Music / Schedule

This Week’s Six Pillars – Pakistan on Cassette

pakistani images This week, following last week’s interview with the Karachi Biennial Foundation, we sample the best of an original home collection of 70s and 80s Pakistani cassettes.

The pop music tapes are compiled, oddly, to features radio adverts in between the songs. We loved these so much that we digitally restored for them for the show. Pakistan has an odd relationship to audio cassettes, having banned them, along with cinemas and dish antennas several times over the years. The banning of dishes is in effect in Iran also, where signal jamming is common. Ironically, Pakistan remains one of the prolific producers of cassettes today.

A Gilani Research Foundation survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan in 2010 found out that  while majority of Pakistanis (68%) listened to music on cassettes a significant 55% of the respondents also claimed to listen to music on CDs. 49% bought cassettes of Pakistani songs, 41% cassettes of Indian music, while  5% said they bought cassettes of English songs or other kinds of music. 39% bought Indian music CDs, 24% CDs of Pakistani music, 11% bought English artists CDs and 7% CDs of other kinds of music. With all this new music flooding in, who is concerned with preserving the modern musical traditions of Pakistan? The National Intangible Heritage Archives, with UNESCO, recognises tape cassette production and listening as part of our ‘living practise’, understood as heritage, that mutates and changes with time. The relation between intangible heritage and digital technology is explored in a project that aims to digitise all music composed from Pakistan to date, and have over 4000 hours of music on file.

Many thanks to Renato Marena for access to the cassette boxes, which have been in his family since they were first released.