So far so good
By Shaiba Rizwan
THE year 2005 was thought to herald the era of the Pakistani music industry, where it burst out from its hibernation and reached new highs of creativity.
The year’s beginning saw all bands rearing to get started. The media was predicting how exciting the year was going to be. Albums were being lined up and even recording companies were caught in the euphoric wave.
With eight months gone by, let’s settle down and review what the music scene looks like. In all fairness, Pakistani artists cannot be blamed for being complacent. Almost all bands worked tirelessly on new albums, only to find out that all recording companies were caught in the midst of a legal copyright infringement issue, which led to a ban on them from making new albums. Its goes without saying that this was a major spanner in Pakistan’s music industry.
But ignoring the fact that new albums were not reaching the craving public, the music industry is not doing too bad indeed. One might even call the past eight months a success in many ways.
Firstly, this year local music channels (Indus Music, Vectone, Uni Plus, Channel G, The Musik, etc) have firmly established themselves as among the most watched channels. Obviously this also means that their earnings through advertisements and commercials are substantial. It is heartening to see that multinational as well as local conglomerates are sponsoring shows and songs on almost all music channels, which translates into more money for both local singers and media.
Second highlight, a proper music awards ceremony was hosted for the second time in Pakistan – a long awaited event. It was strange seeing Pakistani bands being honoured in other countries and not in Pakistan, Junoon and Strings were presented awards in India. But now awards like ‘The Indus Music Awards’ are a source of encouragement to both new and old singers. Awards are an integral part of any industry and it is good to see that Pakistan has finally caught up in this regard. Another development over the past eight months is that new talent is now being properly harnessed. New bands with talent can become stars because the Pakistani pop industry has the proper infrastructure now. With music channels hunting for new talent to showcase, it is an absolute delight to see almost 70 percent of airtime on local music channels showing songs by new bands and singers.
New bands now have the luxury of launching their debut singles and albums by trumpeting them with well-produced music videos. An example is the arrival of Rungg on the music scene. In Lahore, one can see billboards of the band all throughout the city, this was followed by excellently directed and choreographed videos of their songs. Their interviews were seen on all music channels and now Rungg is one of the famous bands, even before their debut album hits the market.
Competition is the backbone for any industry. It heralds innovation and breaths a new life to a stagnant situation. And competition has heated up in the oldest , and probably most enjoyable, media – radio. Numerable FM channels have come to the forefront and enjoy huge followings of loyal fans that tune in every day. For instance, FM 89, the new channel, has taken everyone by storm. FM 89’s witty way of presenting a mixture of both English and Pakistani music with imaginatively named radio jockeys such as Jellyman and well educated female presenters have hit a chord with the urban crowds. FM 89’s innovative and lively live shows and programmes are a rage in most cars and homes. With the amount of commercials being played and the number of listeners tuning in, FM radio stations have showed that Pakistanis as people are immensely talented. Considering limited resources and restrictions that the media is beset with in the country, it’s really heartening to see these radio stations not only surviving but actually thriving.
Pakistani pop has also made its presence felt on the Internet during the last 8 months. Innumerable sites of Pakistani pop music have sprung up and sites like Bandbaja, Pakmediarevolution, Pakmusic, and all the sites of Pakistani bands are signs that our industry is abreast with the new millennium.
On the international scene, Pakistani pop music is now being steadily exported. This year, Salman Ahmed released a solo album through an American record label. Also Pakistani musicians continue to make it big across the border. Jal, Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar, Fahkir and Strings are constantly topping music charts on all the popular Indian channels. Other achievements by Pakistani singers this year have been by new talent such as Aftab Urooj, who is the only South Asian so far to be offered a scholarship at the University of Berkeley, the renowned university for music and arts.
Well, with the recording companies about to settle their legal issues, and new albums of various bands about to hit the market, one can say that things can only get better for our music industry. One can say that it has all started happening for Pakistan’s pop singers. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.