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- Published on Monday, 14 November 2011 06:35
- Category: Artist Profile
These past several weeks, “Aalu Anday,” a potato and egg curry known as the bane of Pakistani school lunches, has taken on a new meaning: Internet sensation.
The YouTube video, which shares the same name as the dreaded dish, is the first single to be released by Lahore-based rock group Beygairat (Honorless) Brigade, a political satire trio made up by economist Daniyal Malik on percussion, high school student Hamza Malik on guitar, and news director Ali Aftab Saeed on vocals. Calling themselves “honor-less,” they chose “Beygairat” to negate the “Ghairat Brigade” of nationalists, conservatives, and news outlets that use political analysis to dictate Pakistani society and behavior. To the band, life in Pakistan is potato and egg curry, the same hogwash day in and day out.
That hogwash is where the music video begins. The men enter a classroom looking like well-pressed schoolboys, ready to eat lunch. Their mothers cooked them potato and egg curry yet again, and the song starts with innocent schoolboy griping: “My mother has cooked potatoes and eggs. I don’t want to eat them, I find them bad. I will eat a piece of chicken but the price has risen, even if chicken becomes cheap without reason…”
While the direct reference in that first verse alludes to rising inflation costs, another commentary comes through as well: Pakistan is stuck in a bad rut, and the cost for change is too high.
In the second verse, the seemingly nonsensical Brigade schoolboys grow up, taking aim at political propaganda that dominates mainstream Pakistani life. They start by mocking Punjab’s rising religious radicals, particularly “the Mullah [who] escaped in a veil” from Islamabad’s Red Mosque in 2007, during a government siege. Poking fun at politicians is nothing unheard for schoolboys, but the Brigade takes it a step further by criticizing the sacredness of the Pakistani military and General Ashfaq Pavez Kayani, in particular, who extended his role of Army Chief for another three years, and, as the band puts it, “has gone into hibernation.”
The real boldness of “Aalu Anday” comes about halfway through the song, when the band compares Pakistan’s celebration of religious extremists to its disregard for the country’s only Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Mumtaz Qadri, who assassinated Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer for his opposition to Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy law, “is treated like a royal” and greeted with flowers and garlands. Aimal Kasab, the only gunman to survive the 2008 attacks on Mumbai is heralded nation-wide as “a hero most loyal.” Yet “Adbus Salam is a forgotten tale;” the country’s Nobel Laureate in Physics is hardly mentioned in Pakistani society because he belonged to the outlawed Ahmadi sect. Since the video’s release, Beyhairat Brigade has received more threats for bringing attention to Salam than it has for condemning anyone else mentioned in the song.
As if that verse weren’t brazen enough, the instrumental break features all three men holding up signs with hand-painted messages that read like tweets or Facebook statuses—
“Nawaz Shariff Bye Bye – Papa Kyani No Likey You!”
“Free Judiciary = PPP Hanged”
“Tehrik-e-Insaaf = Good-looking Jammat-e-Islami (Islamic fundamentalist)”
“Mullah + Military = Zia-ul Yuckee”
To the US: “Your Money + My Pocket = We’re Still Enemies haha…”
And to those conspiracy theorists who believe that anti-Pakistan propaganda is really the work of Israel, the Brigade has a message for you:
“This video is sponsored by Zionists.” Not really, but the point gets across.
Whimsical and entertaining, the video does feature an underlying darker side, especially at the very end, when Saeed holds up a sign that says, “If you want a bullet through my head, like this video.” The idea is not an outlandish one, and all three men are well aware that by becoming a global hit, they may have also put their lives at risk. “When we were working on the lyrics, we clearly had in our mind that this may happen,” Daniyal Malik told the BBC. “But we wanted to create a message against the anti-democratic forces and start a debate, which we have done.”
To bypass censorship, the Brigade uploaded “Aalu Anday” to YouTube in mid-October instead of handing it to the very television networks that their band lampoons. The video has since received more than 360,000 views. By no means do the Brigade members consider themselves revolutionaries. Yet the worldwide popularity of their blunt witticisms has tapped into the disappointments and frustrations within Pakistani society. Potatoes and eggs have gotten stale among the frustrated. “Aalu Anday” may not be chicken, but it has definitely added spice to the Pakistani music scene.
Watch the video hereBy Safa Samiezade-Yazd, Aslan Media Arts & Music Editor