A Plugged-In Protest from the Pakistani Leftist Rock Band Laal

LaalMy friend Shomial Ahmad over at NPR:

In Urdu, the word “laal” means red. The band Laal takes its name literally. In a newspaper parking lot in Lahore, Pakistan, about 200 fans wave dozens of red flags, symbols of the band’s Communist politics.

The group’s classical flutist wears a T-shirt with a picture of Che Guevara on a red star. The lead guitarist wears a buttoned-down crimson shirt.

In the damp night air, the audience claps along with the song “Umeed-E-Sehr,” or “hope of a new dawn.” It’s the title track to Laal’s debut album.

Taimur Rahman is Laal’s lead guitarist. He says the band’s songs have recently gained a new relevance.

“These are times of both hope and despair simultaneously,” he says, “and if you’re not talking politics, if you’re not talking social change, if you’re not trying to do something that goes beyond crass commercialization, then really people are saying, kind of, that this is not worth our time.”

It’s not uncommon for Pakistanis to sing poetry and use it in political protests. So when Pakistan’s first Communist rock band re-appropriated decades-old verses about hope, its songs became the soundtrack to Pakistan’s lawyers’ movement.