“The golden era of beautiful renditions of national songs has long since ended,” says Lala Pakistani, 60, ruefully. “Our spirit to sing national songs has all but disappeared.”
Lala Pakistani, who roams throughout the country on his bike and is often a presence at the Wagha border, has decorated his ride with a depiction of the Ghauri missile, portraits of martyred army troops and national flags. He is the man that seems to have seen it all, especially the decline of classic national songs that helped spirits soar, through good times and bad.
“During the 1965 war, Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hassan and Masood Rana enthralled the nation, as well as our armed forces fighting,” he recalls. “Most of the young singers are singing songs only to make money – they know that singing a Pakistani national song is not a good idea to earn their livelihood.”
Not all hope lost
And yet, despite the decline in national songs, Lala Pakistani agrees that some amongst the new brood of singers, like Jawad Ahmed, Ali Azmat, Fakhir and Junaid Jamshed, have indeed sung melodious national songs that speak of patriotism.
However, he says, the era when Habib Wali Muhammad delivered the lyrics of such songs in front of packed audiences, when people would be devoted to such performances, is over.
Lala Pakistani with his decorated bike carrying pictures of martyred army personnel and a model of Ghauri missile. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
Changing times, changing lyrics
“People need lyrics they can relate to, they are now listening to revolutionary songs,” says singer Jawad Ahmed.
Ahmed says that while the young generation is not aware of Habib Wali Muhammad, it does know Dil Dil Pakistan very well. “Perhaps if the government, or even private companies, sponsored singers and poets, they would write and sing good national songs,” he states.
Sehar Ansari, noted poet, agrees that the volatile situation in the country has contributed to the lack of enthusiasm.
“I feel there are definitely things [reasons] behind the fact that youngsters are not interested in singing national songs,” says Ansari. “On the other hand, the notes of our classical singers are still alive and no one can beat them. Their songs are a lifetime achievement.”
Yet, he recognises the efforts of the new singers, too. “It would be quite unfair if young singers who have voiced patriotic songs are not appreciated.”
The responsibility of revival
Ahmed Shah from Arts Council Karachi says it is the responsibility of the national media – Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television – to encourage poets to compose songs. Unfortunately, these institutions are not fulfilling their duty in this regard.
“While we have reproduced the old songs with singers Humaira Arshad, Shafqat Amanat Ali and Najam Sheeraz, new national songs are neither being written, nor being sung,” he says. “Even during the World Cup, the new song was sponsored by a private company, not by PTV.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2013.