Music: A Reality Or Illusion?

Pop music industry - is it going anywhere? To find this out, we have to look carefully at the music structure that is prevalent in this country. We have to decide if our foundations for music are strong enough. When I say foundations, I do not mean to lay a specific emphasis on our cultural music only. Absolutely not! Music, in general, is a universal language. The accents maybe different but the uniformity of expression is there in every form, all over the world.

Music is like a form of architectural structure that needs a strong foundation like every other structure, to last through the ravages of time. Otherwise the structure is liable to fall. The foundation of music is its basic knowledge. If someone takes up music as a full-time profession and does not have the proper knowledge of the possibilities of its expression, then he is going to get nowhere in his chosen field. Such is the case with many a young musician of this country, who take up music not as a passion but as a means to get fame and hang around girls. Unfortunately, our system is such that if someone is able to pay a handsome amount to get his job done, he gets it done. The most unfortunate fact is that our system is actually supporting our own system which does not build a very strong foundation for anything. The media also plays a very important role and our musicians are getting a very positive projection through the electronic and print media.

Luckily, we have some very good music critics who are young and have an ear for good, modern music in all forms who willingly encourage our talented youngsters to establish themselves. On the other hand, there are some journalists who expect a musician to pay them frequent visits and salute them every now and then in order to get somthing published about his work. Now, a talented musician who can't really run around and do self-advancement for himself and is staying at home, solely concentrating on his music (which is exactly what he should be doing) waiting for his turn to come, might lose the opportunity for his projection because he did not salute the penmen! Meanwhile, guys who have been concentrating all this time on their projection and not their music are the ones who are grabbing the limelight which leaves the poor Mr. Hardworker nowhere in the long run.

I have heard people say that our industry is growing. That is a positive thing to say. Incidently, those vocal on the subject, if we care to notice, are the ones who know how they can keep themselves on top through their connections in all the right places.

I know a lot of journalists who have been working for ten to twelve years, criticizing music. It's very unfortunate since most of them don't even know the basics of music. These journalists criticize music, most of the time negatively, based on their personal liking and judgment, without a proper knowledge of the subject at hand. What the music critics should do is to educate themselves about the intricacies of music, gear themselves towards a better understanding of the art form and take it upon themselves the critical analysis of a piece of musical work. That will also tend credibility to their work in music circles.

Another trend that exists nowadays is that a bunch of four or five guys, who know nothing about music, get together to form a band. Their job is easy. All they have to do is hire a musician, get a song arranged and sequenced, sing the song (correctly if possible, otherwise ask some musician to add a supportive vocal track), get the song ready, spend some money to appear on television and "Voila"!; they make it to stardom. Their main goal is to become a star overnight.

I liked what Arshad Mehmood (Senior musician and composer) said once in an interview. He said that we should give a chance to all new musicians. In the end, those who are good will be the ones who will survive and the rest will be history. Which is true. We should encourage young, talented kids to take up music seriously, take lessons and improve gradually so that they should realize that being in the music business is not easy and it demands the same attention and concentration as any other job.

Music is a very glamorous affair in Pakistan. If one gets lucky and becomes famous, he will have to alter his lifestyle according to the expectations of others. He will have look cool, dress accordingly and also talk a certain lingo. In short, he will have to portray a larger than life image which sometimes is not easy for everyone to afford. Those who cannot, die out as a star in the long run.

Facilities and opportunities should be provided for an average artist not by the government but by us, the public only. We should see that whenever there is a concert organized, the artist should be paid his set fee which the organisers don't pay after the performance. Music awareness campaigns could be formulated and started for the audience aswell. So when they come to attend a show they will be able to listen to and enjoy different styles of music and not just be there for the heck of it or to have quarrels.

Another important and sensitive issue that needs attention is the relationships between artists. The general assumption is that an artist is a very sensitive, kind-hearted and peace-loving personality. Either this statement is wrong or we may not have an artist among us anymore, atleast in the music business. The trend prevailing, is that a group of some top artists have teamed up for the reason that they should keep their web together not to promote music but pathetically to restrict new budding artistes to grow. These big artists may refuse the organisers of a concert to perform with a new artist just because the new budding artist might sing better and overshadow their performance, which is an absurd thought!

According to a friend of mine, who is also an upcoming artist, the top artists here generally have good contacts and relationships with major establishments like PTV and STN. And, they'll do everything to restrict the upcoming artists in order to keep themselves on top. In nature this act is not very artistic but its true and indelicately sad.

Perhaps, such artists would realize soon that times change rapidly and their act may continue for a year or two but there might be someone else controlling matters the next time. They must think now that their main focus should be on improving their art form and personalities and creating obstacles for others.

These facts leave me wondering if pop music is really an "industry" in Pakistan? If not, then should we carry on?

Schehzad Mughul
March, 2000
TV Times, Pakistan