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 didnâ€™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 confusedÂ young man seeking answers about lifeâ€™s important questions and traces how an individual lures this young man by saying he has the answer to lifeâ€™s ultimate question, how to find heaven or zenith?
…the confused man is any person of my generation who is questioning and thinking about whatâ€™s been happening in our country. Itâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t affect us much or maybe we wouldnâ€™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 itâ€™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 â€˜Find Heavenâ€™ and soon, if nothing else, I will at least have the same song with Urdu subtitles. At the moment, though, Iâ€™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 donâ€™t think religion is the main factor for the destruction of the youthâ€™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.