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In Search of… Pakistani Metal

January 12, 2014

Change can be good, but to paraphrase my all-time favorite Meat Puppets song “That’s How It Goes,” sometimes:

‘change is a problem and I’ll be resistant.’

After a roughly four-month transitional stay Stateside, I recently completed a radical geographic shift from La Paz, Bolivia to Karachi, Pakistan.  As can be imagined, my life has changed significantly.  I’ve gone from residing happily within the warm and loving embrace of a family unit to living alone in an isolating bunker-style home, a result of security concerns that mean loved ones do not accompany folks assigned here.  I’ve moved from the distinctive but welcoming Andean highlands that oozed a National Geographic sense of connection with the past and where I spoke the language, to a foreign-tongued, modern urban port mega-city of 18 million that initially appears too harried and preoccupied to throw its arms wide for yet one more interloper.  I’ve shifted from a carefree, all-hours sense of freedom to embark on a whim to explore as nonchalantly or intently as I saw fit to a calculated existence where each movement is carefully considered to avoid patterns and weighed for relative potential risk.

To avoid giving in to my innate hermit tendencies, especially in the face of this oftentimes overwhelming change, I am not surprisingly counting on music to keep me rooted and eventually provide the path that will allow connection and sense of belonging here.  In Bolivia, I was successfully able to plug into the local heavy metal scene with its reassuring sense of devil-horned universality and togetherness.  While I harbor no illusions about the relative challenges inherent to doing the same here in Karachi, I nonetheless confidently declare the goal: I shall seek out and touch this land’s metal.

There are positive omens.  I have found online reviews of metal-tinged “Battles of the Bands” held here in Karachi and confirmed the existence of Wikipedia, Facebook, and other social media pages for scores of Pakistani metallers.  In fact, as I type this I have the promising sounds of Islamabad-based band Qayaas streaming via Sound Cloud.  At first squint, they seem an interesting mix of Soundgarden and Alter Bridge.  Also boding favorably, the other day I spied one young lad sporting an Iron Maiden-patched denim jacket as he held on for dear life within the fire-ant swarm of motorbikes inundating the city’s streets.

Love, Peace and Metal (by Violet Stardust)

A few interviews with Karachi headbangers I have found online emphasize quotes about the local metal scene being a counterweight to the misguided idea that all Pakistani youth are terrorist fundamentalists.  As is the case globally, even practitioners of the most extreme black, death, and grindcore metal genres here strive to preach community and acceptance as the pillars of shared metal fandom.  As such, I have little doubt that once among my musical fellow travelers, I will find calming safety and warmth.  The fact that the local metalheads feel compelled to repeatedly cite themselves as bulwarks against terrorism however plainly evidences the obstacles my ginger-bearded self will need to negotiate before successfully banging my head in the bowels of some dank underground Karachi metal club.

It’s sure to take some time, but the eventual realization of my Pakistani metal quest should merit an epic post or two somewhere down the line.  In the meantime, I’ve got my entire music collection in digital form, my e-book reader, and a treadmill to ease my overactive resting-state brain during the limited down-time hours and to keep me from sinking too deeply into a mire of lonely self-pity this far world away from the beautiful spouse and children for whom my metal bell tolls.

From → Ideas, Music

  1. I’ve always believed that heavy metal could unite the world. This adds more evidence to that belief.

  2. Wow, what an adventure. It is supposed to be a very beautiful country.

    Have you ever explored the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan? his music is Qawwali, sufi devotional music, very trance-like and very beautiful I find it pure in a way that you seldom find in Western music.

    Sorry – I’m a world music bore! Please let me know how you get on, I’d love to know.

    • Hey man, much thanks for the interest. I hadn’t heard of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan before but have it in the headphones as I type now. I can’t claim to be able to distinguish much at this point but I have had some exposure to music in this realm during some prior time in Afghanistan and marginally since my arrival here. In Afghanistan, I was enthralled by a few opportunities to partake of this type of music live, but I must admit that I have not yet developed a taste for it in recorded form. I’m a bit of a world music cynic to your world music bore.

      On the other hand, I live very close to a large mosque (non-Sufi in this case) here now and can say that I have been entranced a few times by the sung calls to prayer that ring out regularly though the day. Believe it or not — and possibly blasphemous — but I do occasionally feel a vague cosmic connection that’s hard to put into words between the sung prayers I am being exposed to and some of my favorite “extreme” metal instrumental music.

  3. Wow! You have such an interesting life! I hope all goes well for you there and that you find some great clubs and some good friends to help you while away the days.

    • Thanks Marie,, What’s that old idea about “wishing you live in interesting times” being some kind of Chinese curse …. I heard a really intriguing group with an amazing guitarist on a Karachi TV station today, but all the speaking and writing was in Urdu or Hindi so I have no idea who they were ….. frustrating but promising at the same time.

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