Saturday, March 27, 2010
Rock and Roll Jihad by Salman Ahmad
The best thing I liked about this book is something that is not in it: the music. As a result of reading of Ahmad's struggle to be a musician in a country that no longer valued new forms of musical expression (Pakistan in its ideologue phase), I downloaded some of his music and found it fascinating and accessible, retaining some essential South Asian characteristics while sharing some of our instruments, rhythms, and feel. But Ahmad does a good job of showing the trajectory of his life, the choices he made, the kismet he enjoyed, the focus he retained. What struck me most was that through his telescope, time in Pakistan became a lens through which we view could changes in the society, and in the government. One can see that the rich cultural underpinnings of the society are squelched by religious fervor for a period of time, like a wave. In that sense, this book reads a little like a history book of modern Pakistan, and is interesting for that.