Essential New Music: Various Artists “Pakistan: Folk And Pop Instrumentals 1966-1976”

Rock ‘n’ roll is pretty easy to find around the globe, but it hasn’t been the global lingua franca for decades. Buttonhole a youngster on the street in Bamako, Singapore or Moscow, and they’ll tell you that they want to be a rapper or a DJ. But back in the 1960s, kids around the globe not only wanted to pick up electric guitars; quite a few of them wanted to sound like the same guitarists: the guys fronting the Shadows and the Ventures. The music on Pakistan: Folk And Pop Instrumentals 1966-1976 documents how tremolo and twang thrived and survived in an environment quite different from the one that nurtured it.

In the mid-’60s, Pakistan underwent a brief period of cultural thaw that made it possible for kids in Karachi to grow their hair and pick up electric guitars and line up to play nightclub stages. A musical business that could circulate singles by the million never grew up to support them, but a lucky few got to cut incidental music for movies and television shows. The Panthers, the Mods and the Bugs are just a few of the combos on this 22-track compilation, which shows how well reverberant guitars, perky organs and watusi beats go with folkloric melodies.

The whole thing came to a crashing end in 1977, when a coup ushered in a wave of social repression and all un-Islamic entertainment got shut down. But like a comet that blazes through the sky every few years, this music is impossible to keep down. Pakistan: Folk And Pop Instrumentals was available for a moment as a double LP in 2011; now it’s been reissued as a CD or download. However you take your music, don’t sleep on this set again. It’s too much fun to put off for another decade.

—Bill Meyer