How to live a ‘note’worthy life

By Zain Rasheed Channa
Fri, 09, 19

As an A-Level student whose identity is forged by my guitar, these issues are the ones I face on a day-to-day basis....


For young and aspiring musicians, it has always been a mystery how bands in Pakistan like Strings, Vital Signs and Junoon became successful. How did they find the balance between academics and creativity? Is music really a viable career in Pakistan? And, how does the study of music and playing it enrich one? These are some of the most common questions which pop up in young people’s minds.

As an A-Level student whose identity is forged by my guitar, these issues are the ones I face on a day-to-day basis. The struggle to maintain good grades and decisions regarding future career choices, while not compromising my love for and dedication towards music. After all, if Albert Einstein could state ‘I often think in music...I see my life in terms of music’, while being arguably the world’s most renowned scientist, I aspire to achieve my goals and dreams while striking equilibrium in my life, too!

“Without music,life would be a mistake.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

Music is of great significance in a person’s life. Music can not only transport a person to a state of relaxation, it also helps in expressing oneself when words cannot. The six strings on a guitar or the 88 keys on a keyboard can enable a person to say something they cannot otherwise say. A single note can also speak a thousand words and make you feel a thousand emotions just like a painting can; and it is always open to interpretation. Music can heal you, break you or even change you as it speaks to the soul. It is a panacea and an agent of positivity. Moreover, music and songs in the past have been used to address meaningful and monumental issues. The renowned singer John Lennon promoted peace with his song ‘ Imagine ‘ and Eddie Vedder sang about the rise of a culture of greed in ‘Society’. Songs have also been used to pay tribute, for example Ali Zafar, a famous singer in Pakistan honoured the martyrs of the tragic APS school attack in Peshawar with his song, ‘Urain gey’. Music can provide solace and comfort, it can inspire and galvanise into action, it can even condemn and criticise. There are many uses of music.

We often hear stories about how famous musicians gave up college to pursue music. However, that is not the only solution to fulfil your dream. Education is as important as music is. It is possible to find balance between academics and music. In three easy steps we can create balance. Number one is to prioritise your goals. One should know whether they want to pursue a career in the music industry or if it is simply a hobby. Step two is that after you know what you’re prioritising, do not abandon the secondary task. Set an equal or similar amount of time as you would spend on your goals for both tasks. The last step is to take criticism positively. Many musicians get depressed due to the amount of criticism they get, but one should learn from criticism and apply it in a constructive way to improve one’s abilities. It is not easy, but it is certainly not impossible. As we know, musicians like Lady Gaga, Salman Ahmed, Faisal Kapadia and John Legend went to college and have successful careers. It is always beneficial to study literature and creative writing for song-writing. Meaningful lyrics can make a song even more arousing and dramatic. The close link between lyrics and literature was best established when Bob Dylan became a Nobel Laureate for Literature in 2016 ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’. Music can benefit from academics and musicians, in turn, can help define new boundaries of academia.

While studying music may seem boring as you just want to play your instrument, it is interesting to note that studying music theory enables one to understand music better, communicate with fellow musicians and builds confidence. It is important to realise that music is a universal language. It does not matter if you’re playing music in a totally different part of the world as long as you know how to use the language of music.

A career in the music industry is viable. There are various options such as being a member of a band, music producer, sound engineer, music journalist, etc. It is not always necessary to be a singer or an instrumentalist. It’s not always about glory and fame. While those talented and lucky enough to reach global recognition through music can also earn large fortunes, other jobs in the music industry pay just as well as other regular jobs. Success can be measured through other benchmarks and a number of awards like Oscars and Grammys are bestowed on producers, sound engineers and technicians, too.

Music is about bringing others, as well as yourself, peace. Aside from an emotional response to music, there is scientific proof of the benefits it brings to our health. Music gives pleasure to a person by releasing dopamine in the brain, as proved by Laura Ferrari in her multichannel fNIRS study,’ The Influence of Music on Prefrontal Cortex during Episodic of Verbal information ‘ It is therapeutic, uplifting, and has actual health benefits! Music can help regulate a workout by establishing a tempo for breathing through exercise. Stanford University research has found that listening to music is as effective as medication when dealing with some forms of depression. Hospitals around the world use music therapy for a number of ailments ranging from aiding stroke victim’s recovery, to memory exercises for Alzheimer’s patients, to helping ease pain in patients with serious injuries.

However, conservative Pakistani society frowns upon the idea of playing music, let alone being a musician. Not only do they believe it’s morally ‘wrong’, but also that it is highly unstable as a career. While it is true that not everyone makes it big in the music industry, but is there guaranteed stability in any other career? Over the years, due to the revival of the music industry in Pakistan, it can be said there are lots of great opportunities in it. Coke Studio, Nescafe Basement as well as Pepsi Battle of Bands have given recognition to musicians as well as singers. The winner of Pepsi Battle of Bands Season 2, the alternative-rock band, Kashmir received a lot of appreciation and recognition. Among the very few bands of Pakistan, Kashmir has managed to make their name by composing catchy and evocative songs like ‘Khuwaab’. Moreover, music competitions such as ‘Grammart’ by Karachi Grammar School, provide young people exposure, and the opportunity to meet fellow musicians, and experts in the form of the judges. It is because of such platforms that Pakistan’s music industry is now a place for a viable career, but achievements depend on immense amount of hard work and dedication.

Pakistan has everything to offer to a musician with its rewarding platforms like Nescafe Basement and Coke Studio. At the end of the day it all depends on your passion and commitment. If you’re driven by its force, you will not let anything stop you.