Adil Omar: “Paki Rambo,” dropping beats in Islamabad

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Adil Omar (23 minutes, 12 mb mp3)

I-S-L-A-M-A-B-A-D, baby.
Let’s play Wii: Crash into each other till we have to sleep. There’s no other place I’d rather be…

I-S-L-A-M-A-B-A-D, baby.
Get caught up in this motha fuckin cycle of life,
And we’re all just having fun…

… from Adil Omar’s Islamabad and Islamabad II

ISLAMABAD — Adil Omar – referring to himself here as “Paki Rambo” — is working the entertainment value of social and personal anger, as rappers do. The twist that surprised me in conversation with Islamabad’s 20-year-old hip-hop star is that he also sees himself offering the world a light and cool side of Pakistan that the West doesn’t know. “I mean as soon as you hear Pakistan, all you think about is target killings and bombings and heroin and acid burning, and … It’s just really ugly. And that is a reality as well, but there are a lot of levelheaded, rational people who live here as well and I’d just like to represent those people.”

Adil Omar is a child of the Pakistani elite in an unhappy outpost of American empire; and he’s a player in a global entertainment world that the Internet has created. It’s a mix of roles that puts him closer to the beats of the South Bronx and the recording industry in Los Angeles than he is to the hometown neighbors. Pakistan, as he says, is just a fraction of his fan base, which runs from the States to Europe to South Africa to Japan. But he’s telling us a lot about the tensions that many Pakistanis live with.

AO: There are certain things you can’t say in this country… I mean, if I said certain things I’d probably get killed. The fact that there’s no freedom of thought and freedom of speech in this country is offensive to me. You can’t talk about political systems. You can’t talk about religion. I mean it’s not open to discussion at all, it’s just too dangerous. I wish I did have the balls to put myself at risk but I don’t. I would like to live longer.

CL: People don’t seem to hesitate to say they live in a dysfunctional state. That’s a kind of freedom. Sometimes it seems like a chirping, cheerful little prison colony you’ve got here… but it is chirping.

AO: I mean it depends… Obviously if you know what’s going on you have to admit that this is a really dysfunctional place. But sadly a lot of people are either apathetic or in complete denial about their surroundings. It’s just that peoples’ priorities are completely messed up. I mean I have a friend for example who’s a totally normal rational guy and with pride he was saying ‘You know Pakistan’s the second fastest growing nuclear nation in the world, isn’t that amazing?’ and I was, like, no that’s not amazing. I mean we don’t have any money for education and healthcare; why is that amazing? And he was saying it with pride, so I mean it’s just people love the idea that we’re some big bad fighting nation with awesome weapons and awesome this and awesome that. You know? I think it’s absurd. It’s like an ego thing. I think people have their priorities wrong.


Comments

6 thoughts on “Adil Omar: “Paki Rambo,” dropping beats in Islamabad

  1. “so I mean it’s just people love the idea that we’re some big bad fighting nation with awesome weapons and awesome this and awesome that. You know?”

    I guess this happens everywhere – people get duped into thinking that more fire power means you’ve attained a higher level. I agree, what about education? health care? and making sure your citizens aren’t so poor that they have to live on the street?

  2. Chris,

    Great interview. I love having this emerging voice echoing around my brain. This guy would be fascinating no matter what country from which he hailed, but coming from contemporary Pakistan, wow!

    Big ups to Adil Omar, who is making his own way as an artist in this dangerous beautiful world.

  3. Chris,

    First of all, thanks to you and your guests for this whole series from Pakistan. It ought to win an award. Every single interview has been enlightening and fascinating.

    About Mr. Omar: He certainly has verbal talent and charisma. I think it’s unfortunate, however, to hear him speak so glibly and dismissively about politics and, even more, academics. He says: “If I want to learn something, I can just pick up a book and learn on my own.” But this is someone who, I gather, is from the upper echelon of Pakistani society, spoiled enough to be able to attend a private international school (where he had the luxury of “having fun” but never felt the need to engage in academics). Now what is he: a self-proclaimed apolitical entrepreneur, seeking nothing but his own gain in a capitalist, commercial system in which he is a privileged member. His romantic account of his own development as an artist, who overcame a speech impediment and now only wants to bring pleasure and entertainment to others based on the authenticity of his own feelings, is a typical obfuscation of the forces really in play in his success: privilege, class, wealth, knowledge, technology, and so forth. No one can require or demand that Mr. Omar turn his talents or his assets towards his nation or towards political or educational work in general. But we can understand that his expressions of malaise and apathy, his retreat into so-called authentic expression, and so forth–are socially and economically facilitated.

    This one was indeed a talk with *American* attitude.

  4. A sane analyses of the present situation in Pakistan by Adil. Most elites in Pakistan are living in a state of denial as to how pathetic the situation there continues to be. Until the ugliness of the reality actually touches them personally, they will continue to remain in this apathy. Hoping for things to improve though.. Good analyses Adil!

  5. I don’t resonate with rap by and large though it has caught me once or twice. I think it’s about rage, anger, wanting to be heard, left out souls crying out to be heard because they are as valid as anybody. And it’s valid yes of course, an expression and perhaps at times art. This form seems to have to contain the words fuck fucker and motherfucker or some such along with awareness and good criticism of society, the world. Though Adil Omar says he is apolitical and reluctant to lose his life by responding to certain questions ( a statement in and of itself), he does seem to get enough out of what he thinks undercover of rhyme and fast talking.

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