Pakistani musicians on Michael

July 3, 2009

The King of Pop’s impact on our local music industry is undeniable – from dance moves to disco beats. Here, some of the top names in Pakistani pop revisit their relationship with Michael Jackson, the man and the music. (Interviews by Madeeha Syed. Photography by Rizwan-ul-Haq, Kohi Marri and Fayyaz Ahmed)


Salman Ahmed (Junoon)

My first Zen moment with Michael Jackson happened when he released ‘Beat It’. It included a searing double-tapping guitar solo from my 1980s heavy metal guitar hero Eddie Van Halen. For the very first time I heard a cultural and musical fusion between African-American dance pop and white, heavy metal music. It was totally addictive and infectious. No longer was it un-cool for rockers to listen to Michael Jackson. With that one song, he managed to break so many cultural, racial and musical boundaries. He was to music what Muhammad Ali was to sports: an African-American icon who transcended race globally. He paved the way for Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods and even Barack Obama to become a part of the global human story.

Around the same time in Pakistan, before I was part of Vital Signs and Junoon, all the Lahore cover bands that I played in performed Michael Jackson songs. I remember performing ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ at Junoon’s earliest concerts at the PACC in Karachi to screaming, moonwalking, Karachi yuppies!

It’s always sad when a great artiste and entertainer like Michael Jackson passes away, but it’s even more tragic to know that he died just as he was making a comeback. After all his misery and troubles of recent years, he had come closer to God and most people were cheering him on to reclaim his status as the King of pop.


Ali Zafar

Michael Jackson acquired something that most people can’t even dream of. Even a guy in a far away town of a Third World country can be seen trying to dance like him. He gave people more than what they knew and I think people loved him more than he knew. I guess now he knows.


Sajid Ghafoor (Sajid and Zeeshan)

Michael Jackson was a hero, not just for musicians but also for the black community. His music reached the farthest corners of the world and touched more hearts than Elvis could ever dream of. The bigger he was, the bigger the controversies that surrounded him. But none of that could ever affect the music he made. And as a musician, he was in a class of his own. A lot could be said about him and I am sure a lot will be said over the coming times. May his soul rest in peace.


Louis J. Pinto a.k.a. Gumby

It is sad that an icon like Michael Jackson passed away at such an early age. He was a true performer on stage and a brilliant singer. His contribution has been immense since the Jackson 5 days. As a child prodigy, he not only sang well but also set standards as a dancer.

With producers such as Quincy Jones behind him I believe he was unstoppable. Records such as ‘Off the Wall’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Dangerous’ were some of my favourites. Also the level of production in his records was always a step ahead of the current sound. Musicians who collaborated with him such as Jeff Porcaro, Steve Lukather, Slash, Eddie Van Halen and many others just brought a new feel and side to pop music with him.

It is very sad that he’s not around anymore. But he has left us with a lot of good music and great memories.


Shahzad ‘Shahi’ Hasan (Vital Signs)

Michael Jackson not only introduced new genres of music, but also contributed a lot in the styles of dance and video-making. He revolutionised break dancing and introduced the most famous of all his moves, the moonwalk. I remember I used to be in school and everyone used to be moonwalking in the halls between classes. And anyone who did not know how to was not very popular with the girls.

Musically, we all know his contributions as he was a one-of-a-kind singer/composer. He was perfect from the days of Jackson 5 onwards. He was also appreciated by people from all over the world. If you ask Pakistanis who probably don’t listen to any western or local pop music, even they would know most of the Michael Jackson hits. How many performers in the world can claim to have done that?

My message to all his grieving fans (including myself): keep on moonwalking, as MJ lives on in our hearts.


Rup & Q (Josh)

Words cannot describe the impact Jackson had on this world. He was urging us to ‘Heal the World’ and singing songs about our Mother Earth long before global warming was a familiar term. We thank him for showing us and the entire world that music and love have the power to truly transcend borders, cast, colour and religion.


Ali Hamza (Noori)

The first thing I remember about my childhood music experience, apart from listening to my parents, was Micheal Jackson. And it was not ‘Billy Jean’ or ‘Beat It’, but the video of ‘Thriller’! I got so scared when I saw that video, and for days I couldn’t sleep properly.

Then a little later, I remember a lot of my friends doing the moonwalk, and how badly I failed at doing it right. But since I couldn’t lose out on the competition, I concocted my own version of a reverse moon walk – I used to move forward with the same action!

Micheal Jackson never really appealed to me as a musician; in fact, I prefer the music he did as part of the Jackson 5. He was a package-deal, and that is what created the awe that surrounds him. It was the movies, the videos, the dances.


Zeeshan Parwez (Sajid & Zeeshan)

There are many MJ favourites, including ‘Beat It’, ‘The Girl is Mine’, ‘Remember the Time’, ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘You Are Not Alone’, ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Thriller’. The last came out when I was in Rawalpindi and I remember my brother Salman listening to the album repeatedly so I became a fan as well. I even had a Michael Jackson watch when I was a kid – it used to play ‘Beat It’ as a ‘beep beep’ tone, and for me it was the coolest thing after an Atari. All of Michael’s albums had great production and I can say that a lot of his stuff did influence me when I was trying to learn music.

Source: Bandbaji | Madeeha Syed