A lot of the narratives on Hamnawa are about how art forms change to represent different identities. This reflects most prominently, for the purposes of my discussion of pop music, in how Western popular music genres are modified to represent and appeal to Pakistani artists and audiences.
Language is often the first point of entry. The second is the use of local instruments. A third is the use of eastern tonality. A recent wave of young musicians is testing these limits in new ways. Often using the same techniques in different configurations, or using new techniques altogether. The language used has grown more diverse from just Urdu and Punjabi, and even the vocabulary used is expanding. There are new combinations of instruments and tonality, and where they seem to appear most often is in hip-hop.
The rise of hip-hop in Pakistan is deeply interesting, because the tyranny of rock music has pinned us very much into the 90s and early 2000s. Like many other parts of the country’s culture and organizations, an illusive memory of the past captures our ability to embrace the new. Those still producing rock music are artists themselves that made it big in the 90s and 2000s, and it is most often younger artists who are only now entering their mid 20s that are harking to hip-hop. Hip-hop as a sound is not new, but through the use of sampling, electronics, and its general lack of pervasiveness in the Pakistan, hip-hop has an inherent novelty that attracts younger listeners.
Novelty enables audiences to identify themselves in opposition to what came before them. I feel that young hip-hop artists like Rozeo, Mujju and Maanu are doing the same for themselves.
In this search for novelty, the amalgamation of rap, tabla and kathak is inspired. Nighat Chaodhry is the representative for kathak in Pakistan, and her body of work is frankly staggering. But what is most inspiring about seeing her perform in this empty skeleton of a building surrounded by young boys rapping is that after all that has come in her career, she is willing to be the person that dances on a music video made by a bunch of young boys that haven’t made it big yet. It should not be surprising that for many years Nighat Chaodhry has been teaching performing arts to school children. Her own transition from being embedded in ballet before she embraced kathak, helps frame why something this seemingly innovative and subversive does not appear to be unnatural in her portfolio. In the assault of words and smoke and light, Nighat Chaodhry performance is an emblem of a generosity of spirit towards young people that is often missing from the organizational structures to which we all belong.