The lack of punk rock in Pakistan

Published: June 16, 2010
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Ash performs at ZAKFEST 2 at the Arts Council in Karachi, February 2003. PHOTO: ADEEL AHMED ANSARI

The Pakistani Music Scene or more accurately, the underground, has been home to virtually all variants of Rock music and one cannot therefore objectively dismiss the possibility of there being a Punk band in Pakistan. However, one band does not constitute an entire scene and given the political and cultural climate of Pakistan, the obvious lack of a Punk Rock scene is surprising.

Notable Pakistani Punk Rock bands include Cornhole, Chosen Rejects and maybe the grunge band Ash. However, the fact is they do not function in the form of a coherent scene and their relatively few numbers seem to contradict the political and cultural variables in present-day Pakistan that approximate very well to the way things were in the UK or the US when Punk began.

Punk Rock was first used to describe garage bands in the 60s and more accurately, bands that were not technically very proficient. They could not pull off the solos that Jimi Hendrix was regularly able to whip up and frankly did not care. Punk Rock developed against a backdrop of high unemployment, the Cold War looming and fears of a possible nuclear war. Punk Rockers were not looking to score any points with the mainstream so their lyrics were often confrontational in nature and hardly ever polite. The lyrics were working class in character and were often political to the point of being cut-throat. The band the Suicide Machines sums up the motivation behind Punk very accurately with their song Your Silence.

It is not exactly difficult to realize why Punk is not as big in our country.

Pakistan does not exactly have a literacy rate that would pass as acceptable and although literacy was never a Punk concern, the average Pakistani needs education to be appropriated into a culture that was originally even misunderstood in its place of origin. The stigma attached with playing music also does not help very much. Pakistani parents generally exercise greater control over their children as opposed to the freedom with which youths in the outside world are afforded. Also, it usually aids bands in Pakistan to keep off subjects that may lead to retaliation. The bands, Anti-Flag, Crass, NOFX and Black Flag, for example, have addressed issues such as foreign policy, racism and corrupt politicians, which constitute subject matter that would warrant up to 14 years in prison for a Pakistani. With perpetrators of honor killings playing an active part in the government, one is led to wonder what Pakistan’s reaction to Bikini Kill would be like.

Interesting to note, however, is the fact that the West has gone through a lot of transitions and they are culturally more tolerant in relation to Pakistan’s zero tolerance for anything that goes against the status quo. However, Punk is not any longer as passionate as it was in the old days even in the West. Punk has been made into a commodity and the idea behind it has been reduced to an image that could be marketed and sold so one could make a case about Punk Rock not being able to exist in the modern age altogether.

The author is a student who plays for the Death Metal band Berserker and blogs at The Iron Markhor

asadullah.qureshi

Asadullah Qureshi

A student who plays for metal band, Berserker and blogs at The Iron Markhor.

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