop music bands notably and much quickly filled the gap that pop music industry had left. According to the Western observers and cultural critics, the rock music bands in the country brought the significant shift of country's transformation into modernism during the 1990s. With the rise of Vital Signs and later, Junoon and others, the rock music, exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, became a vehicle for expressing patriotic nationalist spirit in Pakistan.
In 1990, the first privately owned television station, the Network Television Marketing (NTM) opened up introducing shows aimed at the younger generation. Prior to thatIn 1989, Shoaib Mansoor produced a show for PTV called Music '89 and took the Hassan siblings as the show's host. This show is responsible for single-handedly creating legends out of bands like Vital Signs, Junoon, Ali Haider, Sajjad Ali and Jupiters also including underground alternative rock bands like Final Cut and The Barbarians. According to the editorial written in The Express Tribune in 2011, the "Vital Signs and Pakistan's ingenious rock music was the only "arsenal" the country had against India's encroaching entertainment industry." It was during the midst of Zia times, when Dil Dil Pakistan was released on television and on a short time period, it became a huge success in the country.
The Heyday of Pakistan pop music: 1990-1999
With the success of Vital Signs and other bands, pop/rock music significantly helped listing the pop music as well. The primetime reception on NTM in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad as NTM broadcast a show titled Music Channel Charts. The rock music continued to be appreciated by the public and an hour-length show that showcased music videos for various artists in a countdown format. When people started getting acquainted to the show's format, amateur bands and singers taped their own videos and sent them to be aired. With competition rising and only a few minutes dedicated to a single video, pop and rock musicians from all over the country were being recognised for their work.
The show made upcoming artists such as rapper Fakhre Alam, Danish Rahi, Fringe Benefit (the debut album Tanhai was recorded and mixed by Tahir Gul Hasan at his recording studios in Karachi), Strings, Junoon, Aamir Saleem, Aamir Zaki, and Haroon Rashid and Faakhir Mehmood from Awaz household names. The show became the trail blazer and many followed its foot step. Video Countdown (which later became Video Count Down Zabardast Zabar Duss/10) started on PTV and Video Junction (VJ) was one of its kind on NTM which started after the closure of MCC. As PTV became international in 1992 with the launch of PTV2, it opened international arena for Pakistani Pop artists. More and More International TV channels (especially from across the borders) became visible in Pakistan through satellite. Pakistani artists started making their ways to MTV India and Channel V in the late 1990s. and overshadow every effort the Pakistani counterpart would make to highlight the talents within.
The beginning of FM radio in the mid 90s made Pakistani pop more available. People started enjoying the shades of Paki Pop n rock in their cars.
Recording companies like EMI Pakistan, Pepsi Pakistan Inc. and Sound Master started taking note of the new and rising stars. They started signing contracts with bands including Strings, Vital Signs, Junoon, Benjamin Sister, and Awaz who would later become iconic pop-rock bands. At this time, various rock/pop bands earned a lot of recognition abroad after Vital Signs made its debut international concert in the United States in 1993.
Hadiq Kiani made her debut in Adnan Sami& Zeba Bakhtiar starrer "Sargam" in 1995 which became a phenomenal hit and the music album of the movie was a chartbuster in Lollywood Top 10 (PTV), Yeh Hai Filmi Dunya (NTM) and FM channels. But Hadiqa continued her music career more as a pop artist instead of a play back. Her albums "Raaz, Rung and Roshni" sold millions and made her an ultimate pop star after Nazia Hassan. In 1997, Hadiqa became the second international female singer in the world to be signed by Pepsi Pakistan.
In 1999, following the Kargil War, all Indian channel broadcasts were limited or banned in Pakistan and after Pervaiz Musharraf's coup d'état, the media was privatised. To cater to the needs of thousands who watched the Indian channels with regularity, programmes were broadcast to match the Indian content. Seeing this as an opportunity, bands returned on the music scene and started producing videos with a much richer content. In 2002-03, Ghazanfar Ali, producer and CEO of the Indus Media Group started his very first venture into the music industry with Indus Music, a channel dedicated to music following the formats used by Western Music Channels. The channel started as a part of the Indus Vision channel and was later started as separate channel in 2003. With nothing much to watch than a few Pakistani channels, the youngsters in the country would settle in for Indus Music and would become interested in music once again. In 2006 Indus TV Network in an agreement with MTV Intn;l converted Indus Music into MTV Pakistan which continued till 2011 to again become Indus Music.
While rock music continue to gather popularity in the country, as more singers enter the genre. But the recent law and order situation in Pakistan has limited the number of concerts and artists are not heavily promoting their albums.
New musical talent emerged in Pakistan in the decade of 2000. Entity Paradigm, Aaroh, Mizraab, Mizmaar, Fuzon, Raeth, Noori, Mechal Hassan Band, Jal, Roxen etc. made their name by producing quality music. With the disbanding of Junoon, Ali Azmat launched his solo career and his first solo album Social Circus became a success and gave him an iconic image. New female singers like Ainee Khalid, Abresham and Abeer kept the music scene alive. After Indus Music, ARY Musik (The Musik) Aag (now off air), Play and many other music channels were launched which kept the music scene going on. Aag TV was the first ever Youth Music Channel of Pakistan which presented many thought provoking programmes as well on youth issues.
Many new bands are still performing but unfortunately Pakistani music channels are not giving enough time to these emerging talents, instead they are playing Bollywood music all the time. Moreover, the new wave of cinema in Pakistan is supporting the pop/rock music scene, as most of the background scores and OSTs of new movies are being produced by pop/rock artists. Pop/rock artists like Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Ali Zafar are equally popular in India through their Bollywood acts.
With the change in times, most pop songs are undermined with political messages like the Aalu Anday by the Beygairat Brigade and Apney Ulloo by Shehzad Roy. However, due to the success of Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement, and the general trend in music throughout the world, Pakistan is experiencing a change in music genres, with Lahore producing Indie Rock musicians like The Tamashbeens and Karachi preferring electronic music artists like Dynoman and Tollcrane. With the surge in popularity of these artists, mostly self-driven from SoundCloud and Youtube, Dynoman and Rudoh united Karachi based producers to form the collectiveForever South, that works to promote electronic music in Pakistan.
Coke Studio, a popular Pakistani music television series, became Pakistan's first official venture into the collaboration of Pakistani pop music artists. Coke Studio has become phenomenal hit which has given 6 successful seasons uptill now and seventh season is about to be launched on Television channels of Pakistan. All 8 seasons have been produced by Rohail Hyatt a member of the veteran former Pop band of Pakistan Vital Signs. It is one of a kind which involves the fusion of oldies and news and is telecast on all the TV channels and some radio channels of Pakistan making it available for every one at home and abroad. The platform brought forth the talents of folk and modern artists such as Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi. The season 8 Coke Studio got immense popularity and many of its songs topped charts of most of the online music streaming websites popular in south Asia such as Taazi, SoundCloud and Patari.pk.
The Idol series was launched in Pakistan in 2013 as "Pakistan Idol" and was telecast by Geo TV. The Anthem for the show was Awaaz Mein Teri, composed and sang by Ali Zafar. The show was judged by Bushra Ansari, Ali Azmat, and Hadiqa Kiani. The winner of the first season was Zamad Baig.
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