Recently Nadeem Farooq Piracha wrote an article that was very critical of Laal. It seemed from the article that he had neither heard the CD before writing the article nor did he bother to verify any of his claims from any member of Laal.
The main objection that he raised was about whether royalties from our work were going to help Jalib’s family.
The fact is that Laal has waived all royalties on the album in exchange for the promotion of the work of progressive writers. For instance, the recent “Jalib Week” and documentary on Jalib by GEO was in part inspired by Laal’s contribution. The videos of Jalib Faiz running on GEO news, Aag, and GEO entertainment, are also in part a result of this arrangement. Further, all the performances that we have played have been for free (we did not earn anything from them). Hence, Laal has not earned any money at all from any of our performances or album sales thus far.
I put one of our friends (Mobeen Chughtai) in contact with Yassir (Jalib’s son). I have not met Yassir personally as yet only because I have been in London for most of this period writing my Phd. His mother was in the Cancer Hospital. I asked Mobeen to help them out in whatever way possible. In our interviews we have called on the government to support the work and families of national assets like Jalib. Also our friends working in the media emphasized this point. The government recently gave help to their family. We think that our friends played a small role in this as well. Jalib’s younger brother was in the audience at the Karachi concert. He loved our music and supports us fully. He said that we were playing Jalib the way it was meant to be played. Jalib’s own family is fully supportive of Laal’s efforts.
In sum, we have been helping out in the measure of our strength. I cannot say that we have done anything great. But I would say that we have made a small contribution.
Our long terms plan is that we have decided that we will only take a working wage from Laal’s performances (i.e. what sessions players earn) and the rest will go into the creation of Laal Foundation that will create schools. Our target will be to build as many schools as the Taliban burn down (that is our slogan). All members of Laal have agreed to this proposal. All of Laal’s profits will be invested into education for workers and peasants. We have not announced this yet because we have no money at the moment, and we don’t want to make promises that we can’t keep. So once the ground work is laid out and we have at least enough money to set up one school, we will make this public. Obviously, I need to finish my Phd before I can begin doing enough performances to earn the necessary cash to set up our first school. Hence, I’ll launch this more publicly once my Phd is done and I have more time on my hands to organize this initiative.
It is now somewhat fashionable to be “socially conscious”. I have also seen many celebrities engage in charity not for the sake of social change but for the sake of improving their OWN image with the media and public. This is true of the West and also of the East. The motive is selfish and it shows in their work as well.
But the thing is that all of those people were musicians/celebrities first/primarily and became involved in charity for the disenfranchised as a by product of their career. We are their opposite. We are primarily grassroots activists and music for us is a vehicle to get our message across. I have been involved with grassroots movements for the last 12 years. I have played guitar as a hobby but never thought of taking it up as a profession. Laal is still not my profession. It is my hobby. My profession is academics and political activism (the same can be said of Shahram). Our goal is social change, the means is music.
So in sum, we are not in anyway trying to “cash in” on the great work of Jalib or Faiz. We are trying to popularize their work, and at the same time, using all royalties to provide educational institutions for workers and peasants. I hope that people feel that Laal has done justice not only to their poetry but also to their views.