Sweet and sour notes for young musicians
By Saniya Bhutta
LAHORE: Sameer Ahmed came back to Pakistan two years ago after taking a degree in economics and political science from Rutgers University. He does the nine-to-five with his father manufacturing socks. But by night, this 25-year-old and a handful of friends will plug in their instruments and play.
It has not been easy balancing the family business with a personal passion. “Initially, my parents treated my passion for music like a disease,” he said, “They figured it would go away eventually but now they’ve come to accept it.”
A career in arts and entertainment in a country that is vulnerable to bouts of Islamic fervour is not always the safest thing. When the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal came into power in the Frontier province two years ago, they launched a campaign against the arts. Musicians were beaten, bullied and forced to relocate. In more urban climes like Lahore and Karachi, however, the industry is thriving.
Young artists like Ali Zafar command Rs 100,000 for each performance. Abrar-ul-Haque commands at least twice that. Taking up music for a living may not be a completely unwise move. But while pop acts like Mr Zafar and Mr Haque appeal to a broad cross-section of the market, rock acts like Entity-Paradigm appeal largely to angst-ridden teens.
Fawad Khan, vocalist for EP, had to beg his parents to let him sing. “If music were ever to interfere with my family life, in any way, I’d quit,” said Mr Khan. The 22-year-old found fame playing the bumbling spy role in Jutt and Bond.
Ahmed Butt, 27, who was also on the sitcom and sings for EP, says music is for bachelors only. “Music on its own may provide enough for one individual with no responsibilities, but for a family man it’s not the wisest of career options,” he said. Mr Butt has music in his genes. His grandmother was the legendary Noor Jahan. “There is a lot of money to be made but only if the media is on your side.”
Still, there are others who have turned their backs on more lucrative careers. Noori vocalist Ali Noor, 26, defied his family when he quit law for music. “People try to convince you against what you really want to do,” said Mr Noor. One cannot live off music alone but with the right mix of courage and faith one can make it big, he said.