Monkey business

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Dialogue: The tomato manifesto

Posted by Alta on March 22, 2009

By NFP (Nadeem Farooq Paracha)

“Laal is a socialist band.” This is what I was told by a teenager who saw
me buying their recently released album.

“What’s a socialist band?” I inquired.

My question surprised him. “You are NFP, aren’t you?” He asked.
“Yes … I am Nadeem.”

“Then you should know what I mean,” he said.

“No, I don’t,” I replied. “Do these guys live in a commune or something?”
Detecting my sense of jest, he smiled back: “Oh come on, you know what I mean.”
“Ok, tell me, when you say socialist, do you mean they are something like The Clash or …”
“Well,” he interrupted. “In essence, yes, but their music is a lot softer, more folksy.”
“I see,” I said. “They are like Pakistani Bob Dylans then?”


“Interesting. But I saw a couple of their videos … they don’t write their own songs, do they?” I said.
“No. They sing famous socialist poems by Faiz, Jalib and the likes,” he explained.

“Nice,” I smiled. “And they have a deal with Fire Records, yes?”

“Yes, they are one of their prime bands these days,” he said, pointing at the logo on the CD.
“And the money that they make from the deal, do they share with, say, Jalib’s family?”

He went quiet, almost frowning, as if straining his mind to find a response. To break the pregnant silence, I continued: “I mean, they are a socialist band, aren’t they? Equal distribution of wealth …”
“Yes, yes,” he shot back, “I know what you’re saying,”


“Well, I doubt if they’re making a lot of money, really,” he said.
“So, the 80 bucks that I just paid for this CD, who gets it?”
“The distributors,” he answered.
“So Laal are using Jalib to make money for a not-very-socialist company?”
“Dude, they’re just using it to get their stuff distributed.”
“But who’s making the bucks here?”
“Why should anyone care?” He responded, exasperated.
“I’m sure Jalib’s wife and children do,” I shot back.
“In case you haven’t noticed, Jalib is dead,” he said, sarcastically.
“In case you haven’t noticed his wife and children are alive and struggling,” I replied.

“Well, then the government should help them rather than a pop band,” he said.
“These guys are being promoted as a band of socialists, aren’t they?”
“They are.” He insisted. “They are all activists.”
“Then they should distribute some of their earnings to Jalib’s family and in fact, even ask their record company to do the same.”

He burst out laughing: “I know you’re just playing the devil’s advocate.”
“Perhaps,” I said. “But who’s the angel here?”

“Not you,” he laughed again. “Never thought you would be questioning the intentions of a socialist band.”
“Never underestimate the power of skepticism, mate.” I said.
“Ok, stop!” He cut me off. “Someone told me NFP has gone totally cynical …”
” … Skeptical,” I interrupted.
“Cynical, skeptical, what’s the difference?” He asked.

“The difference is vast, lad.” I said. “There’s nothing more intellectually liberating than skepticism. Doubt everything.”
“It’s sad to hear something like this from a person like you who too had a socialist past,” he said.

“Youth, my friend, is a weird mixture of passion and pretense,” I explained, striking a reflective pose and tone. “It’s a venerable mix, always generating rhetorical external stunts influenced by a self-centered consumption of convoluted ideas about man, society and history.”

“Woah!” He held out his hand. “You are taking this way too seriously, dude.”

“Well, shouldn’t we be taking a band crooning Jalib’s poetry seriously?” I inquired, tongue-in-cheek.
“But they’re just a pop band,” he said, laughing.

“Precisely!” I said, patting him on the shoulder. “Reality most certainly is a liberating thing to experience, isn’t it?”
He smiled and shook his head: “Tell me, why are you buying this CD?”

“I am buying it in hope that some of the money that this transaction is going to make will land in the hands of Jalib’s family.”
“How extremely pretentious,” he shot back.

“Precisely.” I said, patting him on the shoulder again. “Welcome to skepticism, young man.”
Shaking his head, and with smile of resignation, he did not say another word and walked away.
He also had a DVD in his hand. I asked the shopkeeper what was the DVD that he had bought.
The reply was prompt and welcomingly dispassionate: “American Idol, Season 7!”


9 Responses to “Dialogue: The tomato manifesto”

  1. Mohsin said

    Rubbish of article! Serving no purpose !

  2. Alta said

    It does raise a few questions and valid ones too.

  3. Saad Faruqui said

    Having read Nadeem Farooq Paracha’s articles for quite some time now, I know for a fact that he is an avowed socialist/marxist and also that he seldom agrees with other people’s views or has enough tolerance for them either. To quote him from this article: “There’s nothing more intellectually liberating than skepticism. Doubt everything.” This pretty much explains why he has criticised Laal band’s motives, although it is worth noting that the band has struck a deal with a private/capitalist enterprise to promote their album, but to be fair to them, they didnt have much choice either. In any case they are not making any money out of it and have also made attempts to help Habib Jalib’s family. All they are doing is promoting the ideas and poetry of the progressive writers such as Jalib and Faiz by converting it into music, instead of using the same mindless lollypop music formula which we have been subjected to by musicians for decades now in Pakistan! This is a very noble cause and a bold attempt for which these guys should be commended, especially by proponents of socialism such as Mr. Paracha himself

  4. […] Laal’s Response to NFP A reply from Taimur Rahman of Laal to NFP’s article: […]

  5. Nen said

    I don’t think that’s an attack on Laal. That’s NFP’s way of reminding Laal of their priorities. He is taking them seriously enough to write about them and buy their album, but he is still skeptical. NFP likes to play God father to Pakistani bands.

  6. Mo said

    Mr Pricaha, I think you are looking beyond the point. Laal are attempting to highlight the corruption, injustice and inequality that is rife in our socitey. I am sure you yourself having socialist inclinations, would undersatnd this. So, rather than being sceptical and pesimistic of Laal’s aims, why don’t you write something positive.
    After a long time someone has tried to encourage the youth of Pakistan and include them in making their society a better place, and I applaud them for that. At least its better than those slapstick mime singers misrepresenting women addressing them as “Channo”, “Billo” and God knows what.
    Also, you are arguing a complete illogical point– how else do you suggest a band promote their album, they obviously have to sign to a label??
    Your not drawing people’s attention to a huge issue by writing this, why don’t you write about the corrupt puppet leaders of your country rather than attacking a helpless band? Are you really that fearful of those corrupt leaders?
    Stupid lifafa journalist!!

  7. Alta said

    There is another this week,i at times do not like NFP myself but then at times he makes sense!

    And yes i do not think there is any dislike for the band by him (and i like them too) its just about what Geo is doing and how they are being used,and are allowing themselves to be used in this whole game.

  8. Hira said

    NFP has always been one of the most uncompromising writers in the country. His detractors have given him all kinds of labels, but he goes on. I do not personally agree with all of his stuff, but a lot of the questions he has been raising in his Dawn columns about Islamic extremism and the baised and iressponsible role of the media are much needed. And I agree with Saad and Alta. I think Laal and Laal fans have totally overreacted. I too dont think it is an anti-laal article at all. It is simple satire. I think NFP clears the air in todays Smokers Corner by taking seth companpies like Geo to task for exploiting bands like Laal.

  9. Hassaan said

    Stupid & Rubbish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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