Pakistani Pop and Folk Rock have recently started to receive the recognition they deserve as distinct and important parts of the history of rock & roll. Much of it originated from visionary sound directors from within the Pakistani film industry, such as Nisar Bazmi. Originally from India, Nisar grew up in poverty before being taken under the wing of a musical mentor, who quickly transformed him into a child prodigy. He worked in radio and film as a musician between 1939 and 1962.
On moving to Pakistan in 1962, Nisar continued to develop a broadminded approach to blending sounds and instruments from different cultures, using distinctly Pakistani sounds in conjunction with distinctly Western ones. By the late 1960s, restrictions on musical expression were relaxed, giving rise to a pop music explosion in the blossoming nightclub scene found in major cities such as Karachi and Lahore. Most of Nisar’s most recognisable compositions were written between 1965 as 1975.
A musical link between East and West was aided and reinforced by the Beatles while visiting India in February of 1968. Sounds were traded and exchanged, with Beatles-esque guitar parts finding a new home in Pakistani film scores, while sitar breakdowns graced Western charts. Young people from underground and alternative subcultures in Europe and North America flocked to Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar to experience the music and counter-cultural atmosphere.
Music of this ilk was made for only a short period. The revolution in rock and pop came to an abrupt end in 1977 after a coup d’état and the establishment of a conservative Islamic state. The ‘Swinging 70s’ ended with drinking and nightclubs being outlawed in Pakistan. Popular culture, including TV, film and music, was now subjected to strict censorship, forcing many musicians to leave Pakistan for America, Canada and England.
Nisar Bazmi stayed in Pakistan, going on to create scores for 140 films during his glittering career. He won many awards for his work and is remembered as one of the greats of Pakistani film music.
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