Where has all the music gone?
Music was a major activity in the 2000s in Pakistan. This was the time when many music groups emerged and carried the country’s voice around the world. And then everything became silent and the Pakistani music industry became all but extinct. It was not that something drastic had hit the industry. There was no legislation that discouraged music and the overall environment did not place any restrictions on the making or presentation of music. But it just happened that the singers and musicians lost interest in music, the music concerts stopped, the advertisers and sponsors did not seem to have any gumption left for backing music while TV outlets wrapped up those of their music channels that were exclusively devoted to music.
This happened at the end of the decade of the 2000s. Prior to this, Pakistani music groups were producing much better music than their counterparts in India. While there was no denying the fact that the Indian music industry was much bigger and had a much greater output owing to its patronage by the country’s film industry, it were the Pakistani singers and musicmakers who ruled the roost and there were no contemporary singers or music groups from India or any other country in South Asia who could compete with the talent or output of the Pakistani industry. This was also the time when the Pakistani film industry was down in the dumps and the music industry had only its own steam to draw any guidance or inspiration from. It rose to the top despite all odds and led the music genre in a very big and productive manner. At this time, many new singers were born or the existing ones became more polished. In the absence of any film industry to write home about, they became popular through the TV and radio channels and via live concerts and shows.
Music was a major platform for promotion of leading advertising brands that identified with the youth and carried their message targeted at the young market in a very effective manner. The example of Pepsi is a case in point. It is interesting then that the magnetism of music suddenly lost its magic though this was one medium that had a constructive effect on the development of our young people. It was probably another matter that the making of music negatively impacted the sensibilities of certain elements in the country and they discouraged it to the extent of killing the hunger for music altogether and adding further listlessness to an already humdrum and boring environment. That the loss in interest was pointless was proven in subsequent years when Coke stepped forward and brought some of the good music and musicians back.
It is true that Pakistani society has undergone a debilitating experience over the past decade or so and the creative proclivities of the masses have been beaten down and numbed into near nothingness. There seems to be no spark left in them towards sharpening their creative talents and excelling in those areas which they felt were closer to their native ethos. Pakistani singers have done very well outside the country, such as in India and the UAE and have won great laurels. Within the country too, whenever attempts have been made to create platforms for singers through TV channels or otherwise, the response has been quite enthusiastic and considerable good talent has come forth. It is no secret that many Pakistani singers have gone over to India and have been hugely patronized for their talent in the highly competitive Indian music industry which is driven by film music for the large part. These singers go to India because they fail to garner adequate patronage at home while the Indians are all out to reward them.
The fact is that had many of these highly talented people not sought patronage in the Indian environment, they would be no-bodies in Pakistan and would have led unknown existences. There is no question that Pakistan can ever rival India in terms of market size because there is no comparison as such. Similarly, the Pakistani film industry may be moving towards some kind of revival but it can never challenge the mighty Indian film industry that continues to churn out hits merely on the basis of its hugely burgeoning music industry. However, just as Pakistani films have more or less re-invented themselves staying within their limitations and not trying to emulate the Indian song-and–dance routines, Pakistani music must also move into a stage of reinvention. It must revive itself by at least endeavouring to achieve those parameters it had reached in the past and give an identity to the country.