Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Labore et Lahore, Pakistan sound gallery

The last days in Lahore tick away, tomorrow we will cross the border, back to India it is!
So far no luck with getting more of the Urdu hiphop nor the live Sufi music. We could not find the Sufi place yesterday night and neither did anyone know where it was. We were so close, yet so far away. That's the intangible city of Lahore for you. Tonight; last night, last chance.

The hiphop scene in Lahore is slowly growing since this year. We met Bobby D, Haider Z and Saber who form the STT crew together. Having lived their teenage years in the States and Canada, both Bobby D. and Saber returned back to Pakistan a few years ago for several reasons, but with their heads filled with Northern American hiphop coming from mostly gangsta styled influences.
A lyrical context from a place far away inserted into their current environment that is Lahore. Their rhymes in English aren't crippled, but nothing out of the ordinary either if compared with any other rap battle tongue from Northern America. It might work here though, as Pakistan still has an open market for western hiphop. The sparse songs that we heard them rap in Urdu were by far better sounding in our ears. Perhaps because that is a flow of sound that our western ears have not heard before. Is a flow in a new tongue, or new style the definition of *freshness*? Maybe so.
Urdu lyrics about politics; the elections, the Bhutto assassination, the war on terror. Idea's about using old Pakistan folk as the backdrop for their sound so that their Urdu raps can get and even heavier context. Idea's, it's all in their minds but not recorded yet. The English raps however, are recorded by the dozens as we saw and heard in the small studio of Saber, who envisioned that he would like to see his hiphop style merged with trance and club sounds. Experimental use of western influences into a new musical context? If the market here is open to it, it could become his own blueprint for the Lahore scene.
Haider Z, still 19 and relatively new to the crew, upheld a better flow in Urdu, perhaps by straying further away from the western flows. He showed us a newspaper article of a few months ago in which he was presented as a rapping talent. Also Saber could present newspaper clippings of his rising fame, so the signs are there in the media. Just the hiphop shows haven't really arrived in Lahore yet and it keeps the development of the scene low-key for now. Bobby D, who is more on the producer side of things, has been trying to make hiphop breakthrough in Lahore for some years now, but so far still encounters a lot of blocks. "The public demand is here, but we lack the resources in Lahore and Pakistan", he said. It was clear that there are no venue's or organizations to back it up with. Still a long way to go for Lahore hiphop.
We hope it works out for either of them, especially if they will focus on the Urdu style instead of English as it will be of more cultural value, nationwide.

Lahore, as anywhere in Pakistan, suffers several power cuts per day. You get used to it. At least they have a generator in the library so they can rebuff the power up again after a minute or so. To give you an idea; during this post the power already went twice. Anywhere else with no private generator at hand, people just have to wait, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours. It fluctuates. Locals joke that power cuts come at prayer times, as a break for the plant workers.

Maarten finds these power shortages to be a typical occurrence in a dictatorship nation, as well as the fluctuating food prices (of wheat and flour currently) and the armed presence of police and soldiers at checkpoints or street corners. We think it does indicate that Musharraf struggles to control many assets in the nation, or worse, uses these assets for his own control on society. Which is also what many people think here. Pakistan as a country deserves better (which is also a political slogan), because all the opportunities and energy sources are here already. Just a proper control of them would be decent.

With the upcoming elections, things are still unsure and many do not believe it will go fairly -again-. There are 35 parties and they each use a certain symbol that indicates what their political position. Recognizable symbols, so that illiterate people know who they can vote for. The symbols break down to this:
The bicycle = the governmental people's party, which is Musharraf's party although you do not see him on posters and instead you see affiliated politicians on it.
The tiger/lion = the Nawaz Islamic league who basically are the conservatives (hah, the fat cats? irony bliss)
The arrow = Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the socialists and affiliated types. The arrow meaning that they're out for a killing -in change of politics, not in blood-.
The football = errr unclear, -after asking we now know: independent candidates who have an unclear agenda. Just out for power or money rather than bringing real change in.
The clock -a new one- = yet another independent candidate, also with an unclear agenda.

The Bhutto party are still leading the polls by at least 40%.
If you ask people who will actually win the election, the answer you get is 'the people's party', the governmental people's party. The word *winning* has a sarcastic meaning here.

After all these 3 months of gathering footage and sounds, we'll take it easy in February and act more the traveling tourists and not blogging these long reports anymore that you might have gotten used to.
Time to wind down and recharge our energy a bit with our girls! :P
We might still do some small sessions in Rajasthan if possible....and perhaps in Gujarat as a little extra thing. All is open, we'll see what we bump into and keep you posted :)

Finally we've uploaded a small variety of Pakistani sound of the past few weeks.
Downloadable and such from Maarten's server.

Short radio ad, vivid talking and happy synthesizer sounds.

Short radio ad

Here a clip of the Muharram procession that we witnessed in a village close to Lahore (of a few posts ago). The men first started chastising themselves with the sickle knives attached to shackles before they stopped and continued beating their chests while their backs and shoulders were dripping of blood. I recorded the shackles too, but here's a shorter clip of the chest beating part where the men are singing on their own beat.

Muharram chest beating in village

I think this vocal female song is a Qawwali song and not a Ghazal. But I'm not entirely sure, awaiting the local second opinion. The main difference between these two musical forms is that Qawwali is devotional (holy) music and a Ghazal is a love poetry song.

Female Qawwali song (or Ghazal?)

Here a short piece of what seems like a Ghazal song. But it might be Qawwali in this case.

Male Ghazal song (or Qawwali?)

Some more full sound and choir-like, this time with kids singing along. Folk or holy music?

Holy folk with kids

Upbeat folk, with Sufi or Qawwali content? The second opinion is still out. The rhythm seems more inclined to move people physically than by words.

Upbeat Pakistani folk

On a Karachi radio station they sometimes played good stuff. Like worldly things from the Ethiopiques series of Alemu Aga and Mahmoud Ahmed. Even the galaxy warping jazz of Sun Ra and Kraftwerk's 'Die Menschmachine (The Man Machine)' came along! On one night they were playing a whole album of Nusrat Ali Khan, Pakistan's (and Punjab's most famous singer). I already know these improvisational songs from back home and from the excellent Doaba Gypsies mix that Siebe Thissen once made (psssht, check out his mixes!). Here's a Nusrat Ali Khan clip for you.

Nusrat Ali Khan improvisation


Rory said...

Crazy beard Seb!

Pakistan is very much in the news in Europe. Most unstable & dangerous place in the world!! Woo hoo!


SebCatLitter said...

hey rory!
yeah, we already reckoned so.
and it's all false ofcourse
-as if western media would like to write positive articles on islamic nation, big hah-
and besides, doesn't something only make the news headlines if it's horrible or dangerous?

the Pakistan folks were really nice and the atmosphere as well, depsite all people being troubled by the upcoming elections, not knowing what to expect.

regards to all back in the dam and tom-wise,

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is Tyson from the Inn in Lahore. Remember me? We made fun of, John, er, James Bond all night long. Anyway, you have no email addresses on your thing here. Email me at tysonrduffy@hotmail.com. I had a dream about you fools and I wanna see that you're ok. I am back in Lahore for a few days starting Feb 14.

Tyson Duffy

SebCatLitter said...

ey Tyson dude!
yeah ofcourse we remember, our memory ain't too faded..guess that's the benefit of not smoking the paki style ;)
did you get to Afghanistan in the end? do tell!
anyway, hope you had a good valentine';s day, harhar ;)

oh yeah, we were in dharamsala few days back and met Jim from Austin there again. probably will meet him again in Nepal where'll be heading during the week.

ps, our email ads are in the right hand panel in blabber info section

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