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‘Heaven is right here in Pakistan’ – Lanny Cordola

His business card has a portrait of himself in a crisp white kurta next to his buddy, pop star Atif Aslam against the backdrop of young children huddled together sporting the peace sign with their fingers.
Guitarist Lanny Cordola — has performed with the likes of Ozzy Osborne and Guns N’ Roses. He came to Pakistan not looking to hold concerts in urban centres, instead he trekked all the way up to Swat to promote peace, through music. One doesn’t normally associate rock stars with spirituality, but Cordola’s deeply attracted to sufi mystics and shrines and is hoping that on this second visit he might be able to experience Lahore’s famed Shah Jamal dhammal. And when the politically ravaged country of ours has no faith in itself, Cordola sighs deeply and says “heaven is right here in Pakistan”. Against the backdrop of the Al Hamra, The Express Tribune spoke to the multifaceted musician on the country he, now, considers ‘home’.

Why Pakistan? Why now?

You need to ask God that (pointing to the skies). I wanted to explore the idea of using melodies for peace and social causes; to entertain people and give a voice to the voiceless. Initially a friend got me excited about working in Uganda, but that didn’t materialise, then I wanted to work in Haiti and even that, didn’t work out. I was really bummed out about that and then I decided to help out Todd Shea with his humanitarian work and that’s how Pakistan became it.

How was the Swat experience?

Swat was illuminating! It’s a place that has suffered immensely, yet people there have incredible resilience and hope. The next step for us — the Sonic Peacemakers — is to finish the song “[Pakistan] I have a dream” with Matt Sorum and Gilby Clark. It is a song that is inspired by Pakistan and by Martin Luther King.

What’s the agenda now for the Sonic Peacemakers?
We need to put together the right team, to create a world class operation, to attract major musicians and artistes and get the spotlight on Pakistan and in the beauty, within the country. We want to bear witness to the struggles of people, especially poor children and, to empower, young girls and women.

Tell us about the project you are currently involved in. It’s an ambitious undertaking with Saeen Zahoor, Arif Lohar, Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam.
I am really happy that this collaboration with Saeen has come about. I am really hopeful that this will generate lots of possibilities and I may be able to produce a record with him. I love discovering these threads between artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Saeen’s mystical sounds. There’s a whole spiritual arrangement to the set we are performing, ‘love supreme’. I am in the middle of the set performing the modern rock song ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ which was written with such innocence and purity so it gels well with the overall intention of the music.

What has impressed you most about Pakistan?

Everything and everyone has impressed me. From the spirit of the people and the musicians to discovering Pakistan’s great legacy — deep thinkers and poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Bulleh Shah. I loved visiting the Abdullah Shah Ghazi mazaar in Karachi and want to go to Shah Jamal in Lahore.

What have you enjoyed most about Pakistan?

I have enjoyed touring the country; however, I have yet to go to Bal0chistan. I want to discover more but my friends here are concerned for me so we have to be a bit cautious. My friendships in Pakistan that started with Atif, then Sameer Shami (bassist) and Sarmad and the people in the band that we have worked with, have all become like family. This just goes to show that music will connect, wherever you go.

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