Is it too risky to become a Pakistani rock star instead of a banker?

Published: December 18, 2013

People in our society frown upon people who choose to be a musician instead of choosing a serious career such as, banking. Photo: Reuters

My accounting teacher back in O-level (Grade 11) gave us an example of how conservative and hypocritical our Pakistani society can be. She said there are certain tribal areas in Pakistan that are against the education of women and would oppose it on every front. But when one of the girls from their area would end up becoming a successful doctor they would proudly exclaim,

“Ye dekho, humara larki doctor ban gaya hai!”

(Look at that, our daughter has become a doctor!)

I have realised this attitude is not just restricted to the tribal areas. Pakistanis do not recognise or appreciate good things while they are in the making, but come the day when the result of that hard work is realised, they will shower you with praise.

A person doing something out of the ordinary is normally opposed vehemently and if, God forbid, they end up failing, the entire clan comes barging in with an ‘I-told-you-so smirk’ on their faces saying,

“See! We had predicted this all along!”

But if the person succeeds, then, as narrated above by my teacher, they become the pride and joy of all.

We live in a society filled with negativity and it is this pessimism that restricts positive change. The favourite word of the majority here is ‘Nahin’ (No). You’ll hear a lot of,

“Aray ye kya kare ga?”

(Oh what will he do?)


“Aray aisa karnay se kuch faida nahin hoga”

(You’ll achieve nothing by doing this)

To make sure we’re on the same page, I am not talking about politics here. In fact, as far as politics go, I might find reasons to support the negativity in people because, frankly speaking, our politicians seem to have made it their goal to constantly disappoint us. But in general, this negativity, cynicism and disparagement is everywhere.

When someone wants to be an entrepreneur, he is discouraged and given unsolicited advice to not take such a big risk and instead do something more ‘stable’.

“Business mai buhat risks hein bhai, lut jao gai.”

(There are a lot of risks in the business world, you will go bankrupt)

The same goes for those who want to pursue becoming an artist or musician

“Art mein stable career nahin hai, bank mai job karo”

(There is no stable career in arts or music, get a job in a bank)

Those who are talented in other fields, still choose to chase the ideal combination of a Bachelors degree in Business Administration coupled with an MBA degree to work in a bank for the rest of their lives.

Admiration will follow you and your success stories will be lauded in the family and social circles. People, related to you or not, will take pride in the new car you just bought, on how you got promoted or how you found a girl you want to marry in the same bank as yourself.

You will be success personified.

But what happens to you if you choose the risky, more adventurous route instead?

What if you want to be a musician?

People around you will constantly remind you that you are wasting your life away in a field that does not even qualify as a ‘job’ in their eyes. But if you still choose to follow your heart and do what you believe is your calling and become successful, then what will our good people say then?

It’s simple really. They will say

“Ye dekho humara larka kitna mashoor rockstar ban gaya hai!”

(Look at that, our son has become a famous rockstar!)

The negativity will follow you until you succeed, but the question is, are you brave enough to take the risk?

I hope, for the sake of this country and the talent it has safely tucked away (or killed off), that I have what it takes to follow my heart, and you do too.

Ahmed Zawar

Ahmed Zawar

A 9-5 working Corporate Lawyer in the day and a struggling musician in the night. Founder/Vocalist/Songwriter of one of Karachi's top rated underground bands 'E Sharp'. Tweets @sahmedzawar (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • immortal_soloist

    Make a life that is worth living,live your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve greatness in what you are great at. Have faith in the almighty and always strive for greatness no matter what you do and if you’re an artist then all the power to you.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice………….and now people are branching out into unconventional fields and doing very well for themselves.Recommend

  • Ali Abbasi

    Many Pakistanis were upcoming in comedy/music/sketches etc while Youtube was open. Ofcourse the arts are of little priority to the governments and the rabid mullah class.Recommend

  • Syed Owais Mukhtar

    I am confused by the title , why you titled “music” however this is happening in every field when you will be going to make a hard decision every one will stop you, I don’t know why you think this is negative, however our environment is “not so stable” people cant take “risks” here, we have a down going economy, so we have to take steps by avoiding risk, and those people who are giving us the suggestion of not-doing-business are suggesting because “they care for us” not because “negativity”… Be positiveRecommend

  • Asad

    so is it necessary to get famous and be a rockstar if you music is your passion.Recommend

  • Ali S

    Agreed with your point (a hard life of labour of love is more satisfying than an easy life of regrets and unfulfilled ‘what-if’s), but remember, for people to say “dekho hamara beta rockstar ban gaya” you have to be a ‘rock star’, not a struggling musician. There’s a million to one chance (at best) of that happening anywhere in the world, and a 100 million to one chance of it happening in this country in this kind of climate – it requires a certain degree of talent (not necessary though), and more importantly an immense dose of luck.

    Also, I’ll just say this since I’m familiar with E Sharp’s music – you guys are an ace cover band, but like so many ‘underground’ musicians today, their original songs are mediocre. Don’t give up your shot at being a banker yet.Recommend

  • Gp65

    In countries like India and Pakistan where there is no social safety net and no opportunity to get ino a mainstream career at a later stage if your passion does not pan out, parents concerns are legitimate because all they want is for their children to have a measure of economic stability. When their kids do achieve economic stability in their chosen field however non conventional, their primary concern is addressed. I do not see any hypocrisy.

    Not familiar with Pakistan labor market but in the last 20 years far more options exists instead of the standard doctor/engineer/CA/MBA of yore and that is a good thing.Recommend

  • Mubeen

    simple rule: don’t listen to what ur relatives, friends and others r saying, just go for it! it’s ur life and no one can decide ur fate but URecommend