It is a common human trait when some people get exhausted by disgust, they respond to the dilemma and refresh themselves up by satirising or parodying not only the stuff that is disgusting them but at times their own state of mind as well.
This notion of protest usually gets the most effective results when witty and satirical commentary is set to a bouncy tune and then put on video with the help of imagery heavy on parody.
In the western music scene such ventures have sometimes been called, ‘parody pop.’
Parody pop, or at least the modern political version of it, has its roots in Bob Dylan’s famous 1965 video for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ - a song that poked fun at the political and economic establishments of the United States and actually foresaw the emergence of a powerful counter-cultural movement in that country.
Though so-called parody pop never went on to become a huge commercial venture, it did remain to be a favourite tool of the people behind some of the liveliest TV shows of which political and social humour were important ingredients.
BBC’s anarchic ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ series (1969-74), and especially the films that the Python team went on to make, punctuated the action with irreverent songs that encapsulated the show’s biting takes on politics, the bureaucracy, organised religion and the British middle-classes.
The song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ from Monty Python’s 1979 film ‘Life of Brian’ satirised organised religion.
The long-running American skit show, ‘Saturday Night Live’ has often made good use of short, sharp political parody songs and so did the in-your-face British political comedy series of the 1980s, ‘Spitting Image,’ which week after week tore into idiosyncrasies of political leaders.
One of its most famous moments arrived when Spitting Image writers and puppeteers directed a video for the famous British band Genesis’ 1986 song ‘Land of Confusion.’
Genesis & Spitting Image’s ‘Land of Confusion’ that parodied conservative US president Ronald Regan along with authoritarian leaders of the time, including Khomeini and Qadhafi.
Then, of course, there was the outrageous 1977 song and video released by British Punk Rock band the Sex Pistols that angrily ridiculed and satirised the jubilee of the British Queen. The song shot to No. 1 in the British charts in spite of the fact that it was banned on radio and TV.
Sex Pistols’ 1977 song, ‘God Save The Queen.’
Till the late 1970s, songs parodying or satirising political personalities or social issues were not all that common in Pakistan.
But a song from film actor and director Rangeela’s 1973 satire of the human condition, ‘Insaan aur Ghada’ (Man & Donkey), encapsulated the said plot in a ditty (from the film) called ‘Aye Khuda Mujhey Insaan Banadey’ (God, please turn me into a human).
The video grab (see bellow) sees a donkey being chased away by a man and then by all sorts of people until he breaks down and ends up outside a mosque asking God to turn him into a human so he too could understand what makes man so cruel and selfish.
Song from 1973’s Pakistani film ‘Insaan aur Ghada’ satirising the foolishness of man as seen through the eyes of a distraught donkey.
However, it wasn’t until the arrival of the long-running comedy skit show ‘Fifty-Fifty’ (in 1978) on Pakistan Television (PTV) that songs parodying social idiosyncrasies and issues mushroomed in Pakistan.
Taking inspiration from the minimalistic social satire shows like ‘Such Gup’ (1973-75), ‘Fifty-Fifty’ was launched during the first year of the stern and reactionary military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq.
Barred by the censors from critiquing the regime’s politics, ‘Fifty-Fifty’ instead took to task issues like the collapse of the local film industry, violent Punjabi films, lazy bureaucrats, corruption among civil servants, cricket and TV commercials.
The practice of punctuating its skits with satirical songs truly began during one of the show’s most famous skits: ‘Bashira in Trouble.’
Telecasted in late 1979, ‘Bashira in Trouble’ was a parody of violent Punjabi films of the era and the equally violent ‘spaghetti westerns.’ The skit parody’s a typical violent Punjabi film by making it in English!
‘Bashira in Trouble’, Fifty-Fifty (1979).
Another favourite subject of the ‘Fifty-Fifty’ folks was the trend of Pakistanis going to Dubai for work. It was the Bhutto regime in the 1970s that opened the floodgates for Pakistanis to go to Arab countries, and by the early 1980s, the trend had hit a peak.