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Paint the town red

Music is often used as a tool of expression rather than merely for entertainment and Pakistani music band Laal is utilising this aspect of music as a catalyst in raising socio-political issues and bringing a change in the society. Heavily inspired from the writings of revolutionary poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib and Ahmed Faraz, Laal which includes Dr Taimur Rahman (guitar/ vocals), Mahvash Waqar (back-up vocals) and Haider Rahman (flute), is in town for a performance and to release their second album Utho Meri Duniya. Excerpts from an interview with frontman Dr Taimur Rahman:


Dr Taimur Rahman, the vocalist of Pakistani band Laal

Laal is known for its socialist political songs. Why did you guys decide to take that path?
Well, we began not as musicians but as political grassroots activists. We have been working to build a socialist movement in Pakistan for the last 15 years. Since music was always a part of our lives in so many different ways, we began to sing and perform revolutionary songs at rallies of workers and peasants and also during the lawyer’s movement. This developed into Laal because we discovered that a song was a million times more effective than any political speech we could make.

What part does music play in a revolutionary movement?
Not just music but art in general plays a key role in any movement. Political theory convinces the mind, but art moves the soul. And without that emotional appeal, no human being is ready to take part in any movement to change the world. So from Gorky to Faiz, art is integral to the movement for a new society. Laal is merely the continuation of this great tradition of progressive writers and artists.

Are you afraid of voicing your opinions against the system? What about the backlash, criticism or controversy?
Yes, we do. But then we overcome our fear by realising that if we do not raise our voice against tyranny, it will only get stronger. We have also discovered that one is most scared when one is silent. But when one raises one’s voice, the fear vanishes and courage takes its place. That’s what our songs are also about.

Tell us something about your new album? How similar or different is it from your first (Umeed-e-Sahar)?
Poetically, it relies more on Faiz than the last album (which was based more on Jalib). Thematically, it touches more deeply on the question of religious fundamentalism that is responsible for the death of over 37,000 Pakistanis. Musically, I think it is more rock-oriented than the last album. It has upbeat songs that are great fun to perform live.

Why did you decide to release your album in India?
Why not? Thanks to the Internet, we already have a big following in India; the progressive tradition is massive in India. Culturally, India and Pakistan have so many similarities. Pakistani music is loved and adored in India. I also want to show people in India the progressive aspects of Pakistani society. I want to introduce youngsters to the Pakistan of Faiz, Jalib and Baba Fareed. I want them to learn of the Pakistan of music, literature, poetry, dance, and the struggle for freedom. By doing so, I wish to break down negative stereotypes on both sides of the border. 

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