Growing up in Pakistan, there was an omnipresent societal culture of film and music creeping in from outside the country. Shahrukh Khan was my first love; how my mother remembers I danced as a toddler each time Dil Wale Dhulaniya came on television. I do not remember calling out for Shaan or any other Pakistani actor to dance on their songs; or for that matter, experiencing fan-girl obsession for Juanid Jamshed or Ali Azmat, although they were undoubtedly famous. There persisted an ever-present obsession with alien popular (pop)-culture, it was part of what we called ‘cool’.

Whereas my mother’s childhood was overwhelmed by desi Pakistani pop-culture, especially music, she and her brother used to dance what she calls ‘the twist’ in their uncle’s cafe almost every day, drinking Coca Cola with coloured straws in glass bottles. And they were in love with the gorgeous duo, Nazia and Zoheb Hassan, doing their twist on ‘Disco Deewane’. It somehow seems she grew up in a truer more original milieu of youth culture than I ever experienced growing up in the same city as her, in Lahore. I also drove on M.M. Alam, shopped in Liberty, and drank Coca Cola - but why did I not have a Nazia and Zoheb Hassan?

Pop-culture music is vital for any society. It helps channel thoughts, fears, dissent, enthusiasm and much more. When shaped by hints of Pakistan’s many cultures, local traditions, tunes, beats, and vocal styles, the music scene can successfully be called local - or in this case, Pakistani.

Once that happens, I can confidently say my childhood illusion that Pakistani pop culture is ‘wannabe’ Western or Indian was in fact an illusion. The first time I heard Jasim Haider and the Pindi Boys on Pepsi Battle of the Bands’ second season, I thought: this is Pakistani pop-music. The way they sang: sunglasses on, lyrics laced with the excitement of a young lover, and their casual attempts at renditions like Ko Ko Korina, did it for me.

As the show continued, there was nation-wide excitement in the local music scene. What will these bands perform? Who are they? Is the show influencing garage bands to break out of their shells? It is difficult to identify whether my personal interest in local pop-music spurred during the show, whereas it was always a lot more present for others across their lives; or was there really a ‘revival’, in its cliche definition, of youth culture. Without noticing, singers, bands, and musical projects began tearing down my YouTube and Instagram. Ali Sethi with his brilliantly retro music videos and interpretations of the timeless Faiz Ahmed Faiz (‘Dil Ki Khair’); Shamoon Ismail’s effortless fusion of slow rap and blues in Punjabi (‘Basanti’); Rescue The Frog (RTF) Studio’s introductions of very local and authentic music experiments like Sinnerman (‘Khud Kalaami’). Makes me think my youth culture is not foreign.

This recent revival calls for a subversion by music towards cultural creation and progress. The focus is more on music than film mainly because Lollywood, despite a boom, has not escaped ‘wannabe’ roots. Mahira Khan oddly looks like a younger Madhuri Dixit in one of the songs from her latest movie, Superstar.

 A cry for originality in the arts is a justified cry - which is why the focus is on music, because the nation’s music is doing just that, being original. It is not only past alien influence, but also past trying to be susceptible to patriotism or religion.

There is no need for a band to do at least one Dil Dil Pakistan soundtrack to prove to the public they are worthy. The idea that music has to be political is not a necessary characteristic. This includes singers and bands performing also as a form of protest and questioning - of the dubious democratic governments and military dictatorships, of the reality of no water or electricity. The band Junoon is outspokenly known for its Sufi Rock protest. The song ‘Ehtesaab’ targeted the structural lack of political accountability in the Pakistan of the ‘90s. It received immense backlash and was banned from television, but gained the public momentum it craved.

Politicized music and art in general have historically played functional roles in society. When I say up-and-coming music seems to be more involved in just making music for the sake of music, I am not implying apolitical music is better than its opposing counterpart. Both are significant, challenging, creative, and functional. The emerging popular music scene in Pakistan however is playing with originality in ways which are new to the ears. Songs do not only have to be about humara (our) Pakistan, naya (new)Pakistan, purana (old)Pakistan.