By Taimur Rahman
Recently Nadeem Farooq Piracha wrote an article that was very
critical of Laal. It seemed from the article that he had neither
heard the CD before writing the article nor did he bother to verify
any of his claims from any member of Laal.
The main objection that he raised was about whether royalties from
our work were going to help Jalib’s family.
The fact is that Laal has waived all royalties on the album in
exchange for the promotion of the work of progressive writers. For
instance, the recent “Jalib Week” and documentary on Jalib by GEO
was in part inspired by Laal’s contribution. The videos of Jalib
Faiz running on GEO news, Aag, and GEO entertainment, are also in
part a result of this arrangement. Further, all the performances
that we have played have been for free (we did not earn anything
from them). Hence, Laal has not earned any money at all from any of
our performances or album sales thus far.
I put one of our friends (Mobeen Chughtai) in contact with Yassir
(Jalib’s son). I have not met Yassir personally as yet only because
I have been in London for most of this period writing my Phd. His
mother was in the Cancer Hospital. I asked Mobeen to help them out
in whatever way possible. In our interviews we have called on the
government to support the work and families of national assets like
Jalib. Also our friends working in the media emphasized this point.
The government recently gave help to their family. We think that
our friends played a small role in this as well. Jalib’s younger
brother was in the audience at the Karachi concert. He loved our
music and supports us fully. He said that we were playing Jalib the
way it was meant to be played. Jalib’s own family is fully
supportive of Laal’s efforts.
In sum, we have been helping out in the measure of our strength. I
cannot say that we have done anything great. But I would say that
we have made a small contribution.
Our long terms plan is that we have decided that we will only take
a working wage from Laal’s performances (i.e. what sessions players
earn) and the rest will go into the creation of Laal Foundation
that will create schools. Our target will be to build as many
schools as the Taliban burn down (that is our slogan). All members
of Laal have agreed to this proposal. All of Laal’s profits will be
invested into education for workers and peasants. We have not
announced this yet because we have no money at the moment, and we
don’t want to make promises that we can’t keep. So once the ground
work is laid out and we have at least enough money to set up one
school, we will make this public. Obviously, I need to finish my
Phd before I can begin doing enough performances to earn the
necessary cash to set up our first school. Hence, I’ll launch this
more publicly once my Phd is done and I have more time on my hands
to organize this initiative.
It is now somewhat fashionable to be “socially conscious”. I have
also seen many celebrities engage in charity not for the sake of
social change but for the sake of improving their OWN image with
the media and public. This is true of the West and also of the
East. The motive is selfish and it shows in their work as well.
But the thing is that all of those people were musicians/
celebrities first/primarily and became involved in charity for the
disenfranchised as a by product of their career. We are their
opposite. We are primarily grassroots activists and music for us is
a vehicle to get our message across. I have been involved with
grassroots movements for the last 12 years. I have played guitar as
a hobby but never thought of taking it up as a profession. Laal is
still not my profession. It is my hobby. My profession is academics
and political activism (the same can be said of Shahram). Our goal
is social change, the means is music.
So in sum, we are not in anyway trying to “cash in” on the great
work of Jalib or Faiz. We are trying to popularize their work, and
at the same time, using all royalties to provide educational
institutions for workers and peasants. I hope that people feel that
Laal has done justice not only to their poetry but also to their