Young Pakistani revolutionary rock band Laal took Delhi by storm even as hundreds of men and women, young and old, rocked and danced to songs of legendary rebels and genius Pakistani poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, who were jailed for their outspoken verse against military dictatorships, and injustices of all kinds. Faiz, himself an ardent communist, came alive across the Delhi landscape, from Hardrock Café in South Delhi on April 19, to the Press Club of India in Lutyens’ Delhi on April 22, and at the jam-packed amphi theatre in Habitat Centre the next day.
The amphi theatre show by the fabulous non-conformist band was called Shaam-e-Laal – A Red Evening, celebrating the great legacy of the struggles by communists across the many spectrums, with songs for workers, peasants, ordinary people, and songs of revolution. Like the song which says, “Do what you have to do, don’t worry about the consequences,” with loud clapping from across the audience, and young girls and boys dancing, moved by the compassion and dialectic of the idea of revolutionary transformation in society. Even the Press Club was packed with journalists and others, with slogans of Laal Salaam resonating in the night.
Indeed, Laal carries no baggage of the communist past, its orthodox dogmatism or factional sectarianism; it reinterprets realism of struggle and the continuous narrative of contemporary times with stunningly modern symbolism, using rock and fast music to appeal to a refreshing young sensibility. With flute and drums making a magical synthesis, the sounds of the night were fiery and furious, even as there was much laughter and happiness. “We are always facing tragedies. So why not smile a bit, and laugh, and dream, and dance, and rock,” said Taimur Rahman, lead vocalist of Laal. “Karl Marx said, ‘Revolution is a festival of the masses’. So why shouldn’t we celebrate this festival.”
Clearly, the ambience, for instance at the amphi theatre, was that of non conformism with the performer and the audience becoming one in unision, with no hierarchies, and no celebrity gimmicks; this was no antiseptic show from the pulpit. The singer would enter the audience space, and the audience would sing with him, as the open to sky courtyard resonated with Laal’s favourite songs, including that of legendary Sufi icon Baba Farid, who walked from Bukhara to Badaiun in UP, and became a prophet of humanism. The songs celebrated the synthesis of cultures and communities, opposed religious fundamentalism of all varieties and stood in solidarity with the struggles of the poorest of the poor.
The evening was rocking from the beginning. A simple banner welcomed Laal while e-mail messages spread across networks of lovers of the band. Witness the e-mail message, and the tone of the evening was set: “The Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy invites you to Shaam – e – Laal, an evening of music, poetry and verses to rethink, revive and reinvigorate the poems, music and voices that steadfastly stand for the rights of the oppressed.” And as Taimur sang a song of love, asking his beloved to never leave him, because the path of struggle they have chosen is the path of revolution; he also said that this song was for peace between India and Pakistan.
“Why look for differences all the time? Why not for similarities? I find we share so much culturally and socially, there is so beauty in this sharing. There is more difference between Peshawar and Lahore, indeed, while Delhi and Lahore look and feel so similar.”
With slogans of Laal Salaam and Inquilab Zindabad rocking the theatre, the band finally performed the Communist Internationale, their famously fabulous original adaptation, and every person in the audience sang along, celebrating the song of revolution and liberation. Clapping, dancing, singing, celebrating life and beauty and the relentless, epical struggles for equality and justice, this was truly an evening of many colours, especially red. Laal.