Archive for Progressive Writers Association

Laal: music of dissent

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 31, 2009 by Umer

Much has been heard, said and opined about the band that surged on a tidal wave in the aftermath of a fresh exit of dictatorship. Sometimes, the most vocal and opinionated being the band members themselves who mask themselves under no pretences, and openly declare their motives to be revolutionary and incendiary to the saturated status quo. Of course, this leaves them open to criticism from old-school critics who look upon such plucky, naïve statements with doubt. However, being very much the emotional, passion-driven target market the band caters to, I find its mission statement endearing…and workable.

Laal debuted with the album Umeed-i-Sehar, opening with the melting vocals of Shahram Azhar serenading the listener with Habib Jalib’s satire.

The album can be defined as a musical score to the socially-conscious literature of Habib Jalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz. A sort of tribute band to the nation’s poetry of dissent. Take the rebellious spirit of The Who’s earlier works and simmer in a tarka of a classically trained flute player and the delicate aural trajectory of a lead singer specialised in the North Indian classical genre. The album is surprisingly uplifting; its subject matter largely focusing on the optimism of overturning rather than plaguing the listener with the anguish of the actual.

The strength of the band has been its belligerent brand association with Aag/Fire Records. Its videos have been continually played to the backdrop of an ever-changing political landscape, gaining more-than-average airtime in the form of rockumentaries, televised concerts and interviews. And what videos they have been!

A special mention must be made of the more recent and very brilliant Umeed-i-Sehar directed by Azfar Ali and Umar Amanullah. The video, passed along excitedly through Facebook links and emails, had unprecedented approval from both viewers and critics: a simplistic tale representative of the social hierarchy and the apathy of the political bourgeois.

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Khuda-e-bartar teri zameeN par

Posted in Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , on July 28, 2009 by Umer

Khuda-e-bartar teri zameeN par

Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

Vocals: Lata Mangeshkar

Kudaa-e-bartar terii zameeN par, zameeN ki Khaatir, ye jaNg kyoN hai?
har ik fatah-o-zafar ke daaman pe Khuun-e-insaaN ka  raNg kyoN hai?

zameeN bhi teri, haiN ham bhi tere, ye milkiyat ka savaal kyaa hai?
ye qatl-o-KhuuN ka rivaaz kyoN haiN? ye rasm-o-jaNg-o-jadaal kyaa hai?
jinheiN talab hai jahaan bhar ki unhiiN ka dil itnaa taNg kyoN hai?
Khudaa-e-bartar terii zameeN par, zameeN ki Khaatir, ye jaNg kyoN hai?
Ghareeb maaoN, shareef behnoN ko amn-o-izzat kii zindagii de
jinheiN ataa kii hai tuu ne taaqat, unheiN hidaayat kii roshnii de
saroN meiN kibr-o-Gharoor kyoN hai? diloN ke sheeshe pe zaNg kyoN hai?
Khudaa-e-bartar terii zameeN par, zameeN ki Khaatir ye jaNg kyoN hai?

qazaa ke raste pe jaanevaaloN ko bach ke aane kii raah dena
diloN ke gulshan ujaR na jaayeiN, muhabbatoN ko panaah dena
jahaaN meiN jashn-e-vafaa ke badle, ye jashn-e-teer-o-tufaNg kyoN hai?
Khudaa-e-bartar teri zameeN par, zameeN ki Khaatir, ye jaNg kyoN hai?

Glossary:

Khudaa-e-bartar = O superior God, bartar means superior, high, excellent, used as an adjective here for God
fatah-o-zafar = victories and triumph
milkiyat = property, land, possession
qatl-o-KhuuN = murders and blood (basically both indicating and emphasising “Murders, riots”)
jaNg-o-jadaal = fights and battles
talab = thirst, need
amn-o-izzat = peace and respect
ataa = blessed (given by the grace of God, a blessing)
kibr-o-Gharoor = pride (kibr = pride, eminence, similar meanings for Gharoor as well)
qazaa = destiny, fate, divine decree
jashn-e-teer-o-tufaNg = celebrations with bows and guns

Courtesy: Sahir ke qalam se

Faiz-Neruda: Great contemporary poets, friends and humanists

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2009 by Umer

Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) and Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1910-1984)—contemporary poets, friends and outstanding humanists—have left lasting impression on the world of literature. Their works won global recognition—Neruda was honoured with Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 and Faiz won Lenin Peace Prize in 1962. Both Neruda and Faiz, like many others, notably Nazim Hikmet and Mahmoud Darwish, were essentially humanists, anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists. Their great struggle and works were interwoven—these were inseparable. Their work complimented their struggle and vice versa.

The life and work of Neruda has amazing similarities with that of Faiz.

Pable Neruda (1904-1973)

Pable Neruda (1904-1973)

[i]Neruda (real name Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto), was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried Doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls’ secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily La Mañana, among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia –his first publication– and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal Selva Austral under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.

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Moosa Sai Marx Tak (From Moses to Marx)

Posted in Books & Authors, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2009 by Umer

Preface and Chapter 1

Moosa se Marx Tak is one the best known writings of the South Asian Marxist and public intellectual, Syed Sibte Hasan. Sibte Hasan remained steadfast in his commitment towards Marxism-Leninism through out his life and contributed enormously in the revolutionary struggle through his pen.  For many decades, Moosa se Marx Tak was the fundamental guiding texts for the activists and students of the Leftist politics of Pakistan. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to present the preface and the first chapter of this authoritative text translated by Syed Ehtisham (with minor editorial changes) at the Red Diary:

Preface

Marx and Engels devised the term scientific socialism for their political thought, and idealistic socialism for ‘old fashioned’ socialism, which encompassed the reformist plans which European thinkers offered from time to time. The plans had not been inferred from the conditions on the ground, but were a reflection of their subjective aspirations. Scientific socialism, on the other hand, was derived from, and logical conclusion of existing objective conditions (maroozi hallat). Its principles of evolution had been derived from a deep study of the capitalist system.

Scientific socialism refers to a social system in which all means of production-land, minerals, factories, banks, trade-are collectively owned by the society, and the produce is distributed according to the qualitative worth of the work performed by physical and intellectual cadres.

Communism is the next stage of scientific socialism, under which means of production and the produce is so advanced that the measure of distribution is not worth, but need of the people.

Foes of socialism have tried to malign it by asserting that it does not allow any personal possessions. That is far from the truth. Socialism does not permit exploitation of labor for accumulation of wealth by individuals or groups, for example control over land, minerals, manufactories and finance. Private property is sacrosanct under the feudal and capitalist systems (and supported by all religions), where as the foundations of socialism lie in abolition of such private ownership and transferring it to social ownership.

Private ownership has created so many social evils that public ownership is being promoted even in capitalist societies (nationalization of essential services and welfare). Means of production were nationalized (in the post-WW II Europe) and Asian countries.

The other private ownership pertains to items of personal use, like clothes, utensils, home, books, bicycle, radio, etc. Under a capitalist system, people do not have adequate quantities of items of personal use (even in rich societies). A socialist society, on the other hand aims to provide people with sufficient quantity of items of personal use. There is no equivalence in people’s productive or inventive capacity, so the income of each and every one under a socialist system will not be the same.

Socialism does not repress individuality, in fact it encourages it. Only exploitation of labor for personal aggrandizement is proscribed.

Chapter 1: Early Communism

Europeans ‘discovered’ America, and traveled to India in the early 15th CE. They gained great material wealth, and gained important knowledge and information. The general public was entranced by the stories of travelers, and though they contained more half truths and outright lies than facts, the general public listened to them and developed great interest in exploration of the world unknown to them and the greed to acquire wealth.

This mind set induced Sir Thomas Moore to write his classic work “Utopia”, which relates experiences of a fictitious sailor, who happened to land in a far off island, where people lived in a communist society. The same instinct led the English novelist Daniel Defoe to pen “Robinson Crusoe”, and Swift to write “Gulliver’s Travels”.

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Naghma-e-Zakhm-e-Dil: Songs of the Wounded Hearts

Posted in Communist Movement, Marxism, Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2009 by Umer

by Shahram Azhar

Many people who know little or nothing about Laal’s evolution question the practicality of building socio-political movements through music and poetry. Too obviously, there is some truth to this skepticism; music, in its essence is a language constructed on notes and percussion. Revolutionary movements on the contrary are political-economic-social movements that are led by oppressed classes to overthrow a system of exploitation. However, revolutionary movements are not chaotic movements built in days or even months. Revolutionary science teaches us that a protracted process of ideological struggle precedes revolutionary movements—in the words of the greatest revolutionary of the past century, Vladimir Lenin: “Without revolutionary theory, there will be no revolutionary movement”.

In every epoch the ruling classes befuddle the minds of the oppressed classes by systematically propounding and enforcing ideas that seek to maintain the balance of class forces intact. In order to reproduce their class hegemony on a continuous basis they must convince the broadest sections of the masses that the status quo is in the best interests of the oppressed classes as well. This, the ruling classes achieve by monopolizing the means of propaganda: schools, religious seminaries, media, art and academic inquiry, in other words all the instruments of mass knowledge are directly or indirectly controlled by the ruling classes. It is through these institutions that the oppressor convinces the oppressed that the current system of production and distribution is sane, just and stable. Once that has been achieved the ruling classes are said to have established their ideological hegemony over all other classes. The consolidation of this ideological hegemony exhibits itself most vociferously in official discourse as an overarching objective of the educational, literary and cultural pursuits of the ruling classes. Marx said:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this In Its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.”

It is precisely here that the role of revolutionary intellectuals and artists acquires primary importance: the destruction of the power of the ruling class first and foremost assumes the destruction of its sources of power. Now, power itself can be divided into various forms. The ruling class does not rule through force alone. It rules because it has convinced the oppressed segments of society that it deserves to rule. X cannot be a slave-master to Y, if Y is no longer willing to accept X as his slave-master. If Y must no longer accept X as his slave-master, Y must first be convinced that he too has the intellectual and physical abilities to become the ruler.

Therefore, in order to defy the domination of the ruling bloc, oppressed classes and their ideologues must challenge the ideas upon which their power rests. Too obviously in every society, revolutionaries must possess the ability to creatively apply the general science of revolutions to the objective, concrete situation of their society. Revolutionaries must find a way to propagate their ideas in a manner that pushes the broadest sections of the masses towards revolutionary action. Revolutions are built when a significant proportion of the population is convinced that the ruling system of oppression and exploitation must be torn asunder. Revolutions are built when the forces of love and humanity conquer the forces of hatred and barbarity. Revolutions are made when millions upon millions are united by their wounds against a common enemy.

In Asiatic (i.e., where the Asiatic Mode of Production prevailed) societies, from Arabia to India, poetry and music have played an extremely important role in forming the psychological make-up of society. Let us take the most familiar example. In ancient Arabia, competing tribes had poets and musicians as their ideologues. Poets (who were also musicians) were warriors, propagandists and strategists and led their armies from the front.

In colonial India the poetry of Nandlal Noorpuri and Ram Prashad Bismil became immortalized in their death: Sarfaroshi key tamanna abb hamaray dil main hai (The desire for sacrifice is now in our hearts). Faiz Ahmed Faiz, in his book Mah-o-Saal-e-Aashnai remembers this time as the formative phase of his life as a revolutionary and says that “as a result of this movement there was a significant change in the nature of national protests. Now, the slogans of Swaraj and Band-e-Matram had been replaced by the slogan of Inquilab Zindabad! (Long Live the Revolution!) and people sang “Sarfaroshi key tamanna abb hamaray dil main hai” instead of “Saaray jahan say acha Hindustan Hamara” (Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan).

In the Punjab the poetry of Ajit Singh Sikka inspired the peasantry to revolt against the local landlords. His poem “Pagri Sambhal, Jatta Pagri Sambhal” (Hold you turban, Jut,  hold your turban) united the peasantry across the Chenab and the Ravi and gave birth to one of the greatest revolutionary leaders from the sub-continent: Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, who formed the Naujawan Bharat Sabha (NBS) and later the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army with the explicit aim of creating a socialist republic. One of the principal methods of ideological propagation that the NBS employed was poetry recitation and music. In fact, Bhagat Singh and his comrades continue to resonate in popular culture with the song that they sang to the gallows: “Mera rang day basanti chola, maayay, mera rang day basanti chola” (Dye my robe the colour of spring, mother, dye my robe the colour of spring).

These poets and revolutionaries in turn, inspired a new breed of revolutionary poets and poetesses. Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Habib Jalib and Amreeta Preetam first, and later Ahmed Faraz and Jaun Eliya continued to hold aloft the banner of purposive art and poetry. The power and strength of their ideas can be seen through the fear that these immortal revolutionaries instilled in the hearts of military dictators, capitalists and jaageerdars. These fearless freedom fighters would stop at nothing less than the complete abolition of exploitation and injustices. In a time when the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq had banned the publication of anti-dictatorship material, poetry recitals became an extremely important method of defiance. The poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib was banned from newspapers and declared illegal. Yet, it continued to inspire millions upon millions of workers and peasants towards rebellion.

In his poem, “Hum jo taareek rahon main maaray gayay” (We, who were slain in unlit pathways), Faiz declared:

“Qatl gaahon say chun kar hamaray ala

Aur niklaingay ushaaq k qaafilay”

(Picking up our flags from these grounds

will march forth more caravans of your lovers)

And so it is with Laal: As individuals who seek to build a socialist revolution in Pakistan we have decided to re-lift the flags of our heroes. As long as there is oppression and injustice in our land, we will fight. As long as there are those who live through the labor of others in comfort and luxury, we will fight. As long as there are those who consider themselves the masters of the universe and all its wealth, we will fight.

Our poetry and music is for all the wounded hearts and the oppressed millions who continue to live in conditions of bondage and slavery. In the words of Jalib:

Jo sadaaayain sun raha hoon

mujhay bus unnhey ka ghum hai

Tumhain shair key pari hai

Mujhay aadmi ka ghum hai

(The calls that I hear

Only these worry my soul

You are concerned about the poet

I am worried about humanity)

Shahram Azhar is the lead vocalist of the musical band Laal (the Reds) and a member of the Communist Workers and Peasants Party (CMKP) of Pakistan.

The Dawn of Freedom

Posted in Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , on March 20, 2009 by Umer

This translation of a famous poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Subh-e-Azadi, was introduced to me by Mat Noir in a comment at the Red Diary.

The Dawn of Freedom (August 1947)

This leprous daybreak, this night-bitten dawn,
this is not the dawn we awaited with longing sighs;
this is not the dawn that drew our friends on
believing that, somewhere in the desert of these skies,
they would find the resting-place of the stars,
somewhere find where night’s sluggish tides reach shore,
somewhere find the boat of heartache and drop anchor.
When we friends set out by the secret byways of youth
how many hands bid us stay, pulling at our hems!
From eager bedchambers in the palace of truth,
sweet arms kept crying out, flesh calling us to come;
but dearer was the seductive face of daylight,
dearer still her robe aglow with sprites:
my longing seemed to buoy me, my weariness grew light.
It is said that the division of day from night is done,
it is said our goals are realized and unflawed;
but only the ways of our hurtful leaders are new-sprung,
collective joy decreed, the anguish of separation outlawed.
The fire in our livers, the burning in our hearts, the riots in our
eyes—
this severing cannot cure any of these.
When did that dear morning wind arrive—and must it go yet?
The lamps on these byroads have not felt its breeze;
no one has come to lighten this night’s heavy load yet,
our heart’s inheritance has not been bestowed yet.
Come with me, come, our goal lies down the road yet.

Rare Recordings of Habib Jalib

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , on March 13, 2009 by Umer

Habib Jalib (Urdu: حبیب جالب) was one of the renowned Pakistani revolutionary and Urdu poets of 20th century.

On the event of his death anniversary on March 12th, the Red Diary presents recitations of some poems of Habib Jalib in his own melodious voice:

1. ZULMAT KO ZIA

2. QUAID-E-AZAM DEK RAHE HO APNA PAKISTAN

3. FARANGI KA JO MAY DARBAAN HOTA

4. YE MAZAARAY YE LAGHAARAY

5. WATHAN KO KUCH NAHI KHATHRA

6. YEH MUNSIF BHI THO QAIDI HAIN

7. GAL SUN