A most tuneful protest song, Sarmad Ghafoor’s latest ‘Aman Au Mina’ emerges as the voice of the people from the conflict-ridden Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who want nothing more than the subject of this folksy ditty – Peace and Love.
Renowned Pakistani musician, songwriter and singer Sarmad Ghafoor has recently released a new Pashto song titled ‘Aman Au Mina’ (Peace and Love). The theme of the song (as the title of it suggests) is to love one another as humans and discard, as well as disregard, the misperception that surrounds the Pashtuns being war mongerers. Featuring on the track with Sarmad is American jazz vocalist, Philip Nelson. Philip is the cultural attaché of the US Embassy in Pakistan and serves as a diplomat.
It seems apparent from the use of instruments, lyrics and the music video itself that the main aim has been to project simplicity throughout this song. The linguistic use of very simple Pashto makes it obvious that the song aims to promote feelings of peace among the Pathan populace. The beat of the track has been expertly composed to resound an uplifting and feel-good sentiment among the listener. The beat mostly features soft strumming of a guitar and rhythmic drumming to go with it. The very first line of the song (ironically sung by Philip in Pashto) seems to be the crux of the whole track, “Peace is the name of brotherhood”. This seems to be a deliberate choice in order to show the pristine intentions of the American in the duo, claiming his place as a stake holder for peace also. Azfar Jafri deserves a pat on the back for a splendid job done as far as directing the video is concerned. The concept goes hand in hand with the theme as well as the message of the song. The video opens up with lively depictions of the Pathan culture in the style of truck art. The first painting features a peacock standing atop a wooden stump, overlooking the scenic beauty of the land (that includes vividly painted trees and a clear blue river). The second picture shows an ordinary man driving a donkey cart clad in the traditional kurta shalwar whilst sporting a firm grasp onto the reins of the donkey. These first two visuals do a splendid job on informing the viewer that the common Pashtun goes about his everyday business and has no interest in war, conflict or bloodshed. In the next scene Nelson and Sarmad fool around in a jocular manner in a studio. The two bump fists, share smiles and read from scripts (which seems to be Nelson struggling with the roman Pashto!) while they fiddle with their musical instruments, Sarmad tuning a guitar as he sings into the studio recording booth. Philip, on the other hand smiles from time to time, nodding in an assenting manner (chewing on his pen at the same time). The chorus of the song has a fun element to it and the positive words of it (which happen to be the song title) also create a resounding effect of tranquility on the listener.
The second scene opens up with the two collaborators taking the rounds of extremely modest environs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. With a guitar in hand, Sarmad strums and lip syncs the words to his song with Philip beside him. The two are then flanked by a couple of youngsters, all of whom are hell bent on one purpose- having the time of their lives. Sporting funny gestures, dancing the traditional Pashtun dance and clapping their hands together in gleeful fashion, the scenic beauty of the area is seemingly enhanced by the lively company.
In the last scene, Sarmad and Philip perform on a stage to an ecstatic crowd that sings along the chorus whilst they hold placards and banners proclaiming the word PEACE. The video then slowly fades away to the end credits and titles, successfully delivering the message it intended to deliver in the first place.
The song as mentioned above, in its entirety is simple, elegant and positive. The writing on the wall has been made clearer by this song, that the Pashtun race has had its share of violence. At a time when the entire province as well as the country is drenched in blood, violence, anarchy and terrorist attacks do the round, ‘Aman au Mina’ offers the common populace a relaxing alternative. The inclusion of American Philip Nelson has also signaled a friendly gesture towards the international community and has attempted to ward off any misconceptions that the common Pakistani harbors hostility for Americans. It is quite comical at times to hear the heavily American accented voice of Philip proclaim the Pashto lyrics to the beat of the track, yet that in itself also fulfills the object of the track- to keep the atmosphere upbeat. For the residents of this nation, the song is a fresh breath of air when one constantly has to deal with news of conflict and bloodshed on a regular basis. The inclusion of youth in the video as well as the diversity of it (some boys dressed in western clothing, a girl in traditional clothing and of course, the diversity pertaining to the inclusion of Philip itself!) shows us that humanity transcends all borders and barriers erected by man. The song is a must listen for someone who is tired of the same song themes such as love, heartbreaks and festivities that come with a new season. Kudos to the Blackbox production team, the director Azfar Jafri, Philip Nelson as well as Sarmad Ghafoor for giving us something to enjoy wholeheartedly!
In the past as well, we have witnessed songs that have been labeled as ‘protest songs’ and generated a positive urge for social reform. Many suitable examples to be quoted include the song ‘Give peace a chance’ by John Lennon which was sung by more than half a million demonstrators in Washington DC. The song became the anthem for the anti-Vietnam war movement during the 70s and put pressure on the US government at the time to withdraw from Vietnam.
The song ‘We are the world 25′ was sung by 25 artists who joined hand to help out the earthquake disaster prone victims of the devastating 7.0 magnitude Haiti earthquake in January 2010. This song had humanitarian motives as it sold 267,000 downloads within the first 3 days and all proceeds were given to the victims of the disaster. The song also helped shed the notions of boundaries and racial differences to concentrate on the one aspect that unites the globe, humanity.
The Eminem song ‘Mosh’ from 2004 highlighted the issue of American troops being stop-lossed (military jargon for involuntarily extending a unit’s service beyond the normal tenure) and calling an end to the Iraqi invasion. The song urged the nation to cast their votes against George Bush on the eve of the 2004 Presidential election.
Band Aid’s song ‘Feed the World’ also helped raise the issue of famine in the African countries and the visuals of hungry people in the music video inspired Americans to view famine as an issue that transcended their borders and needed attention on an international scale.
To compare Sarmad Ghafoor’s song to international artists with a global fan base won’t be doing justice to him, yet we expect that his noble efforts in drafting a protest song will not go in vain. The local Pashto song with a merry ring to it does not lack the potency to disarm hatred and purge the sentiments of anarchy currently prevalent among the local populace of Pakistan.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.