Naseebo Lal is by far and away the most popular singer in Pakistan and has been so for the last ten years outselling the likes of Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar combined. She is unquestionably the only worthy and rightful successor to the throne that Madame Noor Jehan abdicated as the Queen of Pakistani popular music and has achieved her success on the sole basis of her extraordinary talent unlike so many in this land who have clamoured to positions thanks to Daddy’s membership at The Old Boys Club. Maybe it is only fitting and natural that an ex-colony should follow the example of the Victorian hypocrisy of its former masters or then perhaps it’s merely yet another symptom of the Taliban inspired curse of intolerance that has led to Naseebo Lal and her sister Nooran Lal being silenced. A case has been lodged by Pakistan’s reincarnation of Anita Bryant and Mary Whitehouse in the LHC.
The besieged singer is due to appear in court to defend charges of promoting “obscenity, vulgarity and coarseness” and has been denied a legitimate earning which is a travesty of the woman’s most basic human right. Why should Naseebo have to defend herself when she didn’t write any of the songs in question? Surely it is the lyrics that are the source of the ailment that apparently causes some weaker men to abandon their pious thoughts for more carnivorous ones? Someone has managed to relegate the countless injustices and obscenities that ravage our land in the form of hatred, intolerance, corruption and terror and find that extra reserve of zeal in order to persecute a singer who should actually be receiving the Pride of Performance award for her incredible talent. When the entire country is faced with the prospect of implosion it is mind-boggling that people can still find the time to crib over a bunch of songs with infantile lyrics about “juicy thirst quenching melons and shiny round ripe-ripe berries”. It ought to be noted that nobody yet in history has died as a result of listening to a saucy song or indeed watching a “thumka” and one would have thought the LHC has rather more important issues to deal with.
One of Pakistan’s most celebrated icons is Madame Noor Jehan, who, in her day, sang numerous numbers at least as suggestive or “vulgar” as anything Naseebo Lal has recorded. Why not lodge a case against the deceased Noor Jehan, exhume her corpse and drag her dead bones to court and make her family answer for her vulgar, coarse and sinful songs?
Essentially Naseebo’s songs like Madame’s and Naheed Akhtar’s before her contain all the essential ingredients of Punjabi movie song-writing since the 60s up until the current era; there flows much Kachcha Doodh while juicy ripe melons and round- round bursting berries are in plentiful supply and lassi, cream and butter churned in copious quantities while juicy ripened virgin mangoes await plucking from slender twigs. A typical Lollywood verse might read “the fresh milk has been churned to a frothy cream which you can whip to form a smooth hot butter” or “lick the sweet juice of the ripe, flowering fruit”. If all else fails in life there may still be hope of eking out a living in the wasteland that is current Lollywood writing clandestine “masala” numbers – Songs that ludicrously but perfectly reflect the pseudo-Victorian age that we live in complete with double standards of the truly obscene and vulgar kind. Pakistani society epitomes hypocrisy and though we claim to be the leading light of righteousness in the universe, the fact remains that life in the Social Welfare states of infidel Scandinavia is undoubtedly truer to the essence of Islam than in those regions obsessed with rituals, jingoism and hysteria.
Remarkable that in such dire times when our nation itself is at stake we should find the time to target the ridiculously daft double entendre songs of Naseebo Lal while remaining oblivious to the fact that all sorts of real porn is readily found being peddled all over Pakistan. A fourteen year old can stroll down to one of the many Pirated DVD shops in any market in any of our cities and lay their hands on explicit porn without any problem at all – (Caligula anyone?). In Pakistan we download more pornography off the net than almost all nations of the world barring a couple of fellow Muslim members of the Ulema Brotherhood, since there are sites like spankbang online which offer good quality porn for all adult public. There is much in Pakistan that is indeed obscene; the disparity between the rich and the masses, the lack of justice, the VIP set, bonded labour, honour killing, the lack of funds allocated to education and the excessive amounts splurged on the armed forces, levels of corruption and the list could go on and on and on.
The very issue of defining obscenity is fraught with pitfalls and if you start banning one song then you set in motion a slippery slope that would render most songs and thus most popular music and indeed literature worthy of a ban. Secondly, where do you draw the line, at melons or at apples? At the recently aborted Shanakht Festival in Karachi, was the picture that caused all the hoopla truly “obscene” or was it a delightfully depicted satirical caricature of the way Pakistani Political history has unfolded over the years? Was pony-tailed, dungaree wearing Nazia Hasan singing “Dil Ko Dil, Badan Ko Badan Har Kisiko Chahiye Tan Ka Milan” any less obscene than Naseebo Lal singing about her melons and butter? Does it really matter?
Apparently The Censor Board is also being summoned by the LHC to explain how such evil songs have been allowed but what about previous Boards? Should they not also be hauled up to explain how they certified the Pashto masterworks of the 90s or the blood-stained Sultan Rahi massacres of the 80s?
How so that Naseebo Lal should be restricted from earning a living while transvestite Nawazish Ali can pout and flirt innuendos into the wee hours? Multi Award Winning Naheed Akhtar should likewise be summoned to court to explain some of the numbers she recorded during her reign in the 80s. Incidentally Finders Keepers, a highly reputable UK based record label has just released a collection of Lollywood gems including the stunning Akthar number “Kadh Le Kadh Le Way Kadh Le” along with Madame Noor Jehan’s epic “Saab Ji Very Sorry”. The CD called “The Sounds of Wonder” is receiving some very positive reviews in the UK press and has just been nominated as The Compilation Record of the Year at the upcoming Mojo Music Awards – Britains Music Oscars.
There is a practical solution to all this which would free the courts from having to deal with such trivialities and the whims of attention seekers. The answer would be to classify films for public consumption like there exists in most countries of the world. The more adult oriented films, perhaps the ones containing the racy songs – ought to be classified as such while music CDs and cassettes ought to have a warning label if containing material that might be offensive to those whose pristine morals are likely to be shocked by songs about the occasional ripened melon. Sadly Jack and Jill went up the Hill may have to be abolished for obvious reasons.
The fact remains that in Karachi’s infamous Rainbow Centre and many of its kind you can procure the vilest level of pornography being sold like fruit and vegetables often by children who already have developed a chilling understanding of the words animals, children and rape. Wherever there is a demand for something in a land as lawless as Pakistan, there will be a supply made available and pornography is in abundant supply and dirt cheap. Ironically many of those who sit at stalls manning heaps of smut will be the first to haul down their shutters and pull out the cap upon hearing strains of the Azaan and then five minutes later its back to business again. It ought to be mentioned that watching an Indian film that has not been certified by the Pakistani Censor Board is a punishable offence and those of you who watched Om Shanti Om for example should actually be dragged off to court for committing a serious crime.
Penalizing Naseebo Lal in any manner for any of the songs she has recorded will be a step towards institutionalizing double standards and hypocrisy as well as a further capitulation to the insidious cancer of Talibanization. If this does come to pass Naseebo Lal ought to consider shifting to a society that values talent rather than one that persecutes it. Incidentally ever wonder why so much porn is available in Pakistan? The answer is really quite simple – because there is an insatiable appetite and demand for it. By the way Naseebo Lal’s songs are increasingly available on iTunes, so even if the powers that be play the court jester, her music will live on.