Updated Mar 04, 2016 01:54am

Diplo: The latest white musician to misrepresent Pakistan

The Grammy-nominated DJ came to Islamabad to play a show for the elite and later uploaded a picture of himself in a slum
The Grammy-nominated DJ came to Islamabad to play a show for the elite and later uploaded a picture of himself in a slum

When Coldplay decided to use India as the fascinating backdrop for their music video recently, the band rubbed many the wrong way.

Grammy-nominated DJ Diplo managed to reignite more or less the same debate when he flew down to Islamabad last weekend for a performance; the electronic music producer was apparently overcome with emotion at the end of his 24 hour trip in the capital.

While I'd love to brush the above off as "just a Facebook post" or "good intentions that are poorly executed", we can't deny the west's legacy of representing South Asian countries in a way that's more condescending than accurate.

Diplo, the humanitarian

Comments on the post range from him being praised for selflessly spreading love "where most wouldn't dare to go" to his show being the "beginning of a new era" in Pakistan.

From Diplo's post, it seems pretty clear that he feels his concert could create a hope for change where none existed before: "For these kids from Islamabad Lahore or Karachi or the countryside this is the first time they have ever done that and it might not happen again for a long time. But tonight everyone danced and sang together and wished for a better future and maybe it might make it easier for it to happen."

Reading this by Diplo, I can't help but feel that under the savior white man's gaze, we will always be an exotic playground, full of slums, poor infrastructure and no outlets for leisure, a place where they can pop over for a a day or two to give us poor souls fleeting moments of elation.

Let me get one thing straight: concerts are not isolated, alien events in Pakistan. We may not have music festivals happening on a Tomorrowland scale and sure, they've dwindled over time but they're far from dead and we're not completely deprived of any form of entertainment.


Despite our circumstances, millennial Pakistanis are resilient and an adaptive bunch; we make our own fun.


And you know who's not underprivileged in the least, like he's painted them out to be? The kids who attended his gig. At tickets ranging between Rs. 5,000-Rs.10,000 a pop, Diplo doesn't get to put a benevolent spin on playing a pre-recorded playlist for us so we could feel better about our entitled lives.

For a musician, he sure delivers a tone-deaf narrative and for someone who has a reach that goes beyond just an ordinary Joe expressing his feelings on social media, he really is carelessly ignorant with the way he uses his words.

Just to put things into perspective: Diplo has over 2.5 million likes on his Facebook page Just to put things into perspective: Diplo has over 2.5 million likes on his Facebook page

The most Pakistani thing here is our reaction

That being said, I'll be the first to admit it: the backlash to Diplo's post may not be coming from the sincerest place in our hearts either.

As people belonging to the middle-to-upper echelons of society, we are offended by slums and the thought of being treated like we're not well-travelled. We're hurt by Diplo's portrayal of his time in Pakistan because his impression of the country doesn't reflect our elite status — instead, it shows off a side to the country that we'd rather not have unveiled.


How dare he presume that this was probably the first time the audience had experienced something like that and announce it to the world? Didn't he know that some of them caught him playing live in Ibiza or Vegas last summer?


Still, we're upset not only because he misrepresented electronica-loving Pakistanis but also because he misrepresented his own time here. He clearly hung out with the 'cool kids', not people living in slum housing, probably stayed in a swanky hotel and after all that, he felt like "crying" because the kids from "the countryside" were EDM concert newbies?

How could he possibly deduce all that he claims to have experienced from his minimal, seemingly comfortable experience? No pictures from Serena or Sakura or Monal, which would have been more believable rather than this one, which does nothing but fetishize our underdevelopment.

He had the chance to show people the side of Pakistan that isn't a tearjerker, that the Western media turns a blind eye to, and he blew it.

Let's not forget that Diplo isn't the first international artist to come perform in Pakistan Let's not forget that Diplo isn't the first international artist to come perform in Pakistan

To put up one photo on his Facebook, the biggest social media network out there, from the city that's probably prettier than most others in the country and have it be this, him posing in front of a run-down area? It just seems too calculated for comfort. You know what the picture was really missing? A terrorist in the background -- hey, I take my stereotypes seriously.

All this leaves me to wonder: after Diplo, who's next? Which other white entertainer is going to show up in Pakistan and take his rightful place as Gora: The Explorer?

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Comments (62) Closed



k p rao chennai Mar 03, 2016 12:20pm

Do not bother. These westerners of any nationality and any hue will always denigrate us. They are like pests. See honey bee goes from flower to flower and collects nectar and converts it to honey. House fly goes from dirt to dirt and spreads disease. The mosquito suck good blood and gives us disease. Cockroach eats our food and gives us disease. Rats eat our food, enjoys our hospitality gives us plague. So these westerners are pestilence. Why give them publicity. Neglect them and they will automatically disappear. Only high brow people who do not have any shame will follow these pests.

Raamis Mar 03, 2016 12:26pm

Hahaha "Gora the explorer" good one :-)

Hassan Mar 03, 2016 12:26pm

Very well written dude, seriously things that u have highlighted here were far ahead to comprehend if not pointed out in its real context. i thought it was some random and an unintentional pictures taken by the singer, but now it seems like it was all very well planned. we are doing good in music like coke studio and in general plus our drama industry has already been established with the revival of cinema, our drams are being imported by India, and some Arab countries, securing a 3rd place in the list of world's sexiest men, first in Asia sometime back, so things are changing and we should not expects foreigners to promote our country positively rather we should make deliberate efforts to make our impression as a progressive nation.

Hassan Mar 03, 2016 12:26pm

See Indian image v/s real India is way too different, that's exactly we need to do. people like you should come forward and show the world who we r and what we r capable of. this one jerk cannot make a difference. trust me things and perceptions are changing now.

AYK Mar 03, 2016 12:36pm

Western media portrays negative image of Pakistan....All they have to show to their audiences is a group of talibans wearing turbans and carrying AK-47 or Malala Yusufzai, when it comes to Pakistan. Such people and events do not constitute even 0.000001 percent....Rest is absolutely normal but unfortunately that is never highlighted....These foreigners come with the stereotype image of Pakistan. Even after watching young boys and girls dance on his tunes he is not ready to accept....

Umair Mar 03, 2016 12:37pm

right on the money !

Fawzia Mar 03, 2016 12:40pm

We shouldn't take, what the western man thinks about us, too seriously. After all we know what the good and bad points of our country are. This feeling comes out of the need for acceptance, compliments from a DJ are worthless.

planettrekker Mar 03, 2016 12:45pm

OK we get the point. But S. Asians are overly sensitive with a holier-than-thou, we-know-best delusional mindset. If foreigners get under our skin by crass stereotyping, please note that Bollywood, and others, routinely do the same - showing westerners as a sex-driven, money-hungry, careless, valueless, violent, foolish lot. So the sword of ignorance cuts both ways.

Red Dawn Mar 03, 2016 12:46pm

Give the man a break. He is true in many respects. And yeah, i remember my growing up and dearth of good music and eventually finding metallica and pink floyd was like a gold mine.

cricketer Mar 03, 2016 12:58pm

On his instagram account he has other photos too of Pakistan, in fact one from the concert itself.

Charlie Mar 03, 2016 01:01pm

As an educated Gora myself, i find this type of poverty porn that Diplo indulged in nauseating. Narcissistically he acts as if he is a pioneer, while remaining totally cosseted from reality in Pakistan. Nothing wrong with going to Islamabad to perform to wealthy sons and daughters of the elite, but to make a Michael Jackson like song and dance about "healing the world" is too much and if I was a Pakistani, I wouldn't stand for the condescension. I hope he reads this article and checks himself next time before acting the fool.

Khan Mar 03, 2016 01:08pm

Your target market is slum areas , why would you try to convert those who have already been converted? Rich class already going crazy for western products, they need to market their products to those in slums.

Khurram Mar 03, 2016 01:08pm

@k p rao chennai totally agree

Saeed Mashaal Bhatti Mar 03, 2016 01:17pm

They, most of the times, spew out venom about developing/underdeveloped nations whatever was being inculcated to them by their developed structure.

yarana Mar 03, 2016 01:24pm

wjhatever he said its true very sad but its true

wellwisher Mar 03, 2016 01:27pm

he showed our bad side, which existed but we did not want to see. In India these people change governments.Congress was kicked off and so were DMK,CPM, NCP and many who thought they are to rule and enjoy.Wait my Pakistani friends.Very soon rich and powerful of your country will be forced to acknowledge the neglect showered on them and attempt correction.

timetostopthis2345@outlook.com Mar 03, 2016 01:43pm

Don't blame him...look in the mirror first..perhaps time for some deep introspection before blaming everything on your visitor .....he only wrote what he saw.

Seriously Mar 03, 2016 01:45pm

Oh noes! The white man gone and said a bad thing. Give it a rest. The downtrodden neighborhood where his picture was snapped is a part of our country. I don't get why we as a nation go up in arms whenever a side that is not entirely flattering for us is exposed. Take the good with the bad and embrace who we are. Just putting up a facade for the outside isn't the way to go.

Aimal Mar 03, 2016 01:46pm

If there are slums then, what is the reason to hide. If it is a matter of shame, then something must be done to remove the shame.

Hindutavi Rakshas Mar 03, 2016 01:49pm

Stop allowing them to judge Pakistanis.

Talha Mar 03, 2016 02:33pm

I couldn't agree more. The author is spot on - "condescending" is by far the most appropriate term here. I will just add to the 'we make our own fun' vibe: Our avenues of fun are not limited to concerts. Despite disparities in income level and education, our children as a whole enjoy full childhoods.

johnab Mar 03, 2016 02:51pm

this is an excellent and really well written article!

SHAHID MAHMOOD Mar 03, 2016 03:12pm

@k p rao chennai I cannot thank you enough for this post,, Sir.

atif Mar 03, 2016 03:52pm

@k p rao chennai spot on brother, we need to take pride in what we are in the sub-continent and collaborate with each other. This world has misrepresented us for a long long time... Long live Pakistan/India/Bangladesh , we are the same people !!

Rashid Sultan Mar 03, 2016 04:11pm

Why be so sensitive? Let people see, believe and comment on what they want. There are lots of realities and what this guy saw that had an impact on him was one such reality. No point showing glitzy shopping malls and such.

Irongloves Mar 03, 2016 04:17pm

KP Rao's over-the-top reaction that resonates with hysterical hyperbole about someone (Diplo) with an obviously limited knowledge of the world, including South Asia (surely you don't expect a techo muso to be a Henry Kessinger?) points to a brown man with a chip on his shoulder about the chittas. Very well written by Ms Chagani, but its all much ado about little.

Funga Mar 03, 2016 04:40pm

@Raamis hahahaa.. so true..

Funga Mar 03, 2016 04:41pm

Very nicely written. True pic..

charu Mar 03, 2016 04:47pm

exactly the way i felt after watching slumdog millionaire... but the sad reality is even if .000001 % population is like that, it is as much a part of our society

anyway, look at it this way - aakhir chand pe bhi daag hai....but its still unique and beautiful

Syed Mar 03, 2016 04:53pm

Except for 15 developed districts the rest of my country is struggling,what's wrong with showing that.The picture represents parts of those struggling

M. Malik Mar 03, 2016 04:55pm

Why are Pakistanis so easily offended when someone reminds them of the reality on the ground?

Is this why 100+ channel Cable TV was allowed to flourish in the country, with mediocre fictional program, so people of the country can forget, or pay not attention to government's failures to come up with solutions to the abject poverty, filth, injustice and inequality that exists across the country??

adil jadool Mar 03, 2016 05:02pm

How about we come up with a housing policy to end slums and then he wont be able to post such pics!

Siri Mar 03, 2016 05:08pm

@Charlie Very well said!

Siri Mar 03, 2016 05:15pm

@atif Good one! This is the new generation!

Siri Mar 03, 2016 05:41pm

Very well written indeed!

Zak Mar 03, 2016 06:07pm

@planettrekker only Indians Bollywood, so it has no relevance value to the outside world.

Raja Farhat Abbas Mar 03, 2016 06:07pm

@k p rao chennai Very well said , I agree with you whole heartedly.

Raja Farhat Abbas Mar 03, 2016 06:10pm

@k p rao chennai Rao Saab, well said Janaab.

Zak Mar 03, 2016 06:10pm

Well written. Diplo was no Diplomat. He self ruined it.

Muhammad Saadullah Mar 03, 2016 07:02pm

seriously is that pic misrepresenting pakistan? it shows that even the slums of Pakistan are green....

Skeptic Mar 03, 2016 07:29pm

What we should asking ourselves is this.

Why did it take a foreigner to come to ISB to take a pose at this slum before we all woke up?? Until this, we just pretended everyone is living the imaginary paradise?

Are the people of ISB or any other city around the country unaware of how the other half survives? We need to own up to it.

GAWAL MANDI YA Mar 03, 2016 09:22pm

I completely agree with the writer,but I'm a bit upset with some folks commenting against all westerners.Just remember one thing,There a lot of people from every walk of life including the celebrities who send funds,come visit Pakistan when there is an earthquake or floods,not all Westerners are bad,like not all Muslims are bad people,please stop the ignorant comments,there are a lot of very good generous people out there,don't throw everyone in the same category

Eastern Mar 03, 2016 10:50pm

It is not surprising in the least that the Western musician paints Pakistan with a condescending, insulting and patronizing brush. What I don't understand is that even after being humiliated again and again and again, the Pakistanis still rush to kiss the Westerners' feet, copy their culture, pretend to be like them, and even consider their own culture as inferior.

Pakistan ended its term of Western slavery in 1947, but mentally our nation is still a slave of the West.

Farhan Mar 03, 2016 11:05pm

For westerners whole south asia is a slum. I think Pakistan should not stay in denial if they have slums and work to improve citizen's standards.

Sajid Mar 04, 2016 12:57am

How much of Pakistan is elite? Isn't most of us live in slums or rural? You should be thankful that he visited Pakistan and gave us a night to celebrate and remember for for long. Criticizing your guests would only make you a worse host.

Mujtaba Mar 04, 2016 12:58am

@Raamis lol

uzi Mar 04, 2016 01:30am

@yarana The Homeless in front of White House are also true. Did he bother to go there and pose with them.

Ali Mar 04, 2016 02:11am

That picture of Diplo on a rooftop with the Margalla hills in the background, despite appearances is no slum. It is the ancient Saidpur village and is a major tourist attraction with old hindu temples and masjid. There are quite a few top end restaurants in traditional settings and frequented by many foreigners, diplomats and politicians. There are byelaws to prevent modern construction in the village so as to keep its historic character by the C D A. Whether you consider yourselves elite, rich or poor all Pakistanis and indeed all South Asians should be proud of their history and roots.

Bilal Mar 04, 2016 03:35am

The best thing in this post Gora The Explorer. Lol . We treat them like that, like they have come from a another world that we only dream about.

LS Mar 04, 2016 04:04am

@Zak Your opinion or Pakistani opinion does not matter to Diplo or his fans outside the world. The sales coming from Pakistan (If there is any due to Piracy) would be minuscule.

Longhorn Mar 04, 2016 04:17am

@k p rao chennai Buddy I understand your sentiment but please do not call honey bee a pest. It plays a very important role in pollination. Without the honey bee 70% of the food in this world wouldn't be there. With the recent use of pesticides we have already wiped out 90% of the colonies of the honey bees in the world. Please give the bee the respect it deserves.

Sam Mar 04, 2016 06:02am

I never heard of Diplo, I have lived in US for the past 25 years. Is he British Musician. If he is British, then it is possible that he may have been invited to Pakistan by British Pakistanis majority of whom are from Village Areas of Pakistan, specially Mirpur in Azad Kashmir. And this may be ancestral home of some British Pakistan. And those British Pakistanis are usually love Mirpur and most also have newer 5,000 to 10,000 square feet villas built in those areas, I know since my ancestral (Grand Parents) village is also in those areas, but my parents lived in Islamabad before moving to US in 1990.

Ekaram Mar 04, 2016 07:42am

@AYK What is wrong with Malala? She should be the pride of Pakistan, not denigrated by the jealous!

Mahmood Mar 04, 2016 09:48am

After reading this article, I'm reminded of a quote from Tagore:

"I slept and dreamed, life was a beauty. I woke up and realized, life was a duty."

So, some foreigner had to come to Pakistan to wake us up from our slumber, and remind us that we are failing to help those less fortunate than ourselves, and life is not all beauty, comfort and rock concerts all the time!

So there are slums in ISB and elsewhere in Pakistan, or other parts of Asia, indeed in almost every country of the world - East or West.

The question is what are we doing to improve the lot of those who have no choice but to create slums to survive!?

Randomstranger Mar 04, 2016 09:59am

What does his race have anything to do with the topic? I do not understand the need to bring his racial classification in your argument.

Talha Mar 04, 2016 10:31am

I wonder when will we realize that who ever decides to come here is NOT our BESTEST FRIEND FOREVER but just a confused and misinformed foriegner with a different skin tone.

farah Mar 04, 2016 10:39am

Elite class can't give a soft image but whole nation. So you have to work hard to maintain your image rather then criticize west for everything.

Mahmood Mar 04, 2016 10:46am

@AYK So you think Malala represents the 'negative side of Pakistan'? Look what she has received in her 14 year-young life. What have you done so far?

And perhaps, like some pseudo-sophisticates, you think Malala looks backward because she dons a dupata and traditional shalwar kameez, even when she met with the Queen, Obama and many heads of States at the U.N. and accepted the Noble prize, looking simple and humble. As opposed to insecure in their own skin, western-life worshipping fake Pakistanis who would love to be in Malala's shoes - fame and fortune and all - if given the opportunity!?

Rahim Mar 04, 2016 11:53am

Well-written & a different way of looking at things.

Arslan Mar 04, 2016 12:38pm

Very well written, Although we do not need to take a DJ's statement on a serious note. But thank you for reminding this nation how we should behave to an explorer (in our country). I believe that It was submissive behaviour of KIDS which resulted in such a PITY statement. DJ is misrepresenting us in front of world. we need to think that what flaw we have in our presentation of country to Explorer, specially in our behaviour.

Arsh Mar 04, 2016 02:20pm

Why we feel threatened from westerners and see an implicit agenda. Is it lack of confidence or inferiority complex or something else. Please do your own good things with out fear of being judged.

Anurag Mar 04, 2016 02:21pm

Hello