More Pakistan youth turn to music to vent against terror

Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:05am EDT
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By Jason Subler

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters Life!) - Zeb Bangash and Haniya Aslam are pursuing a line of work that not too long ago would have been deemed inappropriate for young Pakistani women of their standing: they're making music.

Educated in the United States and from well-to-do families, cousins Zeb and Haniya, as their duo is known, are part of a rising tide of youth turning to the arts not only as a way of making a living, but of finding creative release from the frustrations of living under the threat of terrorist attacks.

Especially in the cultural hub of Lahore, on the Indian border, a growing number of bands are sprouting up as part of a renaissance of the arts.

Many are spurred on by defiance of the very Taliban militants who have attacked music, theater and film through bombings and assassinations, most notably in the scenic Swat valley northwest of Islamabad, which they took over before being routed by government forces over the last few months.

"I think what happened in Swat with the Taliban really jerked the country out of a stupor," said 31-year-old Aslam. "People started realizing their culture was under threat, that they have to actually hold onto it, or else you're going to lose it."

While the most severe Taliban attacks have happened in the northwest, far away from Lahore, militants did carry out bomb attacks outside two theatres in the city in January.

To the duo, who originally hail from the northwest of the country where the Taliban are rife, music is much more than a passing interest, despite any risks involved.

They have both left their jobs to pursue their musical careers full-time, and have released their first album, named "Chup," meaning "quiet," an eclectic mix of folk and classical eastern melodies.   Continued...