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Pakistani media is too limited in its view of its own people. The country’s linguistic and cultural diversity, given its size and heritage is comparable to few other nations in the world. Unfortunately much of our cultural infrastructure is built around ideas of ‘properness’ that only a narrow population is ever able to fit. All news channels speak the same kind of Urdu. The prestigious schools frown upon even that, and push children to speak in English instead. To no surprise to historians on this list, this is inextricably linked to colonization, but we are past the point where it can be blamed on only that.
There is an enforced hierarchy in music as well: some genres gaining more respect than others; all local art forms receiving more accolades locally after Western patronage; and constant policing of language.
In part, the focus on language comes from a good place. Each language comes with a cultural infrastructure around it. And while some languages push forward on their ability to serve new functions, describe new things with speed, or to identify things with great specificity, other languages are rooted in aesthetically capturing human emotion. Urdu in particular, through a strong poetic tradition, is served by a cultural enterprise that is focused on idiom and diction.
The downside of Urdu’s cultural enterprise, is that variety in how Urdu is spoken – especially in pronunciation and varied accents – is too easily treated as imperfection rather than as representation of something different. As a result the language in Urdu pop too, remains limited. When young people do attempt new idiom, they are pushed to go talk to lyricists instead of writing themselves.
I love this recording from S.H. Haideri, a Multani hip hop artist, because of how it doesn’t sound Lahori at all. At first glance, the differences are not huge, but there is a variety in the accent and word choice (especially in which English words he uses and when), and a hopefulness in the story of becoming a rapper and recording this song which he tells in the song itself, that is infectious.