‘Heaven is right here in Pakistan’

Published: March 23, 2011
Lanny Cordola of Guns N’ Roses fame, trekked to Swat to promote peace through music. PHOTOS: ONLINE

Lanny Cordola of Guns N’ Roses fame, trekked to Swat to promote peace through music. PHOTOS: ONLINE

Lanny Cordola of Guns N’ Roses fame, trekked to Swat to promote peace through music. PHOTOS: ONLINE Lanny Cordola of Guns N’ Roses fame, trekked to Swat to promote peace through music. PHOTOS: ONLINE

LAHORE: His business card has a portrait of himself in a crisp white kurta next to his buddy, pop star Atif Aslam against the backdrop of young children huddled together sporting the peace sign with their fingers.

Guitarist Lanny Cordola — has performed with the likes of Ozzy Osborne and Guns N’ Roses. He came to Pakistan not looking to hold concerts in urban centres, instead he trekked all the way up to Swat to promote peace, through music. One doesn’t normally associate rock stars with spirituality, but Cordola’s deeply attracted to sufi mystics and shrines and is hoping that on this second visit he might be able to experience Lahore’s famed Shah Jamal dhammal. And when the politically ravaged country of ours has no faith in itself, Cordola sighs deeply and says “heaven is right here in Pakistan”. Against the backdrop of the Al Hamra, The Express Tribune spoke to the multifaceted musician on the country he, now, considers ‘home’.

Why Pakistan? Why now?

You need to ask God that (pointing to the skies). I wanted to explore the idea of using melodies for peace and social causes; to entertain people and give a voice to the voiceless. Initially a friend got me excited about working in Uganda, but that didn’t materialise, then I wanted to work in Haiti and even that, didn’t work out. I was really bummed out about that and then I decided to help out Todd Shea with his humanitarian work and that’s how Pakistan became it.

How was the Swat experience?

Swat was illuminating! It’s a place that has suffered immensely, yet people there have incredible resilience and hope. The next step for us — the Sonic Peacemakers — is to finish the song “[Pakistan] I have a dream” with Matt Sorum and Gilby Clark. It is a song that is inspired by Pakistan and by Martin Luther King.

What’s the agenda now for the Sonic Peacemakers?

We need to put together the right team, to create a world class operation, to attract major musicians and artistes and get the spotlight on Pakistan and in the beauty, within the country. We want to bear witness to the struggles of people, especially poor children and, to empower, young girls and women.

Tell us about the project you are currently involved in. It’s an ambitious undertaking with Saeen Zahoor, Arif Lohar, Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam.

I am really happy that this collaboration with Saeen has come about. I am really hopeful that this will generate lots of possibilities and I may be able to produce a record with him. I love discovering these threads between artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Saeen’s mystical sounds. There’s a whole spiritual arrangement to the set we are performing, ‘love supreme’. I am in the middle of the set performing the modern rock song ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ which was written with such innocence and purity so it gels well with the overall intention of the music.

What has impressed you most about Pakistan?

Everything and everyone has impressed me. From the spirit of the people and the musicians to discovering Pakistan’s great legacy — deep thinkers and poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Bulleh Shah. I loved visiting the Abdullah Shah Ghazi mazaar in Karachi and want to go to Shah Jamal in Lahore.

What have you enjoyed most about Pakistan?

I have enjoyed touring the country; however, I have yet to go to Bal0chistan. I want to discover more but my friends here are concerned for me so we have to be a bit cautious. My friendships in Pakistan that started with Atif, then Sameer Shami (bassist) and Sarmad and the people in the band that we have worked with, have all become like family. This just goes to show that music will connect, wherever you go.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Mar 23, 2011 - 11:52PM

    Wonderful ! Seems like the world is now trying to understand Pakistan and its potential. This peace initiative should be joined by Every Musician working for social issues.

    Both Thumbs up for Lanny Cordola. Thank you for being here. :)Recommend

  • Talha
    Mar 24, 2011 - 1:43AM

    True say, great work by the legendary guitarist.Recommend

  • AN
    Mar 24, 2011 - 1:44AM

    Thanks Lanny for your support !Recommend

  • Riz
    Mar 24, 2011 - 3:31AM

    These initiatives are good but we have a long way to go before we can honestly say that Pakistan is the place to be We have been dragged to mud way out of proportion but most of these issues like extremism, illiteracy and intolerance is rampant in our society. When these problems are dealt with and eradicated, our perception automatically will change for good. But being hyper-nationalist (as most of our nation is) and putting our head in hand won’t help anymore. Songs of love and peace won’t help much either.Recommend

  • Nobody
    Mar 24, 2011 - 6:55AM

    Wow big thumbs up from a American-Pakistani in the U.S. I admire the work you’re doing and wish you all the best of luck! This is a much needed undertaking in Pakistan and I hope people encourage you and join your efforts! Thanks for caring! It means alot to Pakistanis. Recommend

  • waqas
    Mar 24, 2011 - 12:52PM

    wn wl they come 2 swat some 1 tell plzRecommend

  • Erum Ahmed Ali
    Mar 24, 2011 - 10:35PM

    I hope this opens the eyes of the American haters in Pakistan that there are people irrespective of their country affiliation that are basically good people, Take for instance Lanny Cordola he could not care about the poor conditions in Pakistan & enjoyed his celebrity life in America but he chose to make the sacrifice to come to Pakistan and make a difference.
    If the tables were turned turned how many Pakistanis would leave the comfort of the motherland to go to a dangerous foreign country?
    We need to change the mindset of ALL the citizens of Pakistan that the world cares what Pakistan. We know our Muslim brothers in other countries give great lip service but could care less as to the final outcome of Pakistan.The Muslim Arab countries are loaded with perto-dollars but have invested in Pakistan they prefer to suck the brain-drain but have ALL Pakistanis realized that their stay in the Arab countries is temporary? eventually these countries will boot out all foreign workers but we wish to ignore this important face…WHY?Recommend

  • Mar 28, 2011 - 7:51PM

    HOPE for RevoRecommend

  • Apr 21, 2011 - 5:23PM

    @Erum Ahmed Ali:

    True but it takes two to make a clapRecommend

  • Meena a Pakistani in San Francisco
    Apr 22, 2011 - 5:16AM

    @Faisal _ And your point is – you can clap all you want as loud as you want but making noise is a cowards way of not dealing with the problem is that what you suggest? pity and sad !Recommend

  • imran
    May 16, 2011 - 8:59AM

    Sonic Peace Makers, Very True! Atif , Mr. Lanny Cordola & Mr.Todd Shea! They All Have Done Such Great Work By Spreading Peace Through Music & In Addition They Also Helped & Supported the Flood Victims! Their Good & Productive Activities Will Motivate Many Others to Follow & Engage themselves in Good Deeds! May Allah Bless them All!Recommend

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