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A Finger to the Establishment

«Nowadays no song is independent», says journalist Manal Faheem Khan from Karachi and explains how the Pakistani music business works. The music video «#Kholo BC» by Ali Gul Pir [1] and Adil Omar [2] might be a rare exception here. Read another commentary on this video by Ali Haider Habib here [3]. From the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here [4]).

Film still from Ali Gul Pir & Adil Omar (Music), Shahbaz Shigri & Ayesha Linnea (Video): «#Kholo BC» (Pakistan 2014)

When you first watch «#KholoBC», you do a double take when you see the villain in the video: an evil looking politician who walks around in a lavishly decorated home, signing papers, giving fake smiles for photographs, and playing with a pet dog. Then you watch the video again and laugh out loud for the boldness of it all: this evil politician bares a striking resemblance to the current Prime Minister of Pakistan. Was this a conscious effort or not? One cannot say. But the fact remains that if Pakistan’s Prime Minister was younger and had a fuller head of hair, he would look just like the villain in the video. Even if this was not deliberate, the musicians in this video, Adil Omar and Ali Gul Pir, did not shy away from pointing a finger in the face of the establishment – rather literally, in fact.

From the threatening stance of Omar, who sticks out his middle fingers telling the viewers to pass his message on to the government and to tell them to ban him while they’re at it, to Gul Pir shouting right into the lens, calling Pakistani politicians «thieves», this video screams provocation. That perhaps may add to the fact that this video, unlike Omar and Gul Pir’s other videos, was not broadcast on local music television channels, such as ARY Muzik and 8XM, and only became viral on the Internet. No TV channel wanted to have anything to do with it. Other conventional music videos in Pakistan follow certain rules and regulations – nowadays no song is independent, as musicians don’t have money to make their own music videos. Therefore, all content is branded where big multinational companies pay musicians to do promotional videos for them. Thus the videos turn out very happy-go-lucky and colorful, with everyone singing and dancing on elaborate sets that look like a copy of our neighboring country’s cinema, Bollywood. One example of this is a song titled «Ham Hain Tarang Baaz» (We are hot), which was sponsored by a local tea creamer brand, Tarang. «#KholoBC» then comes as a total shock to everyone in terms of content as well as style: here are a bunch of young, angry, daring individuals who are literally laughing at our politicians.

In the video, a politician signs off on papers that warrant the arrest of «YouTube», after which we see «YouTube» being dragged away by two police officers. However, towards the end, «YouTube» can be seen running away while chased by two unfit policemen unable to keep up. Omar and Gul Pir end their video on a hopeful note, wherein they imagine that someday YouTube will break through the shackles of a regressive government and return our voices to us.

Film still from Ali Gul Pir & Adil Omar (Music), Shahbaz Shigri & Ayesha Linnea (Video): «#Kholo BC» (Pakistan 2014)

This video is part of the Norient exhibition «Seismographic Sounds» [5] and this commentary was published first in the correspondent Norient book [6].