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Chester Bennington taught me to rock hard

As a school going kid in early 2000s, I had little or no appreciation for music. I was completely unaware of what purpose the electric guitar served, or what ‘staying in sync with the metronome’ meant. In those days my musical exposure was largely restricted to the third major wave of Pakistani music led by Strings – their album ‘Duur’ had just released and everyone seemed hooked.

At the time, I was also largely unaware of a band, or should I say ‘phenomenon’, called ‘Linkin Park (LP)’, and their debut album titled ‘Hybrid Theory’, until one fine day this kid in my school van who was carrying a Sony CD man asked me to check out a song by “this amazing gora band?” 

The song he played was ‘Points of Authority’.

It was the loudest thing I had heard and it blew me away. For a 14-year-old in Karachi, LP was the music of the future – electronic sounds fused with loud drums and loud guitars. Mike Shinoda was on the top of his rap game, and Chester Bennington was just screaming his lungs out on every song! This was 2002, I was a bit late to the party, but I was hooked and I wanted more.

Come 2003 and LP released their second major album – Meteora – when I first got the album, a pirated copy sold in Pakistani markets, I was fixated by the artwork. Little did I know then that Shinoda was also responsible for the band’s graffiti-like visuals.  I think every kid who avidly listened to music in those days bought a cassette or CD. For the next 6 months, I would listen to was Faint and Somewhere I Belong, amongst various others.  

Chester was one of the vocalists who were actually louder than a screaming electric guitar.

Right around the same time, a bunch of kids from Lahore who were inspired by LP, started a musical revolution of their own – the band they formed was called ‘Entity Paradigm’ or simply ‘EP’. It was fronted by singer-songwriter Fawad Khan who is now an accomplished actor, and headed by ace guitar player and producer extraordinaire Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, popularly known as Xulfi. The same diehard LP fans became EP diehards – alongside Noori and Jal, EP led the fourth major wave of Pakistani music.

Years later, after writing songs and playing the guitar for eight odd years, I had the opportunity to record my first song at Xulfi’s studio in 2012. During one of the takes he asked me to login to his studio PC. 

The password: Linkin Park.

I realized that he was such a huge LP fan, that his PC’s login ID was named after them.

LP taught me that it’s ok to break rules and jump across genres – when LP came out with Hybrid Theory and Meteora, they faced criticism by conventional rockers, but their knack for breaking rules and throwing in sounds from multiple genres is what made them unique.

Chester taught me that it was ok to go all out with your voice.

Chester and LP not only redefined rock music for a newer generation, but also redefined what ‘loud and energetic’ should be. They truly are trailblazers as far as taking sonic risks are concerned, and challenge each aspiring musician in the world to push the innovation envelope further.

When a foreign band becomes hugely popular in Pakistan, it is safe to conclude that the band has, by that time, already become a cultural phenomenon globally, which is how it has managed to cross millions of miles to reach Pakistani audiences. It should also be noted that this was way before the advent of social media. LP was indeed the biggest cultural and musical phenomenon since the 90’s Grunge and Britpop movement.

As a singer-songwriter, Chester Bennington was indeed unrivaled; he blazed a glory path of his own, and his departure leaves a void that is unlikely to be filled.

Thank you Chester, for inspiring millions of kids around the globe, including myself…RIP  

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