Love Can Reign: Imran Raza’s Work Features in American Media
A Pakistan Link Report


Imran Raza at Geo Studios for “Hammarah
Ghar” (Our Home) Video

Pakistan Link is proud to present a multi-talented Pakistani-American young man of ideas, letters, film and music whose enlightened philosophy and consistent activism is laser-focused at bringing a paradigm shift in the thoughts and emotions of Pakistani youth in Pakistan and all over the world, thereby positively influencing and reorienting the perception of Pakistanis and Pakistan by the West and the rest of the world.

Allergic to seeking publicity, USC-educated Imran Raza, who attended both the Marshal School of Business and the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has nevertheless been thrust into the limelight of American media as his work has been featured in the CBS Early Show, USA Today, CNN, Fox News, Fox and Friends, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Weekly Standard, the Geraldo Rivera Show, the O’Reilly Factor, Jung, Geo, TV One, Aag, Dawn, Times of India and many other media outlets.

In a historic first, Imran Raza and his Sufi Rock Band, Sonic Ashtanga, recorded a song openly condemning the Taliban and Al Qaeda. “Hammarah Ghar” (Our Home) also featuring three-time Grammy winner Anton Pukshansky and the vocalist of Pakistani pop sensation Raeth, Rahat Ali Khan.

Imran Raza wrote the song and is the lead vocalist along with Wajih. It is a powerful methodic tune calling to the bravery of the Pakistani people tobanish these evil forces “Out of Our Home” (Nikalo Inko Hammaray Ghar Se). Geo Television’s Imran Aslam commissioned a stunning rock video for this song directed by Asad Pathan and produced by youth-oriented Geo Channel “Aag”. This video played every hour during its debut. Now it is routinely played anytime an act of terror is committed in Pakistan.


Imran Raza with Faraz Anwar for the video shoot of ‘Fly with Us’

For his upcoming Sufi-Rock super-project, Sonic Ashtanga’s “Love Can Reign”, Imran has already collaborated with the legendary Slash (Guns and Roses, Velvet Revolver), Pat Boone, Matt Sorum (Guns and Roses, Velvet Revolver & the Cult), Lanny Cordola (House of Lords, Beach Boys, Global Sound Lodge), James Lugo (Dokken), Faraz Anwar (Mizraab), Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction, Camp Freddy), Anton Pukshansky (3 Time Grammy Winner), Donovan Leitch Jr.(Camp Freddy, Nancy Boy), Rahat Ali Khan and many others.

C ommenting on his collaboration with Imran the legendary producer Lanny Cordola,who has worked with A-List musicians from Beach Boy to Slash stated: “…I am traveling to Pakistan on the first week of August to continue my pledge of working for peace through music. My dear friend Imran is also working diligently on this aim using his enormous talents to bring hope and harmony to India and Pakistan. We both find a profound connection to J ohn Coltrane and his soul hymn ‘ A Love Supreme’…love can change hearts, love can heal and most certainly love can reign……blessings, Lanny”

Imran is the product of both the worlds: America and Pakistan. Born in Pakistan he spent his initial childhood at Masroor Air Force Base where his father Mr KarimRaza, a civil servant, was heading the Accounting and Auditing of Pakistan Air Force and in Rawalpindi where Mr Raza was the Assistant Military Accountant General of Pakistan. The later part of his childhood Imran spent on USC campus, Los Angeles where his father did post-graduate work as a Senior Civil Servant from Pakistan sponsored by the US State Department of State. Later, after the family settled in America, Imran kept visiting Pakistan every summer.

Imran has always been concerned about the achievements and image of Pakistani-American youth. He was elected at the age of 17 as the President of Youth Group, Islamic Society of Orange County and also benefited from the teaching and guidance of Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi.

Imran’s bold documented journey in Pakistan began in 2005 when he went at the invitation of Pakistan Army to witness the historic opening of the border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir after the tragic earthquake. Imran visited both sides of the border and filmed his documentary “Shattered Roots”. Since then he has been spending a lot of time in Pakistan, firsthand experiencing the culture of fear and destruction Al-Quaida has wrought. Since a failed kidnapping attempt by Jamat-ul-Dawa in 2005 Government of Pakistan has been providing Imran a 16-man round the clock security detail comprised of the elite forces. Imran observed that they are incredibly professional commandoes whose cover enables him to express many things other artists from the region would like to say but can’t dare due to the extremist threats.

Pakistan Link was the first Pakistani-American newspaper to cover Imran Raza when he received accolades at the prestigious University of Southern California’s film school in May of 2003 for his short film Iman (Faith). University of Southern California Film School Professor Oscar Williams then declared Raza “a talent we bow to.”

Imran recently sat down with the Pakistan Link for an exclusive interview:

PL: You have embraced serious topics for your music and films. What is your message?

Imran: The most important elements for society in Pakistan and for the rest of the world for that matter are to genuinely embrace the values of liberty, plurality and human rights. The great social danger that extremists and dictators pose is that they wish to violently impose their own way of life on everyone. As an artist I wish people to embrace each other’s differences to bring upon a new era of peace and harmony worldwide free from the fear of violence and terror. I believe that if we can make an impact on the youth of the world by teaching peace, love and tolerance we can counter all extremists’ movements by taking away their most precious resource, the impressionable minds of the youth.

PL: You've spent a great deal of the last seven years in Pakistan. What inspired you to go back?

Imran: I was born in Pakistan and lived there until I was 3 1/2 years old. I have spent many summers of my childhood back in Pakistan. When I finished studying film in the summer of 2003, I wanted to re-discover the land of my birth and to connect with my cultural heritage as an artist. What began as a one-year journey ended up never really ending. In 2005 I was invited by the Pakistan Army to witness the historic opening of the border in Kashmir. It was such a beautiful moment as we were on a cleared minefield and there were crowds gathered on the Pakistan side who were yearning to be reunited with their friends and family across the Line of Control. I decided at that point to document my journey back into Pakistan and it has been an amazing, wondrous experience.

PL: Do you believe "Love Can Reign" can and will elevate peace and harmony?

Imran: I know that scientific research has proven that music alters both brain waves and chemistry. I believe of all the art forms, music is the one which speaks most directly to our hearts and souls. My musical mentor and producer, Lanny Cordola, firmly believes in the power of music to alter the way we perceive and relate to one another. I agree with this theory. Working on this project has definitely softened my own heart towards my fellow man and brought me closer to God. It is my hope that when the record is finished, people will respond in the same way. If it has a positive effect on the way the people of Pakistan and India perceive and relate to one another, then it would be a tremendous honor upon all the musicians who have collaborated on this project.

PL : The cover to Love Can Reign depicts a Predator drone dropping peace signs over a heart in the sky. What does that signify?


(Left): Cover Art for “Love Can Reign;” (Center): Pat Boone, American icon, who recorded with Imran’s Sonic Ashtanga; (Right): Slash, lead guitarist for “Love Can Reign”

Imran: The heart is a metaphor for the soul of the world, which is yearning for peace and harmony. The predator dropping peace signs rather than bombs signifies the hope that instead of investing so heavily in the war machine, mankind would be so much better off with those resources being spent on improving human life. When Pat Boone and I were recording at Gilby Clarke's studio, he said to me "I've come to the conclusion that instead of dropping bombs on people, we should drop pamphlets saying God is Love." He hadn't seen the cover at that point, so I showed it to him. It's amazing to me that we were here working on this project and what he said was so in line with the message of the cover art.

PL: What inspired you to create your Sufi Rock Band, Sonic Ashtanga?

Imran: Since I was a child I absolutely adored rock music. I was singing the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky when I was 2 1/2 years old and still living in Pakistan. As a child I also remember my maternal grandmother devotionally patronizing a Sufi shrine of Karachi. I have the fondest memories of Thursday nights at that shrine when hundreds of people would gather in the main hall and listen to Qawalli performances. In the nineties, I was fortunate enough to have met Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and seen him perform in an intimate setting. From that moment on, I wanted to bring together the sounds of my two musical loves. In my teens my two favorite music acts were Guns n Roses and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan so it is wonderful to have made "Love Can Reign" with Slash and Matt Sorum from Guns n Roses along with Rahat Ali Khan and other amazing Sufi musicians from Pakistan. The song itself is a metaphor for the joys of collaborative effort.

 PL: As a musician, what is your greatest achievement to date?

Imran: "Love Can Reign." But it is still a work in progress.

PL: Do you think your approach to music has changed since you've become a music composer?

Imran: I've started to look at the tone, structure and rhythm of sound with far greater clarity.

PL: With Love Can Reign being such a powerful entity, does it have the potential to bring visionaries from the non-profit sector together?

Imran: Whenever music can move people towards empathy and charity it is a victory for the forces of good. John Coltrane believed that listening to positive-minded music made people more charitable and improved their general well-being.  

PL: What is your interpretation of the word love?

Imran: Love is an energy that changes the way people perceive and relate to one another. It is an energy that must be cultivated so that it dominates our world. I believe that love can, and will reign. I believe each of us should seek to purify our intentions of anger, jealousy, ill-will and instead focus on allowing love to reign over us, then the world will become a far better place.

PL: In what ways do you plan to spread your message to the Pakistani-American community and to the mainstream American communities?

Imran: Through my music and films. We will also be touring campuses starting with Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California.

PL: What effect do you seek to create with your music?

Imran : It is my hope that people will come together in the spirit of joy.

PL: Critics have asserted that you are employing a carrot and stick approach with Love Can Reign on the one hand and aggressive metal Sufi songs such as "Hammarah Ghar," which urges the populace to drive the Taliban and Al-Qaeda out of Pakistan. What exactly are you trying to say? 

 Imran: When you have a home for your family, you could not have love flourish if a foreign entity invaded it and stripped everyone of their rights. The same is true for a country. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are foreign elements in Pakistan yet they wish to violently impose their way of life upon the populace. In order to have the values of liberty, plurality and human rights flourish Pakistan has to remove these elements from the country.

PL: Finally, what is your vision for the future of Sonic Ashtanga?

 Imran: To become a powerful voice in the world for those whose human rights are violated. The work of Sonic Ashtanga seeks to inspire people to rise above negativity and embrace constructive values.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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