June 2nd 2017 will forever be remembered as the day when Pakistani music scene lost one of its greatest guitar heroes; Aamir Zaki. In spite of the fact that Zaki was one of the greatest guitar players that Pakistan ever produced, he never was able to get the kind of popularity that many of his peers got. Not many people are aware of the fact that Zaki was a part of Alamgir’s band when the pop star first emerged on the scene or the fact that Zaki was also a part of one of the biggest pop bands Pakistan ever produced i.e. Vital Signs. What’s the reason for such indifference?
Aamir Zaki was notoriously difficult to work with. He was known for his erratic and reclusive behavior along with his staunch desire to never succumb to the pressure of making commercial music which was easily accessible. This obviously meant that many of the corporate giants where wary when it came to working with the man. In a climate where there are no record companies functioning within Pakistan, corporations are the best hope for people who wish to earn a living from music.
Madeeha Syed, in her excellent piece “Death knell for Pakistan’s music industry?” gave the readers an insight within the current state of the music industry and it is not a pretty sight. Majority of the major record labels have shut down their operations while the rampant piracy has completely destroyed album sales. At the same time the security concerns have made it very difficult for concerts to take place. All of these issues have made it incredibly hard for musicians to make a living from their art alone. It has resulted in many of them seeking out other avenues with many opting for acting careers where the conditions are relatively stable.
In the absence of a proper infrastructure the independent scene has flourished. Bands like Mekaal Hassan band, sounds of Kolachi and Poor rich boy have tried, and for the most part succeeded, in bringing a new and fresh sound to the scene but all of these bands are indie bands. They produce their own music, make their own videos and market their music themselves without any external help. Although these bands are unique and are trying to leave a mark on the scene the fact remains that it is very unlikely that any of these bands will be able to reach the mainstream appeal and commercial success of Vital Signs and Junoon.
According to friends and family, towards the end of his life Aamir Zaki had little to no money left. The instability of the music scene had left him depressed. His health had deteriorated and he was out of work. He was disillusioned with the society in general and rightly so, after all Pakistan is a society where there is very little scope for artists in general. Musicians are not given the respect that they truly deserve and are merely treated as entertainers rather than as an asset. Even after his death Aamir Zaki did not get the kind of sendoff that an artist of his caliber truly deserved. None of the major television channels covered his death. There was not minute silence on the Ramadan transmissions. Apart from a few blogs and articles there was nothing. People in Pakistan have never been truly able to decide whether music is halal or haram and have thus always looked down upon artists while listening to their songs in events and parties and the trend is most likely to continue down the years. What we do know is that a talent like Aamir Zaki comes once in a lifetime and it is probably impossible to fill the void that his absence has left in the Pakistan music scene.
Here is a clip of one his biggest hits Mera pyar from his debut album Signature.