SOUNDCHECK: PINDI AND PROUD

March 29, 2020

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We’re in a lockdown. Confined to our homes for the next few weeks (at least) in the beginning of what feels like a long, difficult journey to try and contain a virus from spreading. We’re stuck spending an inordinate amount of time with our families, and most importantly, ourselves.

While most of us are drowning our sorrows in homemade biryani and Netflix, a group of Pindi boys are fighting back. They’re reclaiming the title ‘Pindi Boy’ which has previously been used to describe a stereotype — a flamboyant, overly confident young man from Rawalpindi’s working class, feeling cool as a cucumber in his best streetwear, riding his own or hopping on a friend’s motorcycle to go create some mischief outside. Uncles in South Asian films from the 80s and 90s would’ve described them as rascals.

Pindi Aye [This Is Pindi] is a catchy rap and hip hop song penned and performed by a group of Pindi boys who identify as Hashim Nawaz, Khawar Malik, Zeeru, Shuja Shah, Hamzee, Fadi and Osama Com Laude. The song had me giggling in the middle of the gloom-and-doom news regarding the coronavirus (Covid-19) and the end of the world. Pindi Aye is in Punjabi, Urdu and some English and everything you made fun of Pindi boys for — the flamboyance, loud style, ‘cheap’ attitude and their sasti sawaris — they’re owning all of it in the song and more.

Pindi is, of course, the twin city of Islamabad — where supposedly more monied and cultured people live who shudder at the thought of even the tiniest invasion of Pindi boys on their 70s (a 70cc motorcycle very commonly used by the aam awaam and vehicle-of-choice for Pindi boys) near their well-manicured lawns and their one major mall — Centaurus.

If anything, Pindi Aye proves there’s a Pindi boy in all of us

But judging by the song, Pindi boys can’t stop, won’t stop. Khawar Malik raps in his segment that, “Chai pila ke main sab ko nachaoon ga/ Jani phir tum ko main Savor chhikaoon ga/ Savor se ho ke phir main tum ko main/ 70 pe Centaurus ki sair karaon ga.”

[I’m going to serve tea and make everyone dance/ Take you out at Savor [Restaurant] for a meal/ After that I’ll give you a tour around Centaurus on my 70.]

Some might even argue that ‘Pindi boy’ is more than a just a term to describe young men from Rawalpindi, that being a Pindi boy is a state of mind. I firmly believe there’s a Pindi boy in all of us.

The song also pays tribute to our favourite national pastime, eating, and lists all of the famous places to grab a meal (after the quarantine is over) in the ‘other’ twin city:

“Mamoon key burger ki, Nawaz key paanon ki/ Banni key nashtay ki, kya hi hai baat/ Savor key chawal tau khatay har raat.” Basically, Mamoon’s burgers, Nawaz’s paans, the breakfast at Banni’s and the rice at Savour are to die for.

They even have a message for their ‘haters’. Shuja Shah raps, “Gallian chhoti hain, par dil hain barray/ Google tum kar lo, hum aiwien nai famous/ Pindi ke hater ho tau, ho jao paray!” [Our streets are small, but our hearts are big/ Google us, we’re not famous for nothing/ If you’re a hater, get away!]

This isn’t the first time Pindi boys have tried to reclaim the term and make it their own. Jasim Haider released Pindi Boys in 2014. That version is a bit slower, it’s ‘cooler’, but it doesn’t embody the Pindi boy spirit the way Pindi Aye does. However, the hand movement — fists forward as if revving the engine of a ‘70’— in both videos is the same. Now we know what the universal hand symbol for Pindi boys is!

While everyone who contributed to Pindi Aye presented a different side and sound to Pindi’s burgeoning hip hop scene, one feels Khawar, who also sings the chorus in addition to his own section, is the one to watch out for. So far, his voice is the one that’s stuck in our heads going, Pindi aye, pindi aye, pindi aye, sheyr yeh pindi aye.

Published in Dawn, ICON, March 29th, 2020