Even with accelerating Taliban violence, Pakistan’s underground music-makers are rocking on.
“Our students have started forming bands; the youngest group consists of three seven-year-old boys. All play astonishingly well, and are fast improving every day”, says Abid Khan, one of the founders and teachers of Lahore’s Guitar School, which opened recently on the back of growing interest in contemporary music, stimulated by satellite television and the increasingly free and diverse broadcast media.
This has given Pakistani rock a contemporary foothold from which many bands have moved on to establish their own methods of promotion through social networking sites, putting their work on MySpace and Facebook.
Radio stations across the country are increasingly playing tracks by rising Pakistani bands and now musicians and teachers are encouraging youth participation.
At Lahore’s Guitar School, for example, almost 50 students attend classes given by established rock ’n’ rollers, most often in guitar. Khan says the school, in the city’s Defence district, was established in the face of declining demand for musicians in Pakistan, but on the back of popular interest in Pakistani rock.
“All we were focusing on in the beginning was to make money to get by, as work for musicians and opportunities in general were depleting. Teaching and sharing our skills with others was the most logical thing that came to mind,” he explains.
The school, which also teaches music theory and keeps a library of independent records, quickly became not just a financial venture, but a social and artistic one.
Khan adds: “Now that the school is up and running, we are realising the huge potential that music has for creating a healthy change in society.”