By Havi Zayed
Why are Pakistani artists and bands so eager to perform in India?
Adnan Sami. One of the greatest singers Pakistan has produced is living in India. Unfortunately one of his most famous comments is “I’m as Indian as anyone. I’ve been here for 10 years. Mumbai is my home. The procedure to acquire an official citizenship is still on. And I don’t want to jump the line. Or jeopardize it in any way”
This was in 2008 and was the third time Adnan Sami applied for Indian citizenship. When Adnan went to USA for concerts it was common knowledge that Pakistanis all around were complaining that he never displays patriotism for Pakistan or any love for the country oftentimes to get that citizenship. The same Adnan Sami was seen covering for help from the same Pakistan he readily abandoned when he received death threats in Mumbai post 26/11. This was while his application for Indian citizenship was still being processed.
But the question is can we blame Adnan Sami for trying to get Indian citizenship in the first place? What have we as Pakistanis given Adnan Sami for making music for Pakistan and bringing a good name to it and its music industry? Has he received a larger welcome in Pakistan or in India?
An Unfortunate Phenomenon
A common and unfortunate phenomenon exists in Pakistan where whenever Pakistanis are questioned if they like Pakistani music they simply say Pakistan doesn’t have any good music. Even if it is true answering this very question naturally does require knowledge about the Pakistani music industry. When these same people are asked about the various bands and artists in Pakistani it often turns out that most of them don’t even know a quarter of the bands and artists in the market out there.
“They need excuses to ignore their own music industry now. It may be true India produces better music depending on the choice of the person but in every country the government and people support their own artists and bands. In Pakistan both don’t care. In turn if the bands and artists will feel unwelcome in their own Nation or feel there is simply no demand for them there they will just go elsewhere. It’s a business after all. If we don’t get recognition, fame or money from your time and effort then you will turn to a market where we will be more openly accepted” says analyst Mehmood Agha. “In any case it’s the duty of the government to promote the local music scene. In US, UK and Canada albums from local artists cost less than foreign albums. Unfortunately in Pakistan’s case when Pakistani albums are much more expensive than their infringed Indian counterparts what sort of message does that give to the Pakistani public?”
A band or artists ticket to fame: Bollywood
It’s only natural that most bands and artists have seen a skyrocketing of their career when they have gone to India and performed there or when they have used their songs in Indian movies. Before that many of them were unknown even by the Pakistanis. Amir Jamal’s song Kaho Na Kaho brought him the fame he needed however virtually no one knew about the album in the Pakistani market but everyone heard the song in Mahesh Bhatt’s film Murder. Even now many Pakistanis may know the song due to its link to the Bollywood movie but will not know the singer. Najam Shiraz had a single in the same movie.
Atif Aslam is one the greatest representatives of this trend. He has also done several concerts across India while his songs have been featured in Indian movies. He has introduced Tere Bin in the movie Bas Ek Pal, Juda Ho Ke Bhi in the movie Kalyug and Pehli Nazar in the movie race. His latest venture consists of two songs in the movie Ajab Prem Ki Ajab Kahani. Jal, Call and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan have also done concerts and have even produced some of their videos in India.
It’s definitely not a bad thing that Pakistani artists are featuring their songs in Bollywood as it proves that Indians don’t want to close their doors on artists from Pakistan just because they are Pakistani. However the very fact that Pakistani artists and bands need to go there to make a real impact on the music industry is the pressing issue as it proves that in Pakistan there are few ways of ensuring the proper promotion of an artist or bands song.
Do we have anyone to blame?
To put it bluntly the Pakistani fans of these bands and artists never really are willing to admit the fact that there still are people in Pakistan who simply don’t care about anything Pakistani. Several of these hardcore Pakistani music enthusiasts still believe the reason Pakistani artists feel more welcome in India has to do with relative size of audiences there as it is a larger country and Pakistan is a smaller country with fewer people.
True or not channels that conduct any effort to promote local bands and artists are not getting as much viewership compared to the channels promoting Indian music. According to the 2008 consumer viewership trends show that all the Pakistani Music channels put together don’t get as much viewership as B4U Music in Pakistan. On the other hand Pakistani music enthusiasts actually complain when artists and bands from the country take up ventures in India and claim they are running after the dollars but the problem lies within the population itself.
Adnan a model and guitarist from Karachi makes an effort to explain this phenomenon and the problems that artists and bands face today. “One of the reasons artists in Pakistan don’t get as much promotion may be that Pakistan has a very weak film industry which is needed to support the artists. Also let’s face it people do like sensationalism. They want to watch women shed their clothes even if they will never admit it. This is also the reason for the growth of Bollywood and Indian artists amongst other factors such as better direction.”
However there are people who refute this claim “Well they have Bollywood so what? That doesn’t mean that the Music industry can’t operate without a movie industry at all. After all we don’t see American artists dependent on Hollywood or Arabs dependent on Arabic movies. I think the issue is simply there isn’t enough powerful Pakistani media willing to promote the local music scene.” counter’s Maras a student at NED. “The foreign music scene has taken preference over our own music scene. Many songs that come up are really good but even the channels that used to play the videos of upcoming artists have stopped doing so. ARY Music and Aag have all switched to different medians of entertainment instead. We can’t blame them because the public isn’t willing to give our own artists a chance which is sad because these same artists shoot to fame when they launch their songs in Bollywood Movies”
Both claims stand true but not only the general public but also Pakistan’s media is responsible for taking part in “killing off” Pakistani talent as they want to play simply what the majority wants to listen. They are not willing to invest on trying to create a new trend or inspiring the youth of Pakistan.
Needless to say the non operational government has no significant role here at all and has itself brought Indian music, Bollywood and English music to our homes without providing any sort of assistance to improve the local entertainment industry. Freedom in what we do is no doubt valuable to all of us and many of us may listen to English and Indian music but it shouldn’t cost in terms of Pakistani interests.
What can we do?
All that is left for Pakistanis is that they themselves start seeing it as a responsibility to support their own bands and artists and at least ensure that they stay updated about them even if they don’t truly admire Pakistani music.
We, the general population need to encourage the good artists instead of trying our level best to find something wrong and particularly focusing on how useless most Pakistani musicians are in order to ignore them. No doubt the problems need to be addressed but we are as much a part of the problem.
This at least can be a start to the revitalization of our music industry. We should remember that not only our artists and bands make up the music industry but also the audience. We Pakistanis may have great bands and artists but until we make these bands and artists feel at home in our own country they will continue seeing the Pakistani music industry as a secondary one and will find the Indian market more lucrative. Only Pakistanis can strengthen their Music Industry. We can’t expect any helping hand here.