Culture Wars: Anti-U.S. Pop Music

Jay Moore pieinsky at
Thu May 15 20:04:59 MDT 2003

Anti-U.S. songs top pop charts in Pakistan cities
Lahore |From Abdullah Iqbal  | 14-05-2003

The U.S.-led war on Iraq and the strong anti-war movement in the country
have encouraged established artistes and newcomers to produce songs which
attack the U.S. action and call for unity in the Muslim world.

Such songs currently remain at the top of the charts in cities such as
Lahore, Karachi and even in Quetta and Peshwar, where the musical efforts
began. The music, especially in the Pushto language spoken in the NWFP, has
taken on an increasingly aggressive tone, and some fear it will act to spur
on extremist violence.

As during the 1991 U.S. attack on Iraq, and 10 years later in Afghanistan,
this time too poets in the local Pushto language have been writing songs to
capitalise on popular feelings.

As most people in far flung areas of the NWFP lack access to sources of
entertainment, audio cassettes churned out by a host of local musicians and
poets are filling the void. All these songs contain a common thread - they
express solidarity with Iraqis and equate America with Satan.

As one song goes: "A devil has emerged from his den and has endangered
humanity's peace. Alas, there is no one to stop his cruelties."

In the last few weeks, even though the war in Iraq is over, Punjabi and even
Sindhi translations of such verses, or original efforts along very similar
lines, have been in circulation.

In some cases, more refined versions of such lyrics have dominated the
charts, with popular musicians also using the anti-war sentiment in their

Music companies seem to have struck the right chord. The recently produced
cassettes are moving off the shelves faster than companies can replace them.

"We sold audio cassettes on Iraq in the thousands," says the owner of a
Peshwar music store, while in Lahore too, huge sales are claimed. The fever
has spread to Pashtoons in other cities as well.

"My brother owns a music centre in Karachi which also sold thousands of such
cassettes to Pashtoons working there," says Hamid Jan in Peshawar.

Despite a ban imposed in NWFP by the ruling religious party alliance, the
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), on playing music in public transport and
public places, many drivers listen to cassettes about Iraq in their
vehicles. They have faced no checks.

Passengers aren't complaining either. "People hate the U.S. for its attacks
on Afghanistan and Iraq, so they like it when we play cassettes containing
anti-American sentiments," says Ahmad Gul, a coach driver from Peshawar who
frequently plies the Lahore-Peshawar route.

Famous tribal singers weave anti-American songs with traditional Pashto
music to express their emotions. Most of the music produced is revolutionary
in spirit, accompanied by loud and energetic songs. They are penned in the
common man's language, lucid and down to earth.

Though they have little in common, Saddam Hussain and Osama bin Laden are
regular favourites among songwriters. As one songwriter says: "People are
not concerned with the political and religious status of these two, they
just regard them as heroes of Islam."

Says singer Hidayat Shah, whose new album of Pushto and Urdu hit the stands
recently: "I write poetry to awaken Muslims from their deep slumber".

During the U.S. attack on Iraq in 1991 we released several albums which
encouraged us to produce more this time." Shah's zeal is unwavering. "I have
sung and written more than 1,000 revolutionary poems since the American
invasion of Iraq last time," he claims.

More information about the Marxism mailing list