Lal Band: struggle goes on

Lal Band is a unique and distinct voice in the Pakistani music history which demonstrated that to become popular among youth you don’t have to sing meaningless lines with loud music and jump on the stage. Lal Band was driven by the ideological thrust to challenge the asymmetrical division of society on the basis of class and economic resources. Can we put up resistance against the hegemonic structures and practices of dominant groups in society? It was a thought and Taimur and his fiends decided to give it a try. Their first job was to select the radical poems and there was no dearth of such poems when it comes to Faiz and Jalib.

Mahvash, Taimur, Nadia

Mahvash, Taimur, Nadia

Their first choice was Jalib’s poem Musheer (Adviser) that focuses on the mindset of sycophants who surround the rulers and put blinkers on their eyes with misleading pieces of advice. The rendering of this poem was an instant hit. This encouraged them to formally announce the Lal Band. The time was ripe for Lal Band as Mushararaf had declared emergency in the country and stopped the judges to work. A mass scale movement for restoration of judiciary started and Lal band actively took part in this movement with their fiery songs. They sang Aitzaz’s poem (Dunya ki tareekh gawah hay) with such passion that it became the anthem of restoration of judiciary movement. The movement realized its objective as the judges were finally restored.

A recurring question, however, was how long this fire would keep burning in the hearts and minds of Lal Band. Taimur was a faculty at LUMS and was doing his PhD from London. He completed his PhD, wrote a book for OUP, got married but his journey of spreading awareness didn’t stop. His life partner, Mahvash, in fact supported his mission and became an active part of the band. I know Taimur as a colleague when we used to teach at LUMS. In fact we designed and team-taught an interesting course together with some other colleagues. The course dealt with learning in community context. During the course we took the participants to different villages of Khaniwal where they got an opportunity to learn from the indigenous wisdom. I remember stopping at Sahiwal and drinking tea there and exchanging verses from Jalib. I left LUMs and joined LSE but I had been hearing about the great work of Taimur. He came over to see me at LSE where over lunch we remembered the good old days and our visit to Khanewal.

lalabandLast month I was in Islamabad to conduct a few sessions in Children Literature Festiva CLF)l, a great initiative taken by Bela Jamil (ITA) and Ameena Syed (OUP). I will write in detail about this festival in some other post on this blog but today I want to share with you a pleasant surprise waiting for me in CLF. It was day two of the festival and after conducting multiple sessions I was sitting in the café having my tea when I heard a big roaring crowd outside…I left my tea and came out to see what happened. What I saw was incredible. Children of all ages, belonging to various schools, along with their teachers, and parents,standing in a circle, were waving their hands, chanting with the full volume of their throats, and enjoying themselves. On the stage were Taimur and Mahvash who were, as usual, singing radical poetry. It was a scene to remember. The audience was chanting with them. Taimur was sweating but kept singing with the same zeal and conviction as he used to teach Marx in his classes and small discussion groups. Mahvash’s contribution was equally significant. During their singing Nadia Jamil (famous actress, educationist, and social activist) also appeared on the stage and on Taimur’s insistance also sang sfufiana kalam, a mixture of Miam Mummad (Saiful Maluk) and Bulleh Shah. I also saw Shehrzad (famous artist and potter) after many many years on the stage which reminded me of the time when I was doing my PhD from University of Toronto and she, along with Zahoor Khaliq (Graet Artist and Ex NCA faculty) and her two daughters came to Toronto to settle there.

Taimur and I met at the end of the show, after a gap of several years but I found him the same old colleague…humble, smiling, and respectful. This is Taimur Rahman, struggling to realize his dreams of social justice based on equal opportunities for all. He, like Faiz, is hopeful that better times will certainly come one day. He can hear Faiz sahib's mellow voice.

Meri jan aaj ka gham na ker, ke najane katib- e- waqt ne ! ! ! ! !

Kisi apne kal main bhi bhool ker kahin likh rakhi hoon mussaratain

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