Pakistani Music in India
Sharanya Deepak’s essay for 52, tells a few wonderful stories about Pakistani pop in India. It’s a lovely capture of the allure of Pakistani artists across the border, and how the bans on them fit into the larger situation of Indian cultural politics.
As research for the piece, Sharanya joined Twitter Spaces of Atif Aslam fans, also known as Aadeez:
These Spaces began at night, as participants scuffled into shared rooms, moved into verandas, and lowered their voices to avoid ticking off disgruntled neighbours. The conversations would begin with attempts at moderation for focus on Atif. But there were inevitable tangents. The fans talked about caste in India and Pakistan (lamented), the quality of Faisalabad’s water (brackish), whether Indians are all actually vegetarian (rejected), whether men lie about their age as much as women (a chorus of “Yes!”).
On why Atif in particular strikes a chord:
The Aadeez remain united in their devotion to Atif’s ballads. Shraddha, a 21-year-old fan from Hyderabad, told me that Atif’s lyrics were special because they were timeless. Shubham valued the fact that Atif, being a South Asian man, wrote music that was emotionally expressive. “Atif aur Aadeez feelings chuppatay nahi, dikhatay hai,” he told me. Atif and his fans don’t hide their feelings, they express them.
Ritesh Kayal, a Delhi-based software engineer and an administrator of the now-defunct Facebook forum “Jalholics,” believed that Pakistani bands expanded the repertoire of classic South Asian themes—like “heartbreak and existentialism baselined their lyrics.” Both Kayal and the Delhi-based writer Akshita Nagpal also used the word “democratic” to describe their appeal. “So while everyone—okay, many of the women I knew!—loved Goher and Farhan in Jal, the bassist Shazi was my man,” Kayal said.
So many lovely anecdotes about other bands as well. I do encourage reading the full piece.