Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - The Sonic Visuality of Majlis VCDs From South Punjab

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Amaltas, Lower Ground Floor

During the first ten days of Muharram, modular VCD (video compact-disc) stores grouped together in the video markets of the Pakistani city of Lahore temporarily add another moving image product to their usual stock of glitch-ridden films, Hindi film songs, and pornography. Professionally filmed majlis gatherings, primarily performed in and around Multan in South Punjab, are sold in packaged VCDs featuring as many as a dozen varied performers of part-sung, part spoken noha and marsiya laments. The highlights of these variety performances are rarely – if ever – sold on solely audio platforms such as CD or mp3s loaded onto USBs. Produced and released by small “CD Houses” often operating near Imam Bargahs or shrines associated with Shia communities, these VCDs travel on the circulatory networks maintained by the ever-shrinking trade in pirated, informal, and grey-market video in Pakistan.

One particular zakir (majlis singer), Imran Haider Kazmi embodies the aural-visual specificities of the seasonal majlis VCD through a repertoire of brief, explosive performances often lasting less than a minute.  While Kazmi’s skill expresses the triumvirate structure of the majlis - split between the input of the convenor, preacher, and audience - a fourth agential body is made material in the filmed extracts of Kazmi’s performances. This paper will argue that Pakistani majlis performances such as Kazmi’s achieve impact through their sonic visuality, drawing on the affective power of the glitch-ridden surface of the VCDs, the distorted layers of the amplified sound, and the intimate and reactive relationship with the audience.

Timothy Cooper

University College London, United Kingdom


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2 - The Sonic Visuality of Majlis VCDs From South Punjab

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