Pluralism and the PSL anthem

The PSL anthem brought with it an uproar yet again in 2021 with two opposing schools of thought, one that endorsed encouragement for the anthem per se and the other that showed vehement (yet witty, courtesy netizens and their trending meme culture) disdain over the composition featuring four different artists. Though what remains ignored in this virtual war over an anthem is the idea of pluralism, or some insight into our intolerance for diversity even within our cocooned nation.

The most recent discourse around content creation and media in Pakistan has been brimming with terms like banned, cancelled, censored, and withdrawn while public sentiments like mass dismissal and trashing have eagerly jumped on the same bandwagon. In just the past few months, Pakistani TV saw the removal of several primetime serials and advertisements, banning of apps like TikTok and Tinder, as well as blocked access to premium Pakistani web series like Churails and eventually the choking of domestic subscriptions to the entire ZEE5 digital content portal.

Why is the idea of pluralism central to the debate raging over this new cricket anthem? Well, our social media savvy public seems to completely forget that this anthem is as importantly a metaphor for diversity as it is for cricket. It is imperative to read between the lines in music and especially understand that an ‘anthem’ is ideally supposed to be pluralistic and not monolithic. Whilst all previous PSL anthems have been sung and composed by men, the PSL6 anthem finally lends itself to two women artists who not only represent over 50% of the population but also embody almost half of the total cricket fans across the globe. What is more intriguing is that in ‘Groove Mera’, the ratio of male and female singers is equal, a sex ratio unseen, unachieved and unheard of in any industry or recent body of work. So at least for this, the anthem deserves to be lauded.

By featuring two women of different ages and backgrounds, the track composed by Xulfi and penned by Adnan Dhool, possibly paves the path for the broader definition of anthems on the whole. Not only does it embody an act of resistance to the recent baseless ban bonanza and cancel-culture prevalent in Pakistan today but also gives voice to diverse artists, different forms of music (contemporary folk, funk and rap), thereby creating a space for people of all age groups to boogie. Cricket isn’t solely about men or nationalistic fervour because a lot of women and non-binary folk wholeheartedly consume cricket and all cricketers have a diverse fan-following. The anthem is making a statement which extends beyond rhythm, groove and beat and therein lies its pluralism.

By not letting a single voice, solo artist, one language or a particular musical form dominate the entire track, the producers of this anthem have inadvertently waved the flag of pluralism in addition to the flag of patriotism. Can we now not hope for more regional languages, different genders, artists of diverse socio-cultural and music backgrounds to unite for a PSL7 anthem in 2022? Can we hope for a futuristic PSL that incorporates national and international women’s cricket teams? Yes we can, only if we get rid of this reigning culture of impulsive keyboard wars and verbal diarrhoea surrounding a single sound track. This unnecessary hatred where we pit our own country’s artists against each other, trash anything mildly individualistic and become hypercritical of a particular creative piece of work is a highly juvenile tactic which is regrettably self-sabotaging.

Is the PSL6 anthem perfect and devoid of flaws; no. Will this debatably groovy composition appeal to seasoned musicians and classically trained composers? Probably not. Could more compositional efforts to add mélange flavours to the track be made? Definitely yes. But what is noteworthy is that in an immensely cult-centric society, this anthem is plausibly unique and has reasons to be celebrated. The question to ask is, in a land inhabited by myriad communities who cumulatively speak over two dozen regional languages, is it fair to have a monismus anthem representing an entity as diverse as PSL?

Where is our patriotism and Pakistaniat when it comes to lauding original musical composition, local or regional artists and a soft effort towards equality between the sexes? The dogma surrounding the PSL anthem seems to be loosening, and there seems to be a baseless resistance to the change in its semblance. It is high time we acknowledge the fact that media, music, and television on the whole not just impact our society but also play a role in shaping impressionable minds that in turn imbibe values, actions and the soft but potent messaging.

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