Derided and chastised, the Pushtuns have recently found themselves stigmatized because of the ongoing “War on Terror” and its backlash. “People judge us before they even get to know us”, says Naseer Afridi, the alternative rock musician, who has unleashed a new and original musical experience for Pakistanis.
In such a situation, it becomes imperative to tell the world at large, that Pushtuns are not any different from the rest. Naseer Afridi has taken this onus on himself, to right the already “wronged” image. It is always a challenging task to break stereotypes. “The minority of terrorists have managed to tarnish the image of the whole community” says Afridi.
Hailing from Kybher Agency, with his childhood spent mostly in Islamabad, Naseer talks about the marginalization of the FATA Pathans, whether it is economic, social or political. “Look at the basic facilities, hospitals and schools, and one will notice that no meaningful initiative has ever been taken to mainstream the Pushtuns from the Tribal Area.”
As a child, Naseer was exposed to the rich indigenous folk music in Pashto, but with time he also listened to and became an admirer of the Western bands such as Linkin Park and Three days Grace. This eventually led to his thinking that why can’t Pashto be sung with Western beats and instruments. “Somebody had to do it, and that somebody was me” Afridi says.
Naseer Afridi has been approached by various organizations and agencies with ulterior motives, to showcase or rather use him as the “good, cultured Pathan who loves music” amidst the war loving, ruthless Pushtuns. Having fallen for one such trap, Naseer has now learned to be aware of such people who for their selfish designs try to lure artists in order to propagate their own hidden agendas.
For such people, Naseer, now, has a clear message; “I am not like you”. Rather than being used as means to further hatred, and reinforce the racial and ethnic divide, Naseer tells them that, “Ao Za Mina Mina Mina Kom” (I am for love, love, love).
But there is more that can be read in his and Shahab’s famous song, “Za Sta Pasha Nayam”, which came to be known as “That Pashto Song” by the majority, and which continued to be a hit on City89 for weeks when it initially came out in 2012. The song is an apt critique of the politicians and the society in general, especially on the people who establish relationships solely for narrow self interest.
“As a child, I had a dream; to don the uniform and serve the military and Pakistan” says Afridi. But he was rejected twice. “I was shattered, I had no plan B.”
But then serving Pakistan is not limited to only one path, something that Naseer learned with time. In his view, music can be used as a means to unite, as a means to challenge misconceived notions which in turn can create greater harmony and peace.
“Peace is essential for healthy social activities and also essential for creativity”, Naseer says. With a bleak scenario for music, especially in the current turmoil, artists have a hard time finding the opportunities to perform at gigs and concerts.
“I have these six months before I graduate to convince my parents that I can make a living out of music” Naseer says. With three concerts planned in February, Naseer is ready to take on the challenge to prove to the world, that he has in him the talent and that rare creative energy which can lead him to greater success in times to come.
Naseer's Jamming Session at Saad's (Ehl-e-Rock) Place
In 2010, Naseer “met” Shahab, the lead guitarist of ‘Naseer & Shahab’, on the internet. “We instantly clicked” remembers Naseer, “We had the same vision in music and we instantly knew that we would make a great duo”. Shahab and Naseer have come up with four songs till date, and they are already working on the video of the fifth, “Galti Mein Shta” (It is my fault). Then there are short videos that the duo also works on, having recently completed “Born a Dead Man”; a critique on the status quo political system of Pakistan.
Shahab, with his skills in graphics and engineering, is able to add the artistic graphic touch in the Naseer & Shahab videos along with bringing up novel ideas such as making of an “interactive video”, where the audiences, for the first time in Pakistan, would be a part of the video itself with the help of their cursors.
Since Shahab is based in Australia, for live performances, Naseer relies on the support of his time tested friends, who are engaged with other bands, “Ehl-e-Rock” and “Black Hour”.
It was in the hospitable atmosphere of Saad’s house, the lead guitarist of Ehl-e-Rock, that I witnessed a highly entertaining afternoon, with Naseer Afridi grooving it up for the upcoming gigs and concerts.
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