Pakistani Pop Under Attack
by Shahzeb Shaikh
For the past few weeks, Australia and India have been battling it out for supremacy in the Border-Gavaskar Test series. A cricket buff like me will certainly not let a cricket extravaganza go without watching. I especially like watching Indian channels because of the attractive adverts and commercials they create. One such advert was that of a globally renowned credit card company, based on Ali Haider’s smash hit single, Purani Jeans. It was basically a reunion affair where friends, who have now become successful entrepreneurs, are shown meeting up after a long pause and celebrate their long-lived friendship.
Although the commercial didn’t showcase a single shot of the singer (glimpses of his CD were shown twice), yet his voice seemed familiar throughout the course. Purani Jeans has done wonders for Haider ever since its release in the mid-90’s. The song got even more hype when its video was shot in 1998 – that followed a similar theme about friends, past memories and a bright future.
Since it was for the first time a Pakistani concept was being use for such an extensive international corporate campaign, I excitedly called up Ali Haider to inquire more about the buzz. But, to my surprise, the pop icon was oblivious of the proceedings. He immediately logged on to the internet and watched the 1-minute long clip. It then dawned upon me that Ali hasn’t even sung the lyrics and everything was done without the permission of the artiste.
When I contacted Ali in this regard, he said, “I am very shocked to learn that the whole theme of the commercial has been copied and even the lyrics are sung by some local artiste without my permission. This is highly unprofessional and unethical.” According to the singer, when his legal advisor contacted the credit card company in India, its representative responded that they had been permitted by the artiste to carry on with the project. But after Ali made it clear that he had not permitted any such act, the company changed its statement and mentioned that it had bought the rights from Ali Haider’s record label that launched the album Sandesa in 1993 that featured the hit song, Purani Jeans.
According to international piracy laws, no one can re-sing a track without the artiste’s permission, even if the rights remain with the record label company. The record label can only re-do or remix the music if such terms exist in the contract.
Copying Pakistani music is not today’s headline. It has been happening for decades in the form of piracy, tributes and remixes. Even Ali’s old songs have been remixed and re-done by Bollywood composer, Bappi Lahri, on many occasions. A few other examples include:
• Rahim Shah’s hit song Ghum by Altaf Raja (1998) • Najam Sheraz’s Menu Tere Naal by Mahesh Bhatt in the form of Bheege Hont Tere, Murder (2004)
• Ho Sake To Mera Ek Kaam (Sitam), Music Director: Nikhil-Vinay, copied from Ho Sake (Arshad Mahmood) and Maya Hai Sab Maya Maya Hai (Faisal Latif)
• Aakhiyon Se Gal Karni (Shaadi Se Pehle), Music Director: Himesh Reshammiya, DJ Akbar Sami, DJ Suketu, copied from Asaan Jana Mal (Abrar-ul-Haq)
• Akhiyaan Na Maar (Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena) Music Director: Pritam, copied from, Challa (Waris Baig),
• Bheega Bheega (Chocolate), Music Director: Pritam, copied from December (Abrar-ul-Haq),
• Boohey Baariyan was imitated by Sajid-Wajid for the 2002 movie Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam. This Hadiqa tune was copied and used as the title song for the film, which was picturised on Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit.
• Dil Laga Liya Maine (Dil Hai Tumara) as the song was known, was picturised on Preity Zinta, Koi Aayega (Asambhav) Music Director: Viju Shah, copied from Mahi Aave Ga (Shazia Manzoor) and picturised on Priyanka Chopra.
• Another Shazia Manzoor copy is the 2001 blockbuster hit Shava Shava from the much hyped Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The slower passages in the middle of the song that goes, ‘Dekha Tenu Pehli Pehli…’ is a direct lift from Shazia Manzoor’s track Batiyan Bujaye Rakhdi. Shazia’s original track was part of her 1999 album, Chan Makhna.
• In 1997, a little-known Indian artiste, Jojo, copied a Vital Signs’ song, Woh Kaun Thi with only slight alterations to the lyrics.
Although the practice of “copying” music has been much curtailed by growing media awareness and the lessening of cross-border tension, and with the inclusion of Pakistani artistes such as Call, Suroor, Atif Aslam, Jawad Ahmed, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Strings, Shafqat Amanant Ali, etc. in Bollywood movies, this latest incident is once again an alarming situation for the Pakistani music scene.
Advertisements are money making tools for any company. But by using unoriginal and impermissible material, the Indians are making money with both hands. The fact that Ali Haider’s voice has been imitated to achieve the required objectives is a wake-up call for Pakistani artistes. “It’s high time we should safeguard our musical heritage. If a local Indian can replicate my voice, then rest assured there will be imitations of the likes of Atif, Ali Zafar, Shafqat Amanat and many more in the near future,” says Ali. Another one of his concerns is the fact that many of his songs, other than Purani Jeans, such as Qarar, Zalim Nazaron Se, etc. are popular in India and he fears them being copied, too, if some serious action isn’t taken instantly.
So what will be his next step to counter this mishap? “I am definitely going to sue them for damages in the court of law for copying my legitimate property. My lawyer has assured me that no one has the right to re-sing my track without my permission and this is a good enough reason. Had they asked me for proper permission, I may have given it to them in good will,” replies Ali in a confident tone and adds, ”I am flying down to India later this month to pursue the proceedings.” Regarding his future plans, he informed, “I have recently shot a new video that will soon be on air, coinciding with my album, Jaaney Do’s release in India.”
It’s high time Pakistani artistes take action to safeguard their intellectual property rights. It’s true that the Indian market is a platform to reach the world yet our artistes shouldn’t give away their songs for free and should get involved in dignified deals. Here’s hoping Ali succeeds in his efforts to attain justice.•