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Promoting arts: Music festival celebrates local, international tunes

A music festival featuring some of the finest names in local as well as international folk and contemporary music is attracting twin cities’ residents in high numbers to the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA).

Organised by the US embassy in collaboration with the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education (Face), the three-day Second Annual Music Mela Conference and Festival will conclude on Sunday (today).

The event features a number of performances by various artists covering diverse musical genres.

On the opening night on Friday, all arrangements were meticulously taken care of with technicians darting from one end to the other ensuring that sound checks echo through the venue.

Food stalls offering barbecue, beverages and snacks were also set up for the guests. Hundreds of seats were setup at the venue leaving few feet of room in front of the stage for those who could not resist dancing.

As the sun went down, the evening began with a few speeches. Richard Olson, the US ambassador, said the event builds on the success of last year’s ‘music mela’ and a year of cultural events arranged by the embassy and its partners.

“Music has a special power to overcome barriers regardless of language, geography or culture,” the envoy said. He said that this year the festival coincided with the international jazz appreciation month. Reflecting upon the importance of copyrights and patents, Olson said that we are also nearing the World Intellectual Property Day [on April 26]. “Musicians need to make money,” he added.

Zeeja Fazli and Arieb Azhar from Face then formally welcomed everyone to the evening. Azhar said they started last year without forecasting the success of the event and the difference it would make.

He explained that although there were great TV and radio music shows being broadcast in the country, Pakistani music needed more live shows.

Azhar added the event not only aimed at providing a boost to live music but the conferences would also help connect Pakistani musicians with the international music industry.

US bassist Marcus Miller addressed the crowd in a video message. He spoke of jazz as an American art form and its spirit of invention and improvisation that has found a home in countries around the world, including Pakistan.

The event began with 22-year-old Niaz Khan from the old town of Peshawar. Khan performed Pashto folk music. As he sang the famous song, “Bibi Shireeni” the crowd could not resist from jumping on the dance floor.

The stage was then taken over by artists from Punjab. Fazal Jutt in his electrifying style performed “Punjabi Folk Dastaan”. With a smile stretched across his face, he recited the tales of “Heer Ranjha”, “Dulha Bhatti” and “Sohni Mahiwaal” while ending with the song “Balle Balle”.

The performance went from folk to contemporary pop. Capital’s Shamoon Ismail from Jutt Blues performed in front of a charged crowd.

In neon-tinted traditional clothes, Krishn Laal Bheel from Cholistan came to perform with his team. He performed on the single-stringed Ektara accompanied by a colourful troupe of musicians and dancers.

An enthralling performance by Shafqat Salamat Ali Khan, who performed classical songs, was followed by Sachu Khan from Balochistan, who presented regional folk songs on his signature instrument, Saroz.

Then the performances went from Pakistani traditional to international.

Polish multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Maria Pomianowska performed on a traditional Polish instrument, the suka, which is similar to sarangi. The stage was then taken over by Grace McLean, the multi-talented American singer, who performed contemporary rock songs.

The evening ended with Pakistani pop sensation Hadiqa Kiani. She performed some of her classics that energised the audience.

“I think it’s a great effort and am glad to see people step out and enjoy despite security concerns,” said Armaan Khan, a student who had come to the event with his friends.

In addition to live performances, the event features workshops and master classes. Pappu Saaien, Jimmy Khan and Coven were some of
the performers that took stage on Saturday while the Sketches, Mary McBride and Sanam Marvi will feature on the concluding night (on Sunday).

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2015.

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