Danish Rahi is a fascinating man. He is a musician, designer, writer, and producer. He is also a student, and a part of corporate America. So when our good friend Essam Choudhary introduced us to Danish, tell us why we wouldn't reach out to this multifaceted young man and find out more about him?
So reach out we did, and what we learned from him in an exclusive interview for Mag4you.com is that Danish comes closest to the artist-philosophers of say the 19th/early 20th century, than any other artist we have interviewed before. He has the ideas one would expect from a seasoned political strategist; yet he seems to have carved a role for himself that does not entail implementing those ideas himself, but creating a mass awareness and acceptance of a new stream of consciousness. This interview is not just for fans of Danish's music, but anyone with an interest in unique thoughts about how nations and communities can move into a mainstream place in today's global society.
There are so many facets to your life – musician, author, graphic designer, TV show host, student – so help us out here and introduce yourself to our readers...
Well! I get that question often and my answer is always that I see myself as an explorer and a student and I’ll always be those two things because I like to explore new grounds and learn new things. I am always hungry for knowledge and I think if God has gifted me with multiple talents I must practice them to the fullest. I am not the only one with such a theory; I would give the example of Jamal Shah who is a painter, actor, singer, producer, institutor and more, or Leonardo da Vinci who was a musician, inventor, painter, architect, scientist and more.
I see everything as design. For me design is in everything I do whether it’s graphics, music, an idea, a thought process or a business model. I even see religious books as books of design; they talk about designing lifestyles, infrastructures, relationships and much more. Technically I can apply the graphic design elements such as balance, texture, value, direction, size and others into my music or vise versa.
Tell us about your music to start off – when and how did you get inspired to compose and sing?
Music is my passion. I have been involved in it since childhood. I had the youngest band in Pakistan by the name of Amadeus. This was in the late 1980’s when media opportunities for pop music were close to none. I’ve created and collapsed many bands since, including Symphony Slaves and Shorr, and worked with various musicians and producers. In 1998 I left for the US in search of higher education and started producing my solo album soon after I finished my bachelors. That album was FIZA-The Evolution released in 2004. It still holds the title of being the only Pakish album to have a well-sequenced global distribution; it is available from US to Pakistan and everywhere in between!
About my inspirations, I’d say that they are diverse and complex. One can be inspired directly or indirectly. I get amused and inspired by talented people around me who could be writers, designers, architects, musicians or even businesspersons. As I said earlier, I see everything as design and I am inspired by good design.
What music genre do you mostly perform? Do we get to see you at any concerts or album signings in the near future?
The purpose of my music is to experiment with ideas and create something unique in each attempt. At the same time I like to keep it fun and appealing for the listeners. Most of the music falls under “Alternative Pop”. The best thing about producing music in New York is that I am able to tap into a talent pool comprised of musicians from all over the world. This allows me to leverage truly diverse influences. I do plan to start the next phase of performances once the forthcoming album goes into post-production and do a world tour soon after it is released. 4. What is your upcoming album like and when is it coming out?
The theme of the next album is “soul searching” and it is in its beginning stages. We are currently finalizing the poetry. I am working with some of the best poets in the industry such as Tahir Warsi in India, Kailash Mathur in the US, and some Turkish, Pakish and Persian writers. More writers may join in as this project moves forward. It is a complex project and some of the work will be politically incorrect. It will be very different from my last album which, budget wise, was one of the biggest Pakish projects. I cannot disclose any numbers at this point but I can hint that the intentions are to make it the biggest Pakish projects ever in history of the Pakish music industry, Insha Allah. We do have the logistics and resources available to make that happen so the least we can do is attempt. I do plan to push the album project into recording phase by the end of this year and release phase by the end of the next year.
So by the end of next year will mean a long gap between your last album and the next one…
In today’s hi-tech industry we have the logistics to finish an entire album in a month or even less but still we come across projects that take years to finish. The difference is obvious. It comes down to the project objectives. If one is after money and fame, then time is an important factor; but when you are after quality, exploring unexplored grounds, trying to bring artists from different parts of the world together to combine their talents for one cause, and deliver a substantial message to the masses of the world, then one becomes obligated to not put shackles of time on creativity. However, to do justice to the project without compromising the objectives, we are working with an analytical approach but keeping flexible timelines.
What is “Creative Take Off”?I have long contemplated ideas of establishing balance in the resources and functions between the developed and developing worlds. This contemplation kept leading me to one answer: education. Not just ordinary education but high-tech, top of the line education. Creative Takeoff is one such project. It is basically a graphic design TV show that provides inside, technical information about the industry. It could be a vehicle to transfer knowledge from the best of the best in the creative industry here in the US and to the masses, exposing them to top of the line software and programs used in the industry today. We will be serving them with credible information that can have a positive affect on their career development process. My company Soularis Studios is in the process of pitching the program to Turkey and Pakistan for production. In Pakistan I intend to give the project to “Karachi School of Art” where students can get involved in the process directly. The pilot of the show is available on my official website.
Let’s switch gears to your design career – what have you done so far and what are you doing at Pratt Institute?
I come from an artistic background; both of my parents are professional painters. I grew up playing in studios and art galleries in Pakistan, England and France; helping my father with murals and fiberglass sculptures sometimes over 50 feet tall! I remember when my father would divide his team of artists into day and night shifts and work would continue 24/7 and I always tried to be in both shifts trying to finish the work. Such experiences have been helpful for me in having a solid base that I can leverage all my life.
Design has always been an important part of my life. My undergrad was in computer graphics from Troy State. I have worked professionally as a designer for over a decade now, mostly in the pharmaceutical industry, but I don’t let corporate America dictate my ambitions. I am currently working for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s creative department. So far the experience has been amusing to me (and for them too), therefore I continue to practice it.
I am also a graduate student at Pratt Institute in New York. I am working towards my Masters degree in Design Management. Pratt has proved itself as an irrefutable resource with substantial knowledge banks and has equipped me with the tool box that I need for seeking innovative and strategic solutions in the industry and acquiring a leadership role via intelligent design.
Your book on nation branding – tell us about it. What is it all about, what inspired you, and when do we get to read it?
Well! That could be the million-dollar question. As I have mentioned on my site and will mention in the book that “the way people think about themselves and others cannot be enforced but can be influenced”. The concept of branding a product can also be applied on a group of people or in this case an entire nation. Sometime countries need to be looked at as organizations or corporations. The core values need to be determined or reiterated, a vision has to be present, and teamwork is required. Interestingly there are several nations who are working on their branding and it is paying off for them. In the book I talk about this branding in detail and also discuss the value of perceptions. How and why people develop certain perceptions that can lead to bad decisions, political shortcomings or war.
I am pivoting the book around Pakistan because it makes an interesting case by being one of the most populous nations in the world and the only Muslim nuclear power with a significant influx of ideas and lifestyles. This is a crucial period in time that demands the need to inject rational elements in order to avoid extremism at both ends. It all comes down to how a family wants to be identified? How do they want others to look at and think of them? I am using the word family because it is less selfish than using the word ‘individual’. In a family we have to be considerate to other individuals and sometimes, we have to sacrifice a little.
You have coined a new phrase, “Pakish”, as an alternate to “Pakistani” – tell us more about it…
Pakish is a word that I have created to refer to the people of Pakistan or anything related to Pakistan for example Pakish cuisine, Pakish culture and so on. I do not oppose the word “Pakistani” but I strongly believe that Pakish will be more helpful in branding Pakistan. It is short and catchy, it flows much better, and in my months of experimenting with people from all over the world, I have seen that it picks up quickly and people enjoy using it. I am currently in the process of convincing the senior leadership to use it and also urge the people to use it on daily basis.
In the book I talk in detail about such tangible branding strategies. I also talk about some personal experiences, future predictions and ways to trigger leadership. The book will serve as a roadmap to prosperity and achieving balance during the times of complex and opposing ideologies. This project requires tremendous amount of searching, researching, brainstorming, confirmations and verifications. I am not in a rush to finish it but I hope to have a draft by mid next year.
LET'S GO "PAKISH"
Pakish is a word that I have created to refer to the people of Pakistan or anything related to Pakistan for example Pakish cuisine, Pakish culture and so on...
I agree that "Pakistani" conveys a meaning on the literal level but to a limited audience...
India has gained more recognition on the global stage as Indian compared to Hindustani and there are reasons for that...
How did you coin this term? Is it inspired by words such as English, Turkish, or Finnish? And how is it different from "Pakistani"? As we know, the "istan" in Pakistan means "land" or "habitat" and therefore Pakistani means "of or from the Pak land". How does the "ish" in Pakish differ from "istani" in Pakistani?
I conceived the term as more of a strategic tool then an inspiration. It is a conscious long-term attempt to pull a nation out of the third world. It is also a conscious attempt to subconsciously invite the global community to engage in traditions and softer elements of Pakistan into their everyday life. For example a Chicken Curry and Basmati Rice dish in a cafeteria somewhere in California does not always have to be Indian, it could also be labeled as Pakish. How bizarre it may sound but such small everyday examples that we take for granted, makes a huge difference in developing global perceptions and can even affect geo-political and geo-economic conditions.
To answer the second part of your question, I agree that "Pakistani" conveys a meaning on the literal level but to a limited audience. However! We need to look at the bigger picture. People of Afghanistan are not referred to as Afghanistani but Afghans; the people of Turkmenistan as Turkmen. Even people and culture of India has gained more recognition on the global stage as Indian compared to Hindustani and there are reasons for that. My forthcoming book talks about this in detail including human physiology and brand as a promise. Also I want to be clear about the fact that I have introduced the term Pakish as an addition or alternative. It will face some criticism but in the long run it will be used by the masses.
What is the concept of “soft power” that you speak of in the context of your book?
As we know the term “BRIC” that refers to the world’s fastest growing economies. Brazil, Russia, India and China. However, when Pakistan claimed to be the second fastest growing economy right behind China, did the global community introduce a new term something like CPIBR? The answer is no! China and India are the most talked about countries in the MBA classes worldwide. This is not a coincidence; one has to appreciate China and India for promoting themselves strategically.
A nation has to question what is the first thing that comes to someone’s mind (especially people who are not natives of that nation) when they hear the name of a country? For example, what would a Hungarian, Irish or Egyptian person think when you mention the word Pakistan, compared to the thoughts that will be triggered by using the word India or Turkey or Australia? Soft power is the only way to influence those thoughts positively. It is a complicated and long-term process but it is much more effective.
A nation has to question what is the first thing that comes to someone’s mind (especially people who are not natives of that nation) when they hear the name of a country?
Soft power is the only way to influence those thoughts positively. It is a complicated and long-term process but it is much more effective.
Having said that, it is also important to understand the difference between modernization and westernization. Many countries today are worried about external influences exploiting their culture. This responsibility falls on the leadership of that specific nation. I predict that not only Pakistan but also the entire Muslim world in coming years will face a growing challenge of controlling external influences. The leaders of the Muslim world must steer their nations towards strategic modernization but by using their own elements and by finding their strengths within. It will be a critical balancing act. I believe that while technology, logistics, and certain business models should be welcomed and encouraged, at the same time elements such as alcoholism and the ecstasy culture should be filtered out. I discuss these points in detail in the book. EXTERNAL
I predict that not only Pakistan but also the entire Muslim world in coming years will face a growing challenge of controlling external influences.
The leaders of the Muslim world must steer their nations towards strategic modernization but by using their own elements and by finding their strengths within...
What are your views on the concept of brain-drain? Do you feel that people cheat their birth country in some ways by adopting another home country?
As we know that immigrants who are extraordinarily talented, highly educated, or offer unique skills, find it easier to settle down in western nations. Western nations welcome positive additions to their societies. Effects on the native countries of these immigrants have been and still are significant. Imagine a nation losing thousands of doctors, engineers and artists each year. Their human capital is being compromised on a daily basis.
But on the question of cheating the birth country, in today’s “flat world” one does not have to be physically at a certain geographical position to make a difference. Immigrants, especially those with credible and technical experience, must understand their partial responsibility towards their native countries. I often come across people who ask me when talking about this issue that what has our native country done for us? The answer is in another question: who is the country? The country is (or was) you! So the question should be: what have you done for yourself?
When they point the argument towards the system and governments, I suggest them the truth about the rapidly changing geo-economic situations where the governments are failing to achieve their timely goals in many countries because they are not setup as aggressive corporations. Each country has its issues but the bottom line is that the private sectors, individuals and especially corporations with significant global footprints must join in as a team. The amount of change that is occurring around us can overwhelm the governments. So to sum up your question, one must contribute in someway towards the development in their native countries and the nations as a whole must develop incentives on strategic levels in order to develop and retain their native human capital.
Working, living, studying in the US in the post-9/11 world – what has been your experience as a young Pakistan Muslim male which is the prime suspect group according to prevalent administrative definitions?
I often joke around with my American friends that “I am more American than you because you were just born here and didn’t do any specific struggle to become an American. While I crossed the world and have ‘earned’ my American status with hard work and dedication”. The best thing I like about America is diversity; it is one country that provides me the option to mingle with scholars and artists of all religions, faiths and backgrounds. I have friends from literally all over the world. I owe a lot to this country as it served me with the proving grounds and knowledge banks that I needed. And as I mentioned before, it’s not just the government, it is mainly a support system that includes everyday people, businesses, institutions and corporations that help develop a society and its people.
I never faced any issues being an immigrant but it is very important to understand that the Muslim community and the Pakish community here in the US can play a crucial role towards the so far surreal concept of world peace. Being in the umbrella of a tolerant country that supports logical efforts and freedom of speech, these communities are capable of bringing a rational and strategic revolution in Pakistan and the Muslim world and help them steer in the direction of moderation, calculated modernization and economic success. At the same time they can help the western world understand the true picture of Pakistan and the Muslim world composed on the basis of their visual and performing arts, vibrant culture and values.
...the Muslim community and the Pakish community here in the US can play a crucial role towards the so far surreal concept of world peace
...we all as a global community must make sure that the developing nations achieve their economic goals together and do not derail from the track of prosperity and progress
At the same time I’d say that the environment should promote such mechanisms not only for the sake of Pakistan but also for the sake of the world. I must warn that an unstable Pakistan could be just as dangerous for itself as it could be for its neighbors and the west. The economies today are interconnected with multiple interdependencies. Therefore we all as a global community must make sure that the developing nations achieve their economic goals together and do not derail from the track of prosperity and progress 14. Have you, or do you plan to use your music as a means to voice your opinion on any “serious” issues like terrorism and racial profiling, or any social/cultural issues in Pakistan? Do you think it can serve any purpose?
I do have a tendency of writing between lines but to answer your question, yes, some of the work in the next album is politically incorrect, if you would. Some of the compositions do touch on the extreme sides and differences. I believe that music can serve a huge purpose, it is an international language and people can be influenced by it.
I notice that many artists, especially in the Pakish industry produce repetitive commercial music on traditional or casual themes and we can’t blame them either as that is what sells in the regular markets. In my case, creativity, not profitability, is my prime target; so I will experiment with various new ideas.
What is the importance of positive role models for our youth? Did you have one growing up, or do you have one now?
A positive role model can compliment one’s development process substantially as long as the term “positive” is defined correctly. Positivism can mean different things to different people. For me my father has always been such an individual who has not only been a role model but he is also an inspiration. Somehow I keep coming across amazing people wherever I go, maybe because those are the kind of people I seek. I try to surround myself with people who can teach me things and who push me forward rather then pulling me back. That can even include kids because the problem isn’t whether one is able to be a good teacher but if one is willing to listen and learn.
How can performing arts provide a positive platform for younger generations from all cultures, but specifically Pakistanis? How do you think participation in creative ventures benefits the youth?
As far as Pakistan is concerned, the previous generations had laid grounds for Pakistan as a country; the challenge that is upon today’s generation is to lay grounds for a civilization. This is obviously a multigenerational process and logistically speaking an average lifespan is too short to begin with. About 2 to 3 decades are spent just to understand such situations. The best we can do is to work quickly and transfer our efforts, findings and understanding to younger generations.
Performing arts can play a critical role in doing so. The diverse and vibrant Pakish culture serves us with tremendous opportunities to perform and explore. The direct or indirect participation in creative ventures could be the answer to self-actualization and just like Italians or Hispanic communities, the Pakish youth can also not only initiate but also be a part of creative ventures. In fact representing a nation that is home to the highest mountains to the deepest deserts in the world, with tons of native dances, music instruments, arts, crafts, outfits and even languages they have a priceless and endless supply of cultural elements to work with and be proud of.
Anything you would like to say to our readers that we haven’t talked about?
I would like to stress upon the need and importance of leadership but not without the true understanding the term ‘leadership’ which means ‘to serve’. I want to urge calculating our strengths and weaknesses carefully and the importance of supporting the human right groups in Pakistan especially those fighting for women rights. They are the true soldiers fighting for a rational and civilized world who must succeed. In the end I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to share my views.