An American Accent to Pakistani Rock [New York Times]

September 14, 2009

An American Accent to Pakistani Rock

By Robert Mackey

As Declan Walsh of The Guardian reported last week in an article headlined “Never Mind the Taliban,” away from the tribal areas that get so much of our attention, Pakistan has a burgeoning rock music scene that has started to address political issues.

What strikes an American listener about two of the songs Mr. Walsh cites that address the war against the Taliban — “Ready to Die,” by the Lahore band co-VEN (embedded above) and “Jiggernaut,” by Islamabad’s Bumbu Sauce (embedded below) — is that both are sung in American accents.

Another video, of co-VEN playing “Ready to Die” live, includes subtitles for the chorus, sung in Urdu, which seems to list Pakistanis among America’s enemies: “The game of chess begins/ And one by one/ Iraqis and Iranians/ Saudis and Afghans/ and Pakistanis.”

Bumbu Sauce — named for an instant noodle flavor — takes a more playful approach. At the start of their jokey song they declare: “Pakistan is Taliban/ We’re gonna go in a van/ We’re gonna fight the Taliban.” Later they seem to switch sides, singing: “We’re gonna fight with the Taliban,” against “Uncle Sam.”

Of course, it is not surprising that both bands may be responding to American influences. As Mr. Walsh reported, “Pakistani rock gained traction with the arrival of satellite television in the 1990s,” and there is a lot of American popular culture bouncing off those satellites that ring the earth. Mr. Walsh adds that “the musicians, many self-taught, publicize themselves through networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace.” Both sites are of course American and can connect users in all countries to more American popular culture. Like countless bands around the world, co-VEN promoted the live show in Lahore on its Facebook page .

There is also something of a tradition to singing in an American accent no matter where you come from. People often asked why the Beatles spoke in strong Liverpudlian accents but sang in something that sounded far less foreign to American ears.

Source: An American Accent to Pakistani Rock – The Lede Blog –