(In an effort to put an end to the simmering controversy over Laal, Taimur, lead vocalist and co-founder of the band, has released a statement in response to Shahram Azhar’s interview. He calls the accusations against the band a ‘slander’. Shahram Azhar is the original vocalist of Laal, he started the band together with Taimur Rahman. In a recent interview, Shahram has spoken out against alleged favouritism by Taimur Rahman, and the band’s diversion from its revolutionary mission.)
A Short Reply to Accusations Against Laal
by Laal on Monday, 30 April 2012 at 03:31
Since Laal has been on tour in India for the launch of our second album “Utho Meri Dunya” some slanders have been leveled against the band and against me personally.
The crux of the issue is that Laal began to produce music videos after Shahram Azhar left for his Phd. Of course we did. This is neither a crime nor an infringement on anyone’s rights. We made the video Aye Dharti in defense of our schools that were being blown up by the Taliban. We made the video called Doob Gaya, to motivate people to raise funds for flood relief. We made the video Meray Dil Meray Musafir, to highlight the problems of the working class in capitalism today. We made the video Fareeda, to defend the great legacy of Sufi humanism against Taliban atrocities. We made the video Neend Aati Nahin, all the funds for which went to the Salman and Sameena Trust for girls education in Swat. We made the video Dehshatgardi Murdabad, identifying who was responsible for the death of 37,000 Pakistanis. We made the video Surkh Ghata, chronicling the lives of the working people in Lahore. And we made the video called Utho Meri Duniya, talking about the rights of landless tenants during which we mobilized about 20,000 tenants all over the Punjab. With the exception of one video, all the other videos were financed by our own earnings (mainly from my earnings as a teacher). One would have hoped that all progressives would be proud of this work that we have done for the cause. And members of the band, especially, would feel proud that despite the absence of their contribution, the cause was going ahead.
The deal with Times Music India came about as a result of Fareeda. They loved the song and the album this year is the result one year later (the album features many of the songs mentioned above). In India we have played in over a dozen locations in two weeks. We have played four gigs at the Hard Rock Café, one at attitude, one at the Delhi Press Club, a street concert in Janta Colony organized by the Communist Party of India, at the Tagore International School, at the Education Conference India 2012, one at the Habitat center, and will play the climax gig on 1st May at Jawarlal Nehru University. It has been breathtaking experience. The love that young and old have given Laal has totally overwhelmed us. At every concert we have spoken about peace between India and Pakistan. At every concert we have done our best to show people in India a progressive side of Pakistan. We would argue that all of this is another great contribution that Laal has made to the cause of the progressive movement in South Asia. With this great leap forward, Laal has emerged now as a South Asia level band. Next the album will be released by Pakistan by Fire Records. And we hope that it receives an even greater response in Pakistan than it has in India.
As for the charge that this deal with Times Music proves that the “original plan of galvanizing a youth movement had been shelved”. One can only question why releasing a new album with Times Music in India is any more or less revolutionary than releasing an album with Fire Records in Pakistan? Afterall, Umeed e Sahar was released by Fire Records an affiliate company of GEO. Secondly, while it has been stated that the original goal of mobilizing the youth has been shelved, the article charges that “thousands of dollars” (a gross exaggeration) have been spent on bringing 67,000 people to the Laal page. What is that except an exceptional effort to galvanize and organize the youth through new social media?
Last but not least, I wish to clarify that Laal has never COLLECTED any money for charity. We have done a lot of charity work but we do this charity work by performing for free or at a minimum rate for institutions that are collecting money. We have not collected money ourselves because we do not have the capacity to deliver it to the needy in far away areas. Hence, accusations made by our former manager Asad Haroon about financial irregularities with charity money are a complete slander given that we have never personally collected any money in the name of charity.
Last but not least, for those who think Laal has diverged from its original mission, I would like to ask them to just click the video called Utho Meri Duniya and see the kind of work we have been doing amongst the working people of Pakistan. Do these allegations square with a band that has so openly and in such reactionary times associated itself so strongly and vocally with the cause of socialism and has had the courage of convictions to take its music to the streets and villages of Pakistan and India to mobilize the working people in the manner that you see in Utho Meri Duniya.
Last, I wish to say that Shahram Azhar is one of the most talented vocalists in Pakistan today. It has been my honour to have played with him, to have learnt from him, to have made music with him. I understand that he feels hurt and left out of Laal. It may be hard to believe but the truth is that this was never my intention. I always wanted him to sing the songs that I composed. I sang and found my voice only in his sore absence. I would have only desired and hoped that he would have supported my efforts just like I supported him as his teacher, his comrade, and his friend.
Dr. Taimur Rahman