PESHAWAR, Pakistan - He sings about peace and hope, but Gulzar Alam lives in fear. He has survived three attempts on his life and moves regularly to keep one step ahead of the Taliban.
Once inspired by romance, Alam is part of a growing number of Pakistanis changing the lexicon of the song book, writing less about affairs of the heart and more about the tragedy of suicide attacks and Islamist insurgency.
"O Peshawar, I watch helplessly when your lovers' blood becomes rain.
Helplessly, with tears in my eyes, I read their funeral prayer," he sings in one of his greatest hits in the northwestern city on the Afghan border.
Being a singer in one of the most dangerous parts of the world can be lethal. The Taliban think music is ungodly. Music shops are bombed. Dancers have been killed and singers threatened with death.
In 2004, Alam was worried enough to move to Quetta, the then relatively peaceful capital of Baluchistan in the southwest.
But he was hit by a speeding car, critically injured and now has a rod in his right leg and uses crutches to walk.
He blamed militants and returned to Peshawar in 2008. That October, gunmen opened fire on his car on the outskirts of the city. He survived a second time.
"I can see tears in people's eyes, when I sing and I want to create an awareness using my voice," Alam told AFP in the dank basement flat where he lives with his wife and six children, with no name plaque on the gate.
"We have stopped giving musical shows," he said. "I have received dozens of phone calls and SMSs threatening me to stop singing."
Peshawar, the largest Pashtun city in the world and once a base for Osama bin Laden during the 1980s' CIA-sponsored mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, has been on the frontline of a Taliban insurgency for years. More than 500 bomb attacks have killed 4,700 people across Pakistan since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.
They have maimed hundreds more, targeting government security forces and ripping through shops, mosques and restaurants.
Although there has been a drop in attacks in the eight months since bin Laden was killed at his Pakistani compound on May 2, fear remains palpable. Sitara Younus made waves on YouTube this year with her lyrics: "I am a suicide blast, I do everything by force and I rule everywhere".