“Two days after a bombing in Lahore killed over 70 Pakistanis at an Easter gathering this year , the pop duo Zeb and Haniya released ‘Dadra,’ which they dedicated to their beloved city. It’s a sweet lullaby of lament, the Urdu lyrics guided by an electric guitar’s undertow. Zeb and Haniya have found an especially strong following in South India. Zeb says she was surprised and touched by how many Indian fans wrote with sympathy from across the border” (The Economist, “1843 Magazine,” June/July 2016, p. 25).
Zeb and Haniya, cousins, are American college educated Pakistanis. They blend pop music with traditional melodies from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
A Pakistani branch of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack. It appears to be a failed political mission: it killed mostly Muslims, and women and children, though the group’s apparent intent was to target Christian men.
Solo Sting is often too serious (even full of himself), on the issues and the incorporation of different musical genres into his own (“hmmm, let’s see, maybe I’ll do a song with some Portugese singing in it, haven’t done that before”). But he’s not the first artist to care deeply about politics and to use his skills to say something.
Sometimes, the political subjects of popular songs can seem obscure, as if the artist received inspiration from a closing story aired by BBC News. The lyrics here are vague, which can be refreshing when other songs with politics in them beat one over the head with a simplistic message. Yet “Fragile” is about Ben Linder. He was an American civil engineer, minding his own business in Central America’s Nicaragua, working on a hydroelectric project. He was killed in 1987 by the Contras. But the larger story of Nicaragua at this time is important.
Contras (as in counter revolution) is like the Nicaraguan Resistance, opposing the fresh Sandinista government there following an overthrow of a dictator. For a time, the Contras received funding from the United States government, concerned, under President Ronald Reagan (the “Reagan Doctrine”), that a Cuban-socialist style country and Soviet Union branch was being formed too close to home. The Nicaraguan Resistance hardly followed any rules of war when it came to human rights, and it came to look bad that the USA was supporting this, never mind the adage that the end justifies the means. In a surprise victory, the Sandinistas were later defeated as government in 1990, in an election that has been charged with being greatly influenced by US intervention.