Anthem for an austerity Christmas



Even though he was one of the great seers of the 20th Century, Marshall McLuhan could not have imagined he would be so accurate in his imagining of a global village in which the peoples of the world would be brought ever closer together by electronic technology.

Back in the early 1960s, when the internet was not even a twinkle in anyone's eye, McLuhan looked into the future and foresaw the instantaneous transference of information and cultural phenomena to all corners of the globe. Televison was to be the agent of change, he thought. But that was before YouTube, Twitter and Facebook turned the world into more like a global hamlet.

Which explains why  there were people in a small town in the Punjab province of Pakistan anxiously waiting to learn whether the Christmas number one in the British pop charts would be claimed by one of their own, whose novelty recording became a viral hit on the internet. How's that for a paradigm of the modern media world? Muhammad Shahid Nazir is an unlikely figure to occupy such an exalted position in the hierarchy of British pop music.

A market trader who sells fish from his stall in east London, he has long nurtured dreams of stardom, but failed to make the cut for this season's X Factor. How they must be kicking themselves for failing to see the potential in Nazir's rallying cry to the housewives of West Ham and district: "Come on ladies, Come on ladies, one pound fish," he sings.

It has to be said that it's not immediately obvious why Nazir's pitch (that's the technical term for an exhortation to potential customers) should have captured anyone's attention, and then spread like a bush fire across the electronic channels. "Very, very good/ One pound fish/Very, very cheap/ One pound fish" is the extent of the lyrical invention, but worse efforts have made it to the top of the Christmas charts - Bob the Builder and Blobby to name but two - so we shouldn't be too sniffy.

With the backing of a contract from Warner, Nazir has now turned "One Pound Fish" into a techno-Punjabi classic. Once heard, never forgotten. Or, rather, once heard, it's almost impossible to get the bloody thing out of your head. "I don't want anyone to touch me in case I wake up from this dream," Nazir said in a radio interview yesterday, and there is something charming about his bemused reaction to global fame.

Nazir is the archetypal meteor like celebrity of his age. For X Factor winners, there is normally success beyond the show. For Nazir, however, it is unlikely that this one-off wonder will presage an enduring pop music career: I can't quite see his follow-up - "Salmon fillets, fresh today" - catching on in quite the same way. But that doesn't matter.

Nazir is intent on enjoying his 15 minutes in the limelight. Besides which, there can be no better anthem for the age of austerity than the invitation to buy a fish - any fish, for it's not made clear which type - for only a pound. Anyway, pollocks to austerity. Have a Happy Christmas.

(The Independent)


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