‘Find Heaven’: Daniyal Noorani’s Search For Answers

Posted on February 7, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Music, Society
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Adil Najam

Daniyal Noorani’s song and video – Find Heaven – has a thought-provoking but eerily disturbing quality to it. Anything that makes you think hard is bound to be disturbing. And for that reason alone this is worth a very careful listen, and an even more careful watch.

Given the news and events of the last few days this song and video take on a profound relevance and poignancy. But then, that relevance and poignancy could have come from the events and news of just about any week in recent memory. And that, really, is the whole point.

Here is a song that takes on the subject of violent extremism head on. With introspection and thoughful analysis rather than with mere slogans and platitudes. It is straight-forward and it is simple. But it refuses to make the complex simplistic and it does not simplify that which is, in fact, profound.

The song does not require any commentary; it is commentary itself. For me, the animation speaks as profoundly as the song; if not more. So let me urge you, once again, to take a careful listen, and an even more careful watch. This is not meant to be ‘background music’; nor are these stock visuals. This is a ‘package’ that needs to be seen and heard as one.

And then – once you have done that – it needs to be pondered upon. Pondered hard.

The music, lyrics and direction is by Daniyal Noorani, the wonderful character design and animation by Marria Khan, the powerful guitars and violins that add so much to its haunting sound by Mialy Clark (violins) and Shahjehan Khan (guitars). In searching on the internet, I found two interviews with Daniyal Noorani (on Dawn and on KoolMuzone) which give us some insights into the song and its creator. Daniyal himself grew up in Lahore, studied in Wisconsin and now works in a biotech company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here are some excerpts from his two interviews which shed more light on the song:

I wrote Find Heaven at a time when I felt there was no clear public consensus on suicide bombings. At that point, the urban centres of Pakistan had not been as hard hit as they are today and I felt that the country didn’t know how they felt about these activities, whether they were sympathetic or condemning of it. It was around that time I started writing the lyrics. The song tells the story of a confused  young man seeking answers about life’s important questions and traces how an individual lures this young man by saying he has the answer to life’s ultimate question, how to find heaven or zenith?

the confused man is any person of my generation who is questioning and thinking about what’s been happening in our country. It’s autobiographical in a way that we the youth are confused about a lot of things, like the injustices we see all around us, our corrupt society, and incidents of terrorism taking place all over the country. The realisation (of how bad things have become) dawned on me over the last few years. Before, frankly, when we would hear about terror incidents like those in north-western areas, it wouldn’t affect us much or maybe we wouldn’t think too much about it. But now that terror is hitting close to home in our cities, it shakes us up.

…the basic objective of Find Heaven was to highlight the exploitation and manipulation of the impoverished and confused. It was to show how we as a society have failed to provide for the basic needs of our people, such as justice, education, food, security etc and how this leads to the exploitation of people. In the video I tried to put more emphasis on the journey rather than the end result, because unless we address the events and root causes that lead to these sorts of actions, these actions are bound to be repeated. In the video I particularly highlight people who use religion to manipulate people but the song holds true for any form of exploitation. If you exchanged the religious characters in the video with more secular/political characters, you could show how our corrupt politicians manipulate and corrupt the impoverished by offering them a worldly heaven like money, power, etc. So to emphasize, the song is meant to condemn exploitation of any kind, whether it is secular or religious in nature.

I do realize that it’s rather elitist of me to have done the song in English, which limits the audience in Pakistan. At the same time, the song now has global reach and can be understood by people the world over. Also, my control over the Urdu language is not as strong as I would like it to be. Despite that, I am working on an Urdu version of ‘Find Heaven’ and soon, if nothing else, I will at least have the same song with Urdu subtitles. At the moment, though, I’m trying to figure out what the Urdu word for redemption is.

…the concept of the video came while writing the song, so that is one reason why they are so interdependent. From the start, I had a pretty clear vision of the final version of the video. I think that the audio and video together are much greater than the sum of the individual parts. The animations were done by my cousin Marria Khan, who is a very talented artist and graduate of the National College of Arts. She did a fantastic job coming up with the character designs and giving them a life of their own.

…I think showing the events that lead up to the climax are more important than showing the bomber explode himself… the main character has taken all the steps to commit an act of terrorism, but what is more important is to look at the events that lead the character to that point. Also, one thing I wanted to highlight was the cyclical nature of these events. At the end of the video, one pretty much ends up at the beginning, except there is a man walking into a mosque in the background. The idea was to highlight the fact that unless there is a change in the events leading up to the climax, this horrible cycle will continue.

I tried to keep the video as open ended as possible so each viewer can formulate their own opinion. But outside of the video I don’t think religion is the main factor for the destruction of the youth’s mind as you say. As I have mentioned before, this video could easily be spun in a political manner to highlight corruption.

ATP Note: Of possible interest: Aao, Aao, Aao. Sooji ka halwa khao.

20 Comments on “‘Find Heaven’: Daniyal Noorani’s Search For Answers”

  1. Imtiaz says:
    February 7th, 2010 2:12 am

    Very very powerful video. Speaks straight to the heart. The voice and the music is also just right for the message.

  2. February 7th, 2010 2:29 am

    Interesting video. So Mr.Daniyal is trying to say that America is Evil because the kid was shown videos of Iraq war,drone attacks and Afghan disaster rather than videos of Mullahs teaching Quran and Namaz. mr Durrani also seems to preach that people who are being Devil’s advocate and continue to suck up America one way or other re actually root of all devils and we need to getrid of them asap.

    Don’t you think Kid could never be shown such videos in absence of Iraq and Afghan war? Why we kept feeding such molvis by supporting USA? why did not we have courage to refuse infinite demands of America[or Israel]? I feel ashamed that Turkey is way better than us that atleast Turkey forced Israelite to ask apology. We did not even have that moral courage either.

    Adil, did you also read what I found in that video or you also like others got excited after watching mullah ,masjid and bomb in video? Just wondering.

  3. Nusrat says:
    February 7th, 2010 10:54 am

    Great song and video.
    On a tad different note – mr.najam: great talk at new york’s asia society last thursday evening. if i may suggest, why not post a link to the talk video here on atp.

  4. ASAD says:
    February 7th, 2010 11:12 am

    Excellent! Bravo.

    Yes, very powerful. I also think that the animation adds tons of power to this. But I do wish this was in Urdu.

  5. Waqas says:
    February 7th, 2010 11:14 am

    Great Song

  6. Humaira says:
    February 7th, 2010 11:22 am

    I enjoyed both the video and the interview with Daniyal. I thin the interview and his sensible explanations make this even more compelling.

    I think the ending of the video is also very powerful. The obvious thing would have been to show a terrorist act. Instead they choose not to. Thus they invite us to think about how things could in fact be different and about how we might reverse this process. Very good.

    Finally, I liked the balance in the video. Going to the causes of why a young person can get brainwashed.

    Overall excellent.

  7. Watan Aziz says:
    February 7th, 2010 11:51 am

    unless we address the events and root causes that lead to these sorts of actions, these actions are bound to be repeated…..the song is meant to condemn exploitation of any kind, whether it is secular or religious in nature.

    Here is, straight from a web site on cancer treatment:
    When you meet with your care team, they listen to you and get to know you as a person. They use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, including advanced imaging and laboratory tests, to accurately locate and stage (of) the disease. Then together, with you and your caregivers, they find an integrated approach that’s right for you.

    Your individualized cancer treatment plan includes innovative treatments (e.g., surgery, radiation, chemotherapy), combined with supportive cancer therapies (e.g., nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, oncology rehabilitation, mind-body medicine, spiritual support) so you can feel strong in body, mind and spirit.

    This treatment center is selling hope, not despair.

    Future, not the past.

    A way out, not the bottomless pit.

    Humaria is wise: Thus they invite us to think about how things could in fact be different and about how we might reverse this process. Very good..

  8. Anas Fareedi says:
    February 7th, 2010 1:23 pm

    Allah hears our prayers.
    All we need to do is to accept Allah’s free gift of forgiveness.
    We all as a nation need a Ijtamaee Dua e Mafee.

  9. Majid says:
    February 7th, 2010 2:30 pm

    Excellent comment Humaria! I second it.

  10. Umar says:
    February 7th, 2010 5:51 pm

    The voice, the video and the animation all fit together so very well. The overall packet is very powerful and as the writeup says very thought provoking.

    Daniyal, thank yo for doing this.

    ATP, thank you for bringing this to us.

  11. HMD says:
    February 7th, 2010 8:57 pm

    Very elegant. Simple yet powerful.

    Thanks for posting this.

  12. Aziz says:
    February 7th, 2010 9:08 pm

    Excellent and very thought provoking. What Daniyal is trying to say is not unknown…however, no one speaks about it. Thumbs up to Daniyal.

    On the same note, I would like to share a music video my friend recorded. It is not completed related to the topic but somehow I feel it is. If everyone believes in themselves and only asks Allah (or whoever their God maybe) for help, this world would be a different place. Watch the video and let me know what you think.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uauBH0Q2YZM

  13. sidhas says:
    February 7th, 2010 11:47 pm

    this is just beautifully penetrating.

  14. Ammar says:
    February 8th, 2010 5:20 am

    A commendable effort nevertheless, however such voices sanity are very few, the younger lot is stuck between two extremes and the free will is clearly lacking. The answer to imperialism is definitely not extremism! We are wandering aimlessly and there does not seem to be an end to this.

  15. February 8th, 2010 12:50 pm

    I like the video very much actually. It really explains what I think of the current militants situation in Pakistan. Poor young ones are being attracted towards heaven through distorted ideology in seek of heaven. This is seriously condemned and all must be done to stop this.

  16. Daniyal Noorani says:
    February 8th, 2010 11:39 pm

    Thank you all for your support and feedback. I really appreciate it.

  17. Zaheer says:
    February 9th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Very very strong message.

    This song says what so many of us are feeling and it says it very nicely.

    Thank you

  18. Nauman says:
    February 10th, 2010 1:36 am

    Nice work. Someone please convey to Daniyal, the Urdu word for ‘Redemption’ is ‘Kaffaraa’…..

  19. shoaib says:
    February 10th, 2010 3:04 pm

    Song is overly simplistic. Go, check the backgrounds of the 9/11 hijackers. were the poor, illiterate ?
    its just a very STUPID song.

  20. March 10th, 2010 4:25 pm

    An Urdu version of the song is now available at:

    http://tinyurl.com/ygf65ny

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