Ajam co-editor-in-chief Alex Shams interviews Shahana Rajani and Zahra Malkani about their new edited volume “Exhausted Geographies,” which explores representations of the urban space of Karachi, Pakistan through mapping.
Shahzad’s rap attempts a resurrection not only of a distinct Sindhi language, but also a Sindhi culture. His songs aren’t just in Sindhi, he also sees them as a continuation of the long Sindhi tradition of Sufi poems. While other Pakistani rappers, prominently BillyX, rap about topics deeply taboo in Pakistani society – sex and intoxicants – Shahzad seeks to reinvigorate a more traditional subject matter. But why through rap? Why resuscitate a tradition through a medium that is foreign to it? He likens it to wearing western dress when going to school; the medium does not compromise the message.
Languages such as Punjabi and Pashto offer a versatile slang to many a Pakistani street. And the streets are where lyrics overwhelmingly situate rap. The introduction of Punjabi-American rap into Pakistan invigorated its rappers by furnishing them with a vernacular familiar with their experiences. Far from a shadow of its American progenitor, contemporary Pakistani rap thrives in engaged dialectic with local and global trends in the genre.