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Thread: Socio-political History of Modern Pop Music in Pakistan

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    A Chronology

    60’s and 70’s: Humble, filmi beginnings

    Arman, starring Waheed Murad, is released. It is the first Pakistani film to address the romantic escapades and sociology of a changing Pakistani urban youth culture. Boasts of what can also be called the first ever modern Pakistani pop song, “Cococoreena...” Sung by Ahmed Rushdi and composed by Sohail Rana, it’s a dynamic blend of ‘60s bubblegum pop, early ‘60s twist music and Pakistani filmi music. It also gives birth to the “filmi-pop” genre.

    Left-wing student parties supporting Z A. Bhutto’s Socialist Pakistan Peoples Party start countrywide movement against Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s ten-year dictatorship. Many are shot and injured in clashes with police. Ayub resigns and hands over power to General Yahya Khan. Christian bands specializing in jazz start to spring up in night clubs and hotel lobbies. Waheed Murad’s “chocolate hero” looks become a fad with young urban youth.

    Ahmed Rushdie scores another big “filmi-pop” hit with “Uran Khatola” (from Waheed Murad thriller, Agent 008).

    Runa Laila becomes Ahmed Rushdi’s female “filmi-pop” counterpart and achieves pop stardom with two bouncy “filmi-pop” hits: The quasi-hippie anthem, “L.O.V.E”, and the teasing “Shakira Ke Maan Kya Boli?”

    Z. A Bhutto’s PPP wins election by a landslide in West Pakistan.
    The charismatic Zia Mohiuddin makes psychedelic attire popular among middle-class youth while conducting his famous PTV stage show, The Zia Mohiuddin Show.

    Runa Laila, a Bengali, chooses to leave the country for the recently created Bangladesh (former East Pakistan), after a bloody Civil War and Indo-Pak armed conflict. Rushdi however, continues to rule supreme as the country’s premier pop act.

    Christian bands playing (American & British) pop covers become popular in Karachi’s bustling night club scene, hotels and as hired guns at private dance parties.

    A left-wing nationalist movement takes the shape of guerilla warfare in the mountains of Balochistan between Marxist Balochi nationalists and the Pakistan Army. Many leftist (non-Balochi) middle-class young men also join the guerillas in the mountains. The nationalists are eventually crushed by brute force by the Pakistan Army.

    Long hair becomes a widespread fashion among young men. Hashish becomes popular drug of choice on campuses across Pakistan.
    Groups of European and American hippies start to throng cities like Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

    Naheed Akther becomes an overnight sensation with a string of unabashed “filmi-pop” ditties, especially the naughty (and queerly titled), “Tu-teru-teru-tara-tara”. She scores one massive hit after another becoming a much bigger star than Runa ever was.

    Ahmed Rushdie hits a peak with the delightfully intoxicated “filmi-pop” ditty, “Dil Koh Jalana Ham Nay Chor Deeya.”

    Another new “filmi-pop” talent finally emerges from the sidelines in the shape of the mercurial Alamgir. He soon replaces Ahmed Rushdi as the country’s leading “filmi-pop” act with hits like the Robin Ghosh composed “Mujay Dil Sey” (from the blockbuster Aaina), and the classic self-composed “filmi-disco” chestnut, “Daikha Natha” (from teen romance Bobby & Julie).

    An alliance of various anti-Bhutto politico-religious parties starts a violent movement against the Bhutto regime. They accuse Bhutto of rigging the 1976 elections. Bhutto fails to control the rioting and announces fresh provincial elections.

    In June 1977, Bhutto’s Military Cheif, Genral Zia-ul-Haq,(backed by the Jamat-e-Islami), topples Bhutto in a coup d`état and declares Martial Law. He denounces the Bhutto regime’s “un-Islamic” ways and announces to enforce “Nizam-e-Mustapha” (Quranic law).

    The film industry takes a beating due to the Zia regime’s new censor policies. This also starts the end of the “swinging ‘70s” in Pakistan, as night clubs and alcohol are banned and TV and cinema clamped down with new restrictions.

    Many popular Christian bands playing the nightclub circuit lose their jobs; some form new bands and seek employment as hotel lobby bands. Alcoholism becomes a major problem for these laid off musicians.

    The Pakistani cinema produces its last few “filmi-pop” hurrahs with Alamgir scoring a number of hits along with Naheed Akhter, especially in Nahi Abi Nahi , even though the new Jamat-e-Islami led Information Ministry disallow songs like “Dil Koh Jilana”, “Daikha Natha” and “Tu-teru-teru-tara-tara” from being aired by PTV.

    Pointed “disco shoes” (among young men), and the Ferrah Fawcett Major’s hair-cut (among young women), become a fad.

    Z A. Bhutto hanged by military regime after controversial murder trial.

    A young chemistry major, Altaf Hussain, forms All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APMSO) at the Karachi University (KU).

    Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT) activists fire at a the leftist National Students Federation (NSF) rally at KU. This is the first time a student group uses an AK-47 on a Pakistani campus.

    The Eighties: (Non-filmi) Pop music arrives

    Alamgir consolidates his leading pop status. He is followed into the scene by a young Mohammad Ali Shaiki who strikes it big with his very first album, Ali In Action (1980). He adds a twist of ‘70s Indian film music and vocal technique to Pakistani “filmi-pop.”

    Alamgir wannabe, Thaseen Javed enters the scene and becomes a moderately successful mainstay of the decade’s pop scene, while Khalid Waheed tries to become the heavy sounding Tom Jones of Pakistani pop. Not very successfully, though.

    Nazia & Zoheb Hassan release debut album, Disco Deewane. Perfecting and upgrading the late ‘70s “filmi-disco” of Alamgir’s “Daikha na Tha”, the duo becomes a massive hit.

    Baggy shirts and trousers and gelled hair become popular among young men. Young women discard the famous ‘70’s short kurtas for long ones.
    Future actor and painter, Jamal Shah heads a Sufi-ist art and music movement at Lahore’s famous National College Of Arts (NCA).

    An alliance of various (outlawed) anti-Zia parties (led by the PPP), called the Movement For The Restoration of Democracy (MRD), start staging widespread anti-Zia rallies across Pakistan.

    Left-wing student parties defeat the Zia-backed politico-religious student groups in Karachi’s student union elections in many colleges and universities. Alarmed by the results, Zia bans student elections and parties (except the Jamat-e-Islami’s student wing, the IJT).

    Alamgir unwittingly invents “Sufi-pop” by performing (bare footed!) an energetic pop version (on PTV) of popular Punjabi folk song, “Jugni.”

    Many disillusioned (and harassed) leftist students travel across the NWFP and into Afghanistan to join Murtaza Bhutto’s Al-Zulfikar Organization (AZO), based there under the protection of Kabul’s post-78 Soviet-backed Communist regime. One of them is a Peoples Student Federation leader (and Shaiki fan), Sallamullah Tipu. He along-with three other PSF workers hijack a PIA plane and force it to land in Kabul. Working under the instructions of AZO chief, they negotiate the release of many leftist student activists languishing and tortured in Zia’s jails. The episode results in the death of a passenger onboard.

    The American CIA, the Pakistani ISI and many pro-Zia politico-religious parties start recruiting thousands of young men for the anti-Soviet “jihad” in Afghanistan.

    A major clash between the progressive student alliance the United Students Federation (USF) and Islami Jamiat Tulaba at KU claims to life of one USM activist.

    Mohammad Ali Shaiki scores a hit with one of the firs popized national songs, “Main Bhi Pakistan Hoon.” Alamgir follows it up with a hit of his own, “Khiyaal Rakhna.” He then scores another hit with the the jazzy, “Khay Dey Na.”

    Nazia & Zoheb Hassan release second album, Boom, Boom. It becomes yet another N&Z biggie, further fine tuning the “filmi-disco” they explored and upgraded on their debut release.

    In a surprise move, Radio Pakistan, Karachi, starts playing recordings of BBC’s Top 40 radio show in its afternoon and evening English service. However, later in the year, the government asks the state-owned radio station to stop playing the recordings.

    Zia holds and “wins” a farcical referendum, declares himself as President and forms a “Majlis-e-Shoora” (Parliament) of henpecked loyalists.

    Naheed Akhter suddenly announces her retirement, citing domestic problems.

    Three young Christian teens calling themselves the Benjamin Sisters score a series of hits by popish reworking of old Noorjehan songs. They also release an album of original music. Their 15 minutes of fame are short but entertaining.

    Ahmed Rushdie dies of a heart attack, aged 36.

    Nazia & Zoheb release Young Tarang. The album attracts the attention of the Zia regime (but for all the wrong reasons). The duo is banned from performing on state television and sales of their album halted after Zia’s culture ministry and the moral lobbies allied with the Zia dictatorship accuse the duo of spreading “obscenity” among the youth of Pakistan. Of course, remaining true to its hypocritical character, the dictatorship and its moral allies say little about the havoc being created in the society with the rapid spread of heroin, guns, corruption and sectarian strife that remain to be the hallmarks of the Zia era. After several pleas by Nazia & Zoheb, the government finally lifts the ban on their music.

    MRD’s anti-Zia movement turns into a violent struggle (in interior Sindh) with young PSF workers, AZO operatives and many disenchanted left-wing youth groups taking up arms against the Army. Many young Sindhis are killed, jailed and tortured, while those who survive the slaughter run into Dadu’s thick forests and become “dacoits.”

    The traditional Bhit Shah festival (in Hala), now becomes a regular meeting ground for angry anti-Zia youth, Sindhi nationalists and popular Sindhi protest music.

    Armed PSF youth clash with Police in Karachi’s biggest slum area, Lyari. The clashes and police reprisals queerly set the stage for the beginnings of Lyari’s “Balochi-disco” scene!

    Salamullah Tipu excuted by Afghan authorities in Kabul (on AZO’s request). He had fallen out with the megalomaniac AZO leader, Murtaza Bhutto.
    The VCR becomes a common mainstay in many homes. Video rental shops come out into the open.

    Advertising agencies witness a boom

    With the clampdown on “traditional” brothel areas, “private” prostitutes start operating in hotels and through “boutiques” in major cities’ posh areas.
    A “parallel economy” fueled by the rampant heroin trade and the pouring in of American money (as aid for Afghan mujahideen), starts to take shape. Many generals and government officials also involved in heroin trade.
    Heroin addiction among youth rises dramatically.

    Weekly Times magazine puts NWFP governor; Fazal-e-Haq in its list of the world’s ten richest generals. The said issue is at once banned by the Zia government.

    Madam Noorjehan’s regenerated career as a siren-like crooner of sleazy (but catchy) Punjabi film songs hits a peak with, “Ludi Hey Jamalo Pao” and “Gorayaan Noon Paraan.” Both are from action actor Sultan Rahi flicks, who himself becomes a major Punjaby film icon.

    A young guitar prodigy, Aamir Zaki, forms the country’s first “underground” rock band, Scratch.

    The band becomes a regular favorite at college functions and private parties playing innovative covers of Eric Clapton, Santana and Pink Floyd songs. The band starts to gather a small but loyal cult following in Karachi. It adds a female lead singer and achieves a high point while playing a rock version of the Go Go’s “Walk Like An Egyptian” in a concert performed at Karachi’s Govt. Commerce College.

    Many of Karachi and Lahore’s “mid-level” restaurants start becoming favorite dating spots for young couples. They also become favorite and safe places for those wanting to have alcohol without being arrested. The police are paid huge bribes by the restaurant owners to keep away.

    ‘Pindi college students, Rohail Hyatt and Shahzad Hussan and Lahore’s engineering student Junaid Jamshed form separate pop bands in their respective colleges.

    Cult guitar hero, Ritchie, aged 24, and member of a Christian pop outfit, and famous for pulling Jimi Hendrix like guitar stunts), commits suicide in Karachi after getting entangled in a vicious love triangle. He is also a former tutor of guitar prodigy, Aamir Zaki, who is heartbroken.

    Zia regime holds party less polls that are boycotted by the PPP-led, MRD. Zia loyalists and pro-Zia politico-religious groups win most seats. Mohammad Khan Junejo is elected Prime Minister.

    Zia encourages his parliamentarians to form Pakistan Muslim League (PML. The “opposition” in the Assembly call themselves, PML (Forward Block).

    Mohammad Ali Shaiki reaches a peak with the recording and release of a proto-Sufi-Rock song, “Humma, Humma”, with legendary Sindhi folk singer, Alan Fakir. An entertaining video of the song (directed by Saira Kazmi), propels the song into becoming the year’s biggest local pop chestnut. Shaiki becomes a star attraction, right there alongside Alamgir and Nazia & Zoheb Hassan.

    Alamgir becomes the scene’s highest paid live performer, followed by Shaiki and Thaseen Javed.

    The Karachi eveninger, Star, under a young editor (former leftist student activist and LSE student), Imran Aslam, becomes a front ranking anti-Zia newspaper. It soon becomes the biggest selling English eveninger in Pakistan.

    Aamir Zaki through his band, Scratch, gains solid cult reputation as young guitar wizard.

    Nazia & Zoheb release fourth album, Hot Line. It’s another hit for the galloping disco duo. They are then approached by a Bollywood director to allow him to use some of their biggest hits for a forthcoming Kumar Gaurav and Tina Munim starrer, Star. The film, however, flops at the box office.

    Altaf Hussain forms the Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM). Its student wing, the APMSO starts making in-roads in Karachi’s colleges and universities.

    The PSF/NSF-led USM gets involved in a week-long armed stand off with the police outside the KU student hostel. USM activists are joined by Pukhtoon and Baloch nationalist student groups, but the cops finally manage to break the deadly stalemate and arrest a number of students.

    A talented and hyper active pubescent, Ali Azmat, entertaining family and friends by performing dances and songs at gatherings.

    Saint Patricks Govt. College in Karachi becomes a celebrated place for bohemian leftist student activity - its notorious open hash smoking sprees, a canteen where gambling and beer are a common happening and where Led Zeppelin songs play alongside Punjabi film songs. Its canteen is however raided by plain clothes policemen. The students respond by rioting. But the party is as good as over.

    IJT’s special moral brigade at Punjab University and KU, the Thunder Squad, openly harass “liberal” students.

    Riots between MQM supporters and Karachi based Pukhtoons erupt in Karachi. Hundreds die in the long drawn clashes.

    Benazir Bhutto returns (from exile in England), and lands in Lahore. She is greeted by millions of PPP supporters. Some of them clash with police while burning Zia’s effigies and the American flag. Four die due to police firing.

    Aamir Zaki disbands Scratch. Becomes a session player with pop icons like Alamgir and Khalid Waheed. Also makes regular appearances with hotel lobby bands.

    Young teens Rohail Hayyat, Shazad Hassan, Junaid Jamshed and Nusrat Ahmed meet and decide to form a band. They call themselves the Vital Signs.

    PTV producer Shoaib Mansoor unravels a video and song of a catchy national song “Dil, Dil Pakistan” by the Vital Signs. The song catches on and becomes a surprise hit with a new generation of young, urban Pakistani youth. Times, they are a changing.

    A young Adnan Sami Khan scores an impressive performance on PTV, playing instrumentals on an ultra modern synthesizer.

    Zia dismisses the Junejo government on charges of corruption.

    The country is shaken out of an eleven year dictatorship when on August 17
    Zia’s plane explodes in mid air, brutally killing the president. A change in the politics and sociology of the country comes sweeping in.

    Young men and women pour out onto the streets and roads of Karachi & Lahore celebrating the return of democracy and the end of a repressive dictatorship.

    Songs most heard during these huge, widespread celebrations are the Signs’ “Dil, Dil Pakistan”, Shaiki’s “Humma, Humma”, and a funky Sindhi song, “Balay Bhutto-Benazir”, set to a pounding “Balochi-Disco” tune and sung by Shazia Khuskh, a “disco queen” from Lyari, one of Karachi’s biggest slum areas.

    Elections are announced in which Ziaists are soundly defeated by the once outlawed Pakistan Peoples Party.

    The Jupiters formed. Start out by playing at marriages. Aamir Saleem starts building a loyal following by playing regularly at marriages and related functions.

    Nazia Hassan joins UN as its cultural ambassador.

    In January, PTV airs its first ever pop show, Music ‘89. Though a one-off, this Shoaib Mansoor directed program is relished by the youth of the country who watch veteran pop stars like Nazia & Zoheb Hassan rivaled by some stunning performances by a string of new pop acts led by the Vital Signs. The show becomes a trailblazer, setting the paradigm for most pop shows in the coming years. It severely bothers many right-wing lobbies and politico-religious parties. But this doesn’t stop PTV from airing similar shows, featuring new talents like Vital Signs, Ali Haider, Sajad Ali, Jupiters, Live Wires and three of the country’s first ever “underground rock” acts, Final Cut, The Barbarians and Midnight Madness.

    The Barbarians and Final Cut also become the first Pakistani acts to perform (on PTV!) a song each with overt political lyrics (about campus violence).

    Pakistan’s biggest recording label, EMI-Pakistan signs on the Vital Signs who become the label’s second biggest pop acts after Nazia & Zoheb. The band set camp at guitarist Salman Ahmed’s residence in Karachi and compose the bulk of the songs which will end up on their debut album.

    The lyrics are written by Shoaib Mansoor. The songs are then recorded at EMI’s studios and first tested as the sound track of a Shoaib Mansoor directed play also featuring the Signs (as actors).

    This PTV play is a success, and soon VS:1 is released. It’s an immediate hit and at once sets the tone of Pakistani pop music as we know it today. The album’s massive sales and the sell-out concerts by the Signs are subtly announcing something else as well: The decline and fading of former pop big-wigs like Nazia & Zoheb, Alamgir, Shaki, Thaseen Javed and Khalid Waheed.

    The (Ali Azmat led) Jupiters also score a major hit with their debut album, Yaroon Yeh Hi Dosti Hai, and the Live Wires make it big with Nai Umangain Hassan Jahangir scores a hit with “Hawah, Hawa"

    The Nineties: Pop Explosion

    Strings release their first album (Vol:1), followed by Ali Haider’s unsung debut, Chahat.

    Though successful, no other post-’88 New Wave act come close to matching the sales and aesthetic quality of VS:1. All of them, however, have one thing in common (apart from being new): They all sing about that feeling of hope and euphoria which swept across the youth after the end of the Zia dictatorship, and about the heartbreaks of a repressed/oppressed society, though the political context of these feelings are kept at a bare minimum.
    Later in the year, Pepsi Co. approaches VS for a sponsorship deal. A lucrative deal is signed.

    Violent clashes take place between PSF and APMSO supporters across Karachi’s many colleges. Many are killed and injured.
    Strings release successful debut album.

    Bloody clashes also take place at Punjab University between PSF and PML’s student wing, Muslim Students Federation (MSF).

    Pakistan’s first (semi)-private TV channel, NTM, launched.

    VS guitarist Salman Ahmed is ousted by bandleader, Rohail Hayat (due to a leadership tussle and “musical differences”). Salman retaliates by plucking Ali Azmat from the Jupiters and bringing in original VS guitarist/keyboardist, Nusrat Ahmed to form Junoon.

    VS add little known Islamabad guitarist, Rizwan-ul-Haq and enter Rohail’s studios (in Rawalpindi) to record their second album.

    Junoon become another EMI act and enter the label’s studios in Karachi to record their debut album.

    By mid-1990 the initial euphoria and hope of a better (Zia-less) future evaporates as the country enters a new round of political intrigues, corruption and ethnic violence. The sad disillusionment clearly engulfs almost each and every song on the Signs’ second album, the brilliant VS:2. It’s an album which is a departure from VS:1’s rosy imagery and sound. It takes off from where the first album’s last two songs left, the melancholic “Musafir” and the Autumn-like, “Yeh Shaam.”

    VS:2 scores big and is studded with some of the most beautiful and atmospheric compositions ever recorded in the local pop scene, including also what is perhaps the Signs’ most overt political song, the thumping “Aisa Na Ho.” But the setting of what is a brilliant sounding album is disturbed when the band record a Pepsi jingle and are asked by their sponsors to put it on the the album. The jingle is, however, (and thankfully!), pulled out from the album’s CD version.

    Junoon’s first album stumbles out like an awkward and angst-ridden pop-rock bubble that bursts the moment it reaches the market. It is a spectacular failure, even though it does have its moments like “Jogia” and “Neend”.

    Nazia & Zoheb release Camera, Camera which struggles to maintain the kind of sales the duo’s preceding albums had set. Its comparative failure forces the duo to call it a day. Mohammad Ali Shaiki makes a dramatic attempt to stage a comeback by recording a live session at NTM and pulling tricks by covering songs such as the nauseating “Final Countdown” by ‘80s poser-rock act, Europe. The “concert” is aired by the private network and is a flop!

    Boy-band Awaz formed and right away bag a Pepsi contract. They add former Barbarians guitarist, Asad Ahmed to the line up.

    A “constitutional coup” topples the scandal-ridden Benazir Bhutto/PPP government, setting the stage for the electoral victory of the Islami Jamhoori Ithihad (IJI), a nine-party alliance of Zia loyalists and conservative political parties. PML’s Mian Nawaz Sharif is elected as the country’s new PM.
    Aamir Zaki forms underground neo-jazz-fusion outfit Just In Case.
    Aamir Saleem releases successful debut album, Musafir.

    Ali Haider releases second album, Qarar. It’s a big hit and elevates Haider’s status as the scene’s Premiere solo “filmi-pop” star.

    Milestones formed.

    Live Wires second album flops. They soon disband.

    Aamir Saleem scores another hit with second album, Hamsafer.

    Jupiters fail to revive early success. Experiment with various vocalists, including one Najam Shiraz.

    The IJI government enforces the wearing of the dupatta by all women performers on PTV. The rather ridiculous law is soon revoked after protests by PTV producers and actresses.

    “Operation Clean-Up” (by Army) starts against MQM militants and Sindhi nationalists. Many killed and arrested.

    Brain O’Connell joins Junoon as bassist. Nusrat Hussain quits. So does short-time Junoon keyboardist, (and former Barbarians’ man), Nadeem Jaffery.

    Spaghetti TV producer, Ghazanfer Ali unleashes weekly Music Channel Charts (MCC) on NTM, featuring a young and unknown rapper, Fakher-e-Alam as the show’s host. Alam’s spontaneous and hip kid style VJ-ing coupled with a host of videos from a number of new pop acts soon turn MCC into one of NTM’s most watched programs. Brand new acts like Fringe Benefits, Collage, Nadeem Jaffery, Jazba, Seaquencers, Saleem Javed, Najam Shiraz, and Yatagaan become overnight hits with the show’s compilation albums selling in big numbers. These acts form the Second Wave of post-’88 Pakistani pop and drown out First Wave acts like Jupiters, Live Wires, Bunny and Night Creatures.

    Hassan Jahangir scores big with the controversial, “Shaadi Na Kerna.” Final Cut disbands.

    Hard rocking underground band Fuel 2 Fire formed.

    Aamir Zaki dissolves Just In Case. Becomes a sessions man again.

    The Second Wave is further strengthened by the release of The Strings’ second album, Vol:2, Junoon’s rip-roaring Talaash and debut albums by Awaz, Fakher-e-Alam/Yatagaan and Milestones. The Strings’ second album raises the band’s status and they also become the first Pakistani pop acts to appear on MTV (with an understated video for the album’s charismatic opener, “Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar.” Awaz taste instant success with their debut album, even though they sound no more or better than a goody-two-shoes, second-hand version of the Vital Signs. Their desi allusions to ‘80s bubblegum acts like Wham and New Kids On The Block are enough for Pepsi to extend their contract.

    Fakher-e-Alam too scores a hit with a dynamic debut release with its title track, “Bhangra Pao”, pioneering the bhangra-rap genre in Pakistan. Alam’s success as rapper and VJ soon lands him a fruitful Pepsi deal.

    Meanwhile during all this excitement and commotion, VS quietly enter Rohail’s studios in ‘Pindi and start recording their third album. A few months later they release Aitebaar, which soon outsells its predecessor, VS:2. On Aitebaar the Signs return to the upbeat mood of their first album. After performing a number of concerts, they head out with director Shoaib Mansoor to film Geetar ‘93 , a Pepsi-financed venture featuring videos (shot all across Pakistan) of various VS hits.

    The talented Milestones too release their debut album, Jadu. Though an impressive collection of laid-back and jazzy pop-rock, the album unfortunately fails to compete with the cannibalizing commercialism and corporate muscle of Awaz, whose debut album chews up whatever retail space left by VS, Strings and Yatagaan.

    Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on chrages of corruption.

    Benazir is re-elected in fresh elections. Junoon releases Talaash.

    Junoon’s live jams and Talaash help the band steadily gather a sizable cult following as it introduces the mainstream scene to Zeppelinsque riffs, sweaty stage antics and angry-young-man lyrics juxtaposed with rapid bhangra-rock freak-outs.

    Sajjad Ali releases his first “filmi-pop” album, Babiya ‘93, and strikes gold.
    Rana Shaikh appointed PTV MD and starts liberalizing the state-owned network.

    PPP Interior Minister, Nasserullah Babar continues “Operation Clean-Up.” After numerous violent and fatal clashes between MQM/APMSO militants and the police, the government is successful in breaking the back of MQM’s notorious militant network. Hundereds of young Mohajir men lose their lives in the clashes.

    Ali Haider releases his third album, Sandesa. It becomes Haider’s biggest selling album to date. His song, the delightful college-canteen anthem, “Purani Jeans”, helps Haider to become the land’s biggest solo pop artist and the pin-up boy of young petty-bourgeoisie teens. He takes the limelight away in this respect from First Waver Aamir Saleem who is unable to match the success of his first two albums.

    All the hype and bite of MCC acts is all but forgotten. Only Fakher-e-Alam manages to survive and that too due to his Pepsi contract which keeps him afloat in spite the stunning failure of his second album.

    Strings break up and decide to call it a day.

    Rohail Hyatt fires second VS guitarist, Rizwan-ul-Haq. Hires guitar virtuoso and cult attraction, Aamir Zaki, as the band’s third six-stringer. However, in a surprise move Rohail then suddenly announces his own departure from the Signs. The Signs tour the States without Rohail. On return lead singer Junaid Jamshed and Pepsi persuade Rohail to rejoin the band and which he does. The band finally enter Rohail’s studios (in Karachi) to record their fourth album. In the meantime they release a Greatest Hits compilation.

    Drummer Fawad Abbasi quits Junoon and is replaced by veteran sticks-man, Malcolm.

    Awaz release their second album, Jadu Ka Chiragh. It’s a more mature attempt than the sophomoric first album, but does not fare well commercially. The band adds former Signs guitarist Rizwan-ul-Haq on bass! The band remains afloat with a string of some energetic live performances and Pepsi’s backing.

    Milestones release second album which also goes unnoticed. They finally call it quits after playing a massive concert in Karachi also featuring Awaz and the Signs. The opening act of the concert is Arsh, a talented pop-rock act led by shy guitarist, Adnan ‘Vai’ Afaq.

    Arsh record debut album Saraab, which suffers at the market due to bad production and flawed marketing. The band soon splits and lead singer Shahzad Mughal goes solo.

    A buzzing (anti-corporate-pop) underground rock scene starts to take shape in Lahore and Karachi.

    Pepsi launches weekly Pepsi Top Of The Pops (PTOTP) on NTM. The show is hosted by Fakher-e-Alam.

    Junoon now has one of the staunchest cult following which keeps the angry-young-band going by regularly attending their concerts all over Pakistan.
    Junoon become the scene’s finest and most exciting live act.

    The second (post-88 local pop) wave recedes with the disbanding of promising acts like Milestones, Jazba, Fringe Benefits and the Sequencers.
    The News launches the country’s first exclusive pop music & culture page, Vibes.

    Fuel 2 Fire disbands.

    Rohail Hyatt and guitarist Aamir Zaki clash during the recording of the Signs’ fourth album. The band leaves for a UK tour after recording three songs for the new album. The two clash again in a continuing battle of egos and musical preferences and ultimately Zaki is asked to leave.

    VS rent Asad Ahmed from Awaz to play on the rest of the new album. The album, Hum Tum is released to critical and commercial acclaim. It’s a production masterpiece on which Rohail perfects the moody Floydian sound and production he first attempted on 1991’s VS:2. Melancholic compositions, dark lyrics and somber vocals on Hum Tum are a far cry from Aitebaar’s upbeat tone.

    The brewing new rock underground scene in Lahore and Karachi erupts. Brand new acts like The Trip, Mind Riot, Hash Addiction, Coven and Elixir (from Lahore), and Overdrive, Annonymous, Atish Raj and Brain Masala take cues from cult favorites Junoon and Aamir Zaki, and start conducting various DIY concerts. They prefer the unkempt grunge look, encourage hashish freak outs at concerts, bad mouth mainstream corporate pop acts (from VS, to Awaz, to Ali Haider), and pour out in a blend made up of Nirvana and Pearl Jam’s grunge, Led-Zeppelin and Black Sabbath riffs and a snarling bad-boy attitude in their music. They are loved by a new generation of rock fans and condemned by VS vocalist, Junaid Jamshed (who calls the new underground scene “demonic” and full of “druggies”). He soon gets into a battle of words with Vibes, denouncing it for promoting “drug music.”

    MCC graduate, Shahzad Roy releases debut album.

    PTOTP (still hosted by Fakher-e-Alam), invites many Lahore and Karachi’s underground acts. Much of the Program is edited, especially the parts in which these musicians openly start to abuse and attack Pepsi.

    Aamir Zaki releases his long-awaited solo album, Signature. Comprising mostly of instrumentals revolving around neo-jazz-fusion and classic rock, Zaki however, scores a surprise hit with a crisp FM-pop ditty, “Meyra Pyaar”. The album helps Zaki to reach a wider mainstream audience, even though his singing is nowhere close to his abilities as a guitarist and composer. Though impressed by the album’s professional antics, most critics and listeners find it to be rather cold.

    Junoon start writing and composing material for third album.

    Awaz release third album, Shola. Though losing out its Pepsi contract, Awaz stage an impressive creative and commercial comeback, this time allowing their Wham/NKOTB-influenced boy-band bubblegum pop antics to give way to some solid FM-Pop and dance-pop. They then go on a high profile tour of the UK with the Signs.

    A group of eccentric NCA students calling themselves Dr. Aur Billa start their own pop show on NTM, simply called VJ. Initially hosted by an up-n-coming pop crooner, Hadiqa Kiani, it is anything but simple. Actors/writers/musicians/directors/etc. like Faisal Qurashi, Ahmed Ibrahim, Ahsan Rahim and Jawad Bashir flaunt convention and ruthlessly parody matter like mainstream pop stardom, the Pakistani film industry and corporate pop. They start building a solid cult following with their madcap antics. Dr. Aur Billa score two cult hits, the perverse anti-video video, “No Love” and the tongue-in-cheek anti-establishment, “Jeenay Do.”

    Najam Shiraz releases fiery pop debut album and scores big hits with anti-greed ditty, “Un say nain mila kay daikho”, the angst-ridden “Sona chahta hoon” and pop version of an old Socialist poem, “Yeh Mooamla Kutch Aur Hai.”

    Hadiqa Kiani releases successful debut album, Raaz.

    A major concert by leading Lahore underground bands is held at Alhamra Amphitheatre. Not a single multinational sponsor is approached. It’s all DIY.

    Mind Riot, The Anonymous, Atish Raj and The Trip record limited addition debut albums. They are distributed manually and mostly for free! They are all sumptuously relished in Lahore and Karachi’s underground circuit.

    Elixir also record album, but fail to release it.

    Sajjad Ali releases second album, the eclectic Chief Saab. It’s an instant hit and a massive seller. Sajjad Ali turns down many sponsorship offers.

    VJ sprints past PTOTP to become country’s favorite pop show (now hosted by Faisal Qureshi).

    Ali Haider tastes first flop with lukewarm fourth album.

    Junoon release third album, Inquilaab. Packed with raving Sufi-Rock chestnuts like “Saeein”, standard Junoon bhangra-rockers like “Mahi”, existentialist atmospherics like “Rooh Ki Hai Pyass” and raging chants of a (spiritual) revolution,“Main Kon Hoon” (the last two songs written by young Marxist journalist, Shahzad Amjad (of The News), the album is a critical success. However, when the band includes the funky (though cash-in) national song, “Jazba Junoon”, the album starts selling big; enough to push the hard working band out of its staunch cult confines and onto the mainstream scene.

    Soon they are approached by Coke for a full fledged sponsorship deal. Salman however decides to only sell the cola giant, “Jazba Junoon” video for a whooping Rs. 1.2 million!

    Rohail Hyatt forms the state-of-the-art production house Pyramid with shrewd Advertising “guru” Tahir Khan.

    Former Strings member, Bilal Maqsood also joins the production company as producer and video and commercial director.

    Awaz enter the studios to record fourth album. But this time around (and after failing to regain Pepsi’s interest), the trio squabbles more than either sing or play.

    Junaid Jamshed starts work on first solo album.

    The once energetic and idealistically charged underground rock scene starts to burn out.

    Many Islamic jihad groups and militant sectarian parties emerge, mostly funded by various intelligence agencies.

    Junoon play a massive concert at Karachi’s Hockey Club Stadium, and then a free concert at Karachi’s Nishter Park, the city’s traditional hub for political rallies.

    Playboy cricketer turned politician Imran Khan joins hands with former ISI chief, Hamid Gul (a right-wing Ziaist), to lobby against Benazir’s “corrupt” and “secular” government. Salman Ahmed and Junaid Jamshed also join the “lobby” as enthusiastic crusaders.

    Junoon releases anti-Benazir song, “Ehtesaab.”

    Murtaza Bhutto shot dead in a shoot out with police.

    The second Benazir government is dismissed by President Laghari.

    PML(N) sweeps fresh elections. Nawaz Sharif returns as PM.

    Junoon releases the mega selling Sufi-Rock cracker, Azaadi. Get’s trouble with government after they become a major success in India. Of course, Salman’s association with Imran Khan didn’t help either. Junoon attack the political system of the country in intelligently masked songs on Azaadi. “Sayoni” and the Zeppelinseque “Yar Bina” become huge hits.

    MTV-Asia hosts a large concert in Karachi. Junoon, Aamir Zaki and the great Nusrat Fateh Ali are the star attractions. The concert is a logistic fiasco, though.

    Militant jihadi organizations and sectarian parties now operating openly. They go on recruiting disenchanted poverty stricken and lower middle class youth.
    Crime rate in Karachi and Lahore reach an all time high.

    Government bans pop shows and longhaired male pop musicians from PTV.

    President Laghari forced to resign and is replaced by Raiwind regular, Tarar.

    Junaid Jamshed releases first second solo album, Uss Raha Par. It’s a commercial and aesthetic success.

    Najam Shiraz releases second album, Roopnagar, an angry take on the hypocrisies of society.

    By now most country campuses totally depoliticalised. But student organizations like PSF, APMSO, IJT and Pakhtun Students Federation keep some presence and influence.

    Benazir goes into self-exile.

    EMI-Pakistan folded. CISUM, Sonic, Sadaf and LIPS become main labels.

    Asad Ahmed quits Awaz. Forms Karavan with Najam Shiraz, bassist Sameer (ex-Arsh), and vetern drummer, Allen Smith (ex-Milestones & Fuel 2 Fire. They record excellent (but underrated) debut album.

    Trip’s lead vocalist shot dead.

    Abrar Ahmed releases successful first album, Billo De Ghar. It sells like hot cakes. Its title track is attacked by various moral lobbies for glorifying romance between “normal” young man and a prostitute. The song gets banned by PTV.

    A disintegrating Awaz tries to regenerate itself and enters the studios again. But vocalist, Haroon and synth-player/composer, Fakhir start bickering all over again.

    Asad Ahmed returns to Karavan. Awaz disbands.

    Najam quits Karvan. Starts work on new solo album. Karvan bring in Tanseer Dar.

    Ali Haider visits England. He immediately discovers the wonders (and pleasures), of the British techno and rave scene.

    Junoon start preparing material for new album. They are still sponsored by Coke, but so far haven’t allowed the Cola giants to put a logo on their album covers or capitulate under their sponsors’ pressure to sing a jingle.

    The raw, angry underground act soon dissolves. So do Karachi’s Anonymous, Brain Masala and Overdrive. Lahore’s Mind Riot follow suit as do Islamabad’s Elixir. The mid-‘90s anti-mainstream/corporate-pop scene now as good as over.

    Nawaz Sherif government gets in vicious battle of wits and ego with the judiciary and the print media.

    Hadiqa releases second album, Roshni. It’s a dynamic and eclectic mix of techo-pop, FM-Pop and Folk-Pop. It soon turns her into the local scene’s new pop diva after Nazia Hassan.

    VJ returns. Hosted by Faisal Qureshi and Ahmed Ibrahim, and full of its anti-heroic madcap antics, it also introduces a fresh new batch of musicians, such as Jawad Ahmed (ex-Jupiters/Wet Metal), Sharik Roomie, etc.

    Rohail Hyatt, still CEO of Pyramid, declines offer from Pepsi to record another VS album. This also “officially” marks the disbanding of the Vital Signs.

    With VS and Awaz gone, and Fakher-e-Alam’s albums failing miserably, Pepsi tries to counter the Junoon-Coke partnership by signing a fresh contract with Junaid Jamshed.

    Najam Shiraz releases a devastatingly bad bhangra album. It falls flat at the market.

    Junoon now one of the local scene’s biggest acts, and a major force in India as well.

    Border tension between India and Pakistan mounts. An all out war expected.
    Sajjad Ali hits jackpot again with third album.

    Ali Haider now makes frequent trips to London. His last two albums have flopped and he keeps visiting rave clubs for inspiration.

    Many young Pakistanis now involved in the Kashmir insurgency. Mostly trained in Northen areas of Pakistan and the Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
    Pakistani and Indian troops fight a mini-war in Kargil, Kashmir.

    Jawad Ahmed releases debut album, the intense Sufi-Pop chestnut, Bol Tujay Kya Chahiye?

    Dr. Aur Billa finally release an album, the tongue-in-cheek, Greatest Hits. It parodies established pop formulas and themes and is a surprising hit.

    Aamir Zaki starts recording new album, but soon abandons the project.

    Abrar scores another bhangra-pop hit with second album. Accepts a sponsorship deal with Embassy Cigarettes.

    The megalomaniac Nawaz Sharif government is toppled in a coup. General Musharraf takes over as Chief Executive. Throws the ex-PM in jail on charges of treason and mass corruption. Many Nawaz loyalists suddenly switch sides.

    Junoon release their last great Sufi-Rock hurrah, the brilliant Parvaaz. However, signs of tension between long-time drummer, Malcolm and Salman now apparent.

    Ali Haider and Hadiqa sign lucrative sponsorship deal with Lipton Tea.

    The new millennium: Commercialism takes over...

    Juniad Jamshed joins Tableeghi Jamat. Starts making frequent trips to Raiwind.

    Contemplates to quit music for religious reasons. Says he’s now a reborn Muslim. Starts recording new album.

    Najam Shiraz bags a lucrative sponsorship deal with Tapal tea.

    Ali Haider enters studio to record comeback album.

    Former Awaz man, Haroon starts recording first solo album.

    Western consumerist mindset and corporate capitalism now take firm root in urban Pakistan (and India). And ironically, so does respective Islamic and Hindu fanaticism.

    A battle of words starts between former Awaz men, Haroon and Fakhir.

    Strings reform.

    Haroon releases debut album, Haroon Ke Awaz. It’s a critical success.

    Abrar scores another hit with Main Gadee Aaap Chalawaan Ga.

    Jawad Ahmed finally tastes commercial success with second album, Uchiyaan Majajaan Wali. Leaves behind his Sufi-Pop pretensions to pose for a possible sponsorship deal.

    Najam Shiraz scores a hit with Jaisey Chaho Jiyo. Also turns title track into a Tapal jingle. Then follows JJ’s footsteps to become born again Muslim.

    Strings hit it big with impressive comeback album, Duur. They are at once signed up by Pepsi.

    Fakhr-e-Alam finally scores a hit (after three flops) with The Falam Connection. By now he is no more a Pepsi act, but signs up with Instaphone and Head & Shoulders.

    Junoon releases the disappointing, Ishq. Malcom quits the band. Tension between Salman and lead singer, Ali Azmat now no more a secret.

    Ali Haider releases breakthrough and colorful techno-pop album, Jadu. It is critically acclaimed but a commercial dud.

    9/11 terrorist attacks take place in New York. The world will never be the same again.

    Gen. Musharraf starts exorcising Islamists from intelligence agencies.

    Fuzon formed. Releases remarkable debut album, Aankhon Kay Sagar. It soon becomes a big seller and a critical hit.

    Fakhir releases debut album. It’s a commercial hit but sounds like an expansively produced early Awaz album! Signs a sponsorship deal with Head & Shoulders Shampoo.

    After staging comeback concerts in Karachi and Dubai, Vital Signs plan to release new album. Decide to get back Rizwan-ul-Haq as guitarist.

    Genreral Mussharaf wins controversial referendum. Becomes President. Promises “jihad” against fanaticism and corruption. Later, “Kings party” PML(Q) win most seats in fresh elections. Zafarullah Jamali becomes new PM. The Islamist alliance, the MMA win and form provincial governments in NWFP and Balochistan. It unleashes various reactionary and myopic policies.

    Mid-90s teen guitar prodigy, Ali Noor, forms Noori. Releases successful debut album.

    A new rock underground starts to take shape.

    The new underground scene however is different in context compared to the UG scene of late-80s/early-90s and that of mid-90s. It is less political in its lyrical approach and not as vocal (or pissed!) about corporate sponsorship as the mid-90s acts. The new scene led by EP also include, Aaroh ,Abbas Ali Khan Ajnabi Faraz Anwar Garaj Goonjh Jarar Malik Hum Do Im-Stein Lahu Mizmaar Murzie Naqsh Salman Anwar Shahzad Haroon Shary R Streben Y2K, Mekaal Hassan, Surge, Paranoid, Corduroy, etc.

    Pakistan’s first ever music channel launched, Indus Music.

    Pakistan now has three FM radio stations, all pop.

    Junoon releases Deewar. Not only does it get some much deserved media bashing, but also on it the band goes totally corporate!

    Ali Azmat prepares to record solo album.

    VS reunion album abandoned. Rohail begins work on debut album, Junaid yet again quits music and Shahzad Hassan starts successful career as producer.

    Aamir Zaki records album with Hadiqa but does not release it.

    Abrar bags big contract with Coke.

    Jawad signs deal with Supreme.

    EP release intense “nu-metal” chestnut, Irtiqa. Gets rave reviews but struggles to compete in the market.

    Ali Zafar becomes new boy-pop wonder with entertaining debut album.

    Guitar vituoso, Mekaal Hassan, releases eclectic fusion chestnut, Samporaan.

    Fuzon stuns fans by signing modeling contract with Mayfair. Appears in a horrendous TV commercial of the chewing gum brand!

  2. #2

  3. #3
    are you a singer :shock:

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