As I sit down to type a few words about Pakistani talent, I can’t help but think, “how do you write about something that has seems to be endless?” Sure, perhaps the ban on YouTube has hindered a surefire way of interesting feats by Pakistanis making it to our laptops; but there’s still Twitter, Facebook and a host of other video-sharing websites. Either way, Pakistan has no dearth of amazing talent just like any other country in the world.
I’ll start off with the more recognizable, mainstream platforms that have played big roles in bringing Pakistani talent to the fore. For instance, there’s Coke Studio; not a Pakistani invention, but one that has perhaps served the cause of Pakistani music talent more than any other. Coke Studio Pakistan shows live studio-recorded sessions by various artists and is the most popular and internationally-recognized version of the series. Each year, Pakistani music lovers eagerly wait for the latest season of the series. The program has helped make folk artists more recognizable amongst the younger crowd, and tests the mettle of the newer artists. A similar program called Nescafe Basement has also recently emerged to give fresher, less established talent an opportunity to shine. Pakistan Idol’s first season is also going on in full swing, and has truly taken the country by storm with the trademark Idol tour bus doing rounds of major Pakistani cities.
The world is no stranger to Pakistani music talent. Pakistani musicians have long been recognized internationally and especially in neighboring India for their fresh sound. In recent times, Pakistani exports have made a big name for themselves in Indian films and otherwise too: Ali Zafar, Atif Aslam, Adnan Sami Khan, Shiraz Uppal, Call the Band, Roxen and others to name a few, and this list is still growing. Pop duo Strings is no newcomer to the industry, but the band has retained its popularity over the years, winning international accolades over the years such as Most Popular Band at the MTV Asia Awards. They also had one of their tunes feature in the 2004 Hollywood blockbuster Spiderman 2. The younger lot of musicians has however proved that they are just as hard-working as their more senior colleagues. For example, 22 year old Pakistani rapper Adil Omar has had the privilege of releasing a music video and other material featuring rap/hip hop heavyweights such as Xzibit and Cypress Hill.
One can’t discuss Pakistani music without mention of the recent revival of Pakistani cinema. In recent years, Pakistani cinema has witnessed an influx of fresh talent with artists such as Fawad Khan, Iman Ali, Humaima Malik, Aamina Sheikh, Hamza Ali Abbasi and others. This new crop of actors, along with blue-eyed filmmakers such as Shoaib Mansoor, Mehreen Jabbar and Bilal Lashari has been like a breath of fresh air for supporters of the local film industry. This is not to discount the popularity and support of veterans such as Shaan, Humayun Saeed and the Sheikh Brothers who have lent their experience and class to new projects and proved once again why they command such huge fan followings. These films have won international recognition as well, and I must include here the name of Slackistan, a film banned in Pakistan for showing an extremely liberal side of the country, but recognized for its value at various international film festivals. Pakistani dramas and soaps are as popular as ever, with the younger talent holding their own when teamed with their more recognized seniors. Serials such as the hugely popular Humsafar have surely secured their places in the history of Pakistani television, along with the talent that worked to make the serial a success.