Karachi Jazz: A Different Time, A Different Beat

Posted on April 20, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, History, Music, Society
Total Views: 28332


Adil Najam

An absolutely fascinating documentary from Dawn TV on the Karachi music scene from the 1960s into the 1970s. About a Karachi that is no more. A Karachi where Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones fly in to play. A Karachi which had the only piano manufacturing facility in all of pre-1947 India. A Karachi that even the Beattles passed through.

Absolutely fascinating. Or have I said that already!

This is about a Karachi from a very different time. A Karachi that moved to a very different beat.

Nostalgia – and the glamorization of nostalgia – not withstanding, this does not mean it was a ‘better’ time or a ‘better’ beat. It was also a time with many many problems. And big ones. Of poverty. Of economic divide. Of intolerance of a different kind. In many ways – and for some people – it was a much more innocent time. In other ways – and for other people – it might have been harsher.

But it was, quite clearly, a very different time. And that, of course, is the point.

What one sees in this documentary was not the only face of Karachi of that time. Karachi had many many faces. It has always had many many faces.

It is too easy to forget that it still has many many face. And that, of course, is the point. And not just about Karachi. About any place, really.

21 Comments on “Karachi Jazz: A Different Time, A Different Beat”

  1. ASAD says:
    April 20th, 2010 11:46 pm

    I have only watched part 1 and it is a great find. Am diving into the next one now.

    But what a difference time makes!

  2. Majid says:
    April 20th, 2010 11:57 pm

    Those were the times and those were the people.
    Can anybody enlighten me, when The Descent started in our society? Many people say all decline started in 80′s and Zia Ulhaq ruined Pakistan.
    I want to know what he did? Whay people blame him?

  3. Haroon says:
    April 21st, 2010 12:02 am

    Very thoughtful write-up Adil.

    I am not really sure if “those were the times.” Even though I am sure that “these are not the times.”

    As you say, those were very different times. But there were plenty of problems then too. Although different ones. Most important society was even more divided economically and to those who were enjoying this music, the poor and the rest of Pakistan was just invisible. That is why they were able to enjoy themselves so much and that is why they remember those times so fondly.

    Today, the problems are bigger and different, but partly it was because those people had ignored these problems then. Maybe they were too busy partying :-)

  4. haroon says:
    April 21st, 2010 12:03 am

    Don’t get me wrong. I would rather have a tolerent Pakistan, discos and all. But its just the simplistic “those were great days” nostalgia that bugs me. Which is why I like Adil’s writeup even more strong than the videos.

  5. Owais Mughal says:
    April 21st, 2010 1:09 am

    Thanks for finding these videos Adil bhai. Wonderful collection

  6. Yasir Qadeer says:
    April 21st, 2010 3:49 am

    Jazz or country music was very much alive in Karachi and it gave rise to many hybrid forms of music in Pakistan. Sadly due to the injection of the extremist Islamic attitude, much of the artists stopped coming here and music was considered as a taboo rather than just a way of expressing yourself. Revival of our lost heritage is the need of the day.

  7. ali hamdani says:
    April 21st, 2010 3:56 am

    @adil. Job well done adil. And I would agree with the above comment. I would rather prefer a tolerant Pakistan where the people can get a break and just enjoy without the scare of getting killed by a crazy Taliban blasting himself up!!

  8. Farrukh Bokhari says:
    April 21st, 2010 5:48 am

    I liked the program very much, but not sure how to react !!!!

  9. Watan Aziz says:
    April 21st, 2010 8:39 am

    It was such a wonderful time!

    I remember, I used to “travel” about a mile (you know, in those days, we used to have miles, hann!) and I used to have an earthen “ghara” and I would get the water.

    Yeah! It is true.

    And oh yes, the water is still the same quality.

    Would you like to drink a glass of water?


    This is Watan Aziz reporting from Mars, Station “Audacity of Hope”. I have just concluded an interview with Mai Jori Jamali.

    She was having a bit of nostalgia.

    It was not better.

    And it was not much different either.

    And she still has not seen any signs of the space ship “Equity and Justice” that was launched on August 14, 1947.

    For the viewers on Earth watching Youtube. All those folks who are having nostaliga on Earth, well, it was built on denying equity and justice. Denied to Mai Jori Jamali by both, the bigoted and self-proclaimed “seculars” and the equally bigoted and equally self-proclaimed “religious”; elected or usurpers. Same, no different.

    This concludes this report.

    Earth, can you hear me now?


  10. April 21st, 2010 11:03 am

    Some comments from the ATP Facebook Page:

    - “Yeah, a time when Pakistan was actually progressive instead of being dominated by backward medieval mullah scum.”
    - “why do u feel proud in breaking the rules of Allah”
    - “by breaking rules of Allah you mean:
    Beheading & hanging dead bodies in Public as to create terror in name of Universal religion of Peace i.e ISLAM!!!!!!!!.
    Flogging women in public by ‘Namahram Men!
    Killing women in name of Honour.
    Burying women alive in name of honour.
    Marrying women to QUran so the property is not divided in thr name.
    Suicide (Haram act) bombing??????????
    Inciting Hate & violence from FM radio broadcasts to millions of illeterate people!!!
    Running out from mosques in BURQA disguising as a female!”
    - “the rules of allah include wearing ankle length shalwar with a fist long beard with a topi on your head and then spitting paan on to the streets?
    no wait, the rules of allah include hitting the children to force them to memorize then quran but not learn the meaning behind the words written in the quran?
    or do the rules of allah include pulling that 1000 rupeee note out when the police stops you because you were driving like an idiot?”
    - “the so called ‘rules of allah’ might have been violated back then but at least we didn’t have the bombs and guns blowing up people like we have today.
    isn’t it interesting that ever since the ‘rules of allah’ are being followed much more in today’s time, we have seen an increase in violence, in non-tolerance, in the persecution of the minorities? ”
    - “please read about Islam and then comment. The way you are talking about Islam makes me think that are you even Muslim? but thats your and Allahs problem. Let me address the things that you rought up. Where in Quran and Sunnah is it written that you have to memorixe quran?eat pan? behead people? blow yourself up?etc etc???? no where, then why are yall targetting Islam. And i would lie to ask you that howcan you say that “Rules of Allah” are being followed???when they arent!! no country is following the islamic shariah, so you cannot blame islam for anything. Why dont trace this to the time when Islamic shariah was being followed for example, Khulafa e rashideens time, dont ou remember what hazrat umar radi allah u anh aid, ‘ that even if a dog dies in my kingdom allah ta’ala will ask me about that on the day of judgement” and hazrat umar use to walk on streets at night after changing his getup so as to see if nything is wrong with the ummah. And there are a million more examples from everywhere tat i can post. And talha are you trying ot defend lal masjid operaion? knowing the truth now, even though our media has accepted that is was a false operation. and where is marryin women to quran in islam???etc etc all these things have nothing ot do with islam. and you still preach all that so whose faut woud tht be???allahs or ours??? WAKE UP BROTHERS.”
    - “peolpe like us have failed to understand what islam means. A universal religion of peace, a religion that tells us the best way to spend our worldly life. a religion that neither permits violence, bribe, taking lives of innocents, blowing up oneself without any noble cause, marrying woman to quran, injustice with woman, burying muslim woman in the name of honour nor does it permit to indulge in obscenity, dancing, music, secularism etc. it is a code of conduct for Muslims. it gives him instructions for every single second he has to spend in this world and covers the entire course of his life. if we break the rules of Allah by any mean, we are sinful whether it is in form of unnecessary violence and human killing or indulging in dance, music, obscenity and other vulgar things. May Allah protect us from all this. Ameen”
    - “who made you the enforcer of rules of Allah ?”

  11. Farrukh says:
    April 21st, 2010 11:34 am

    Excellent post and thoughful write-up. Diversity is good not because we like all the faces, but because more faces is better than less and adds to the vitality of society

  12. Ayesha says:
    April 21st, 2010 11:37 am

    A riveting post by all means..

    But after having a look at the comments from the facebook readers(that are always in the same vein), I have to admit I am ‘nostalgic’, though with complete understanding of the problems of those days. I haven’t lived through ‘those better’ times of Karachi Jazz scene but I have lived the times when words like ‘woman, music, dance’ didn’t lead to questions of religion, heated discussions-cum-sermons on evil, ending in calling names and terming each other non-believers. I am nostalgic for the ‘good’, yes, you read it right, days when we could term ourselves ‘tolerant’.

  13. Rashid says:
    April 21st, 2010 12:36 pm

    What a great production by my niece.
    Umbreen Butt. Great job. We are proud of you.

  14. Meengla says:
    April 21st, 2010 5:15 pm

    My post to the NY Times today is hopefully related to this Topic:


    1) To blame the Pakistani nation of tens of millions for the jihadist-cancer is not fair: From 1977 till 1988 Pakistan was under a brutal military regime which publicly flogged and hanged ‘criminals’ like lawyers, journalists, civil-society activists and, yes, political workers of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (the PPP). The reign of terror was unprecedented even by Pakistani standards: Under the two previous Martial Laws there was never such kind of repression as was under Zia’s. And Pakistanis saw Zia being treated as a celebrity on the lawns of Washington in his yearly pilgrimages to Reagan.
    2) I, too, have witnessed the brutality of these so-called Jamiat party: They beat up at least two of my classmates for merely sitting with women on the premises of the University of Karachi in the 80′s. There was nothing I could do except to be angry–and be quiet–lest the same fate was given to me.
    3) To the Indians here: Why do you always come and mock the tragedy facing Pakistan all the time in the blogspace? Pakistan was brutalized by a military regime, supported by a large part of the world, in such a way that the once-Sufi-oriented Pakistani society got the cancer of Saudi-version of Islam. Culpability assigned to the millions of ordinary Pakistanis is unfair.
    4) Now, there were some ‘liberal’ Pakistanis who did not support Zia’s Afghan-posture of helping Americans by nurturing the Jihadis. They were called ‘Surkhey’ (‘Red’, for Communists) and were termed traitors and were banned and persecuted.
    5) Pakistanis, at least in cities like Karachi, know how to tackle the Jamaat i Islami and their student goons. I think the Zia era is over and the so-called Jihadists are on the re-treat if you follow the election results of 2008 where the liberal segment of the Pakistani society re-asserted.
    6) There is indeed a lot of rot in Pakistan. But there is indeed at least some vitality even in Pakistan. It will help us all to better understand what are the causes of human actions. We are all human beings. We need to learn to live with each other. If the Europeans who fought the bloodies wars in human history in 20th century alone can now form the EU then Pakistan and India can form an alliance which comes to them naturally.
    6) Finally, instead of stereotyping Pakistan, why not take advantage of the free web and go and learn something to better understand them: Here are but a few sources:
    http://www.pakistaniat.com [top blogspace]
    http://www.dawn.com [Pakistan's own version of NY Times]
    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk [a good relatively pro-west news source]


  15. Sajjad Junaidi says:
    April 22nd, 2010 1:10 am

    Oh my giddy aunt! I’m going to watch this video again. I wish I was born in that era.

  16. Amna Zaman says:
    April 22nd, 2010 3:09 am

    So I really wish I was born in this era where I could enjoy the diversity. Today the things are different as for some reason the Taliban mindset has taken over a handful which will categorize this music in liberalism! And surely they do hate faces of foreigners.

  17. Watan Aziz says:
    April 22nd, 2010 8:11 pm

    To the Pakistanis here:
    Please allow the Indians to visit and mock. Please allow them to participate pretending to be Pakistanis. Please allow them to monitor this and other Pakistani sites.

    After all what are good neighbors for?

    They need relief from their tragic lives and they need to be humored to feel better. And if Pakistanis are helping them in this cause, all power to them.

    After all, with over 400 Million (yes, their numbers run in Millions) naked and starving people, they need help. India has more people in bonded labor than the entire population of Pakistan. They have more people with HIV cases than the entire population of Punjab. They have more people dying of simple diseases than the entire population of Baluchistan.

    Just today, UK passed law to help the untouchables in India and in UK.

    But none of this solves problems of Pakistan. And I am no way trying to do a one up. Misery has no joy. And I do not find any humor in India’s misery. As a matter of fact, it is a threat to Pakistan’s stability.

    But frankly, have you noticed, since this has flared up in Pakistan, RSS and their cohorts have stopped killing Christian missionaries. They are letting Gujarati Muslims breathe easier. The Sikhs are feeling more at home. And even the Buddhists can mediate in peace. And lo and behold, even the Kashmiris are dying in fewer numbers.

    And btw, they dumped UK at the first opportunity and went with the Soviets. Then they the dumped them as soon as Soviets fortunes were out. And they are now dreaming about their equal status with the Americans. Even the fair weather friends have some morals. Their new found friends will in time find out how reliable they are. But that is not Pakistan’s problem either.

    So, please, let us all help them feel better. After all, it is audacity of fantasy that they think they are a power, super or duper with the kind of problems they have. But, hey, that is their business. I wish them luck and happiness, even if they get it by mocking Pakistanis.

    Pakistanis have to get the house in order. And too many good Pakistanis are working very hard to fix it. Everyone may not agree from time to time, and that is OK, I know everyone’s heart is in the right place.

    Good will come out of it.

    We will get there. Soon.

    And on this, I can quote both Jinnah and Iqbal. And we all know those quotations. But, Jinnah’s reminder is just so good. So one more time,

    Unity, Faith, Discipline.

  18. sidhas says:
    April 22nd, 2010 10:46 pm

    Karachi was different city back then.

  19. Wasiq says:
    April 23rd, 2010 5:40 am

    I have been watching this documentary over and over again — thanks for posting these — my favorite all time Pakistaniat piece. Wonder what happened to our Goan community — are they still in Karachi in decent number? Was floored to learn that Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones actually played in that once fair city called Karachi. Spent the best years of my life there in 1975-1977 and still dream of the atmosphere thats passed.

  20. November 3rd, 2010 8:33 am


    Nice to documentary. I feel that you are still confused nation. Some times people in Pakistan portray it as Islamic state, some times people portray it as old western country where music, dance and other non Islamic activities were popular.

    Sometimes people are more nationalistic , sometimes more religious and sometimes more anti western.

    Anyway nice try to show Pakistan as modern, western friendly and IT nerdy nation.


  21. Mohan vijayan says:
    December 26th, 2014 11:19 pm

    Wow! What a fantastic film. My sincere hope and prayer is that our political masters are able to see the wonderful world we have lost. I can see the way right wing political parties and other extremists are working on ripping apart the social fabric even in India. Sad to say they have succeded in some places. But thankfully I still see some ordinary folk putting up a determined fight back. But at the end of the day let’s all hope good sense prevails on both sides of the border. Am sure we will all overcome :) let’s keep the fight on for sanity.

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