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South by Southwest Music Festival Joins Pakistan’s First Ever Music Mela Conference

The Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) and Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education (FACE) welcomed more than 1,000 attendees to the 2014 Music Mela Conference held May 2-4, 2014, in Islamabad. Noted musicians and U.S. exchange program alumni Arieb Azhar and Zeejah Fazli organized the festival, which is funded by U.S. Embassy Islamabad through an alumni grant.

“This festival is an opportunity for musicians, artists, promoters, students and music enthusiasts to celebrate Pakistani music and address some of the challenges facing our industry,” said Arieb Azhar, a 2012 CenterStage exchange alumnus. “Our hope is the mela will provide a platform for musicians to work together for the enhancement of our musical heritage and industry.”

Fifteen folk, fusion, rock, indie and qawwali bands from across Pakistan performed. The mela also included master classes, presentations and panel discussions with music industry luminaries. Performing artists included: Khumariyaan, Zeb & Haniya, Mekaal Hassan Band with Humaira Channa, Bukhshi Brothers, Usman Shakeel & Ali Hamdani, Masuma Anwar, Amna Mawaz and Feriyal Amal Aslam, Malang Party, Poor Rich Boy, Qayaas, Taimur Khan & Natasha Humera Ejaz, Abbas Ali Khan, Mai Dhai, Imran Aziz Mian Band, Akhtar Chanal Zahri and Arieb Azhar.

Representatives from Coke Studios and Sachal Studio examined aspects of successful Pakistani music projects; Haroon Rashid discussed his advocacy work on intellectual property rights for musicians; and folklorist Uxi Mufti spoke on developing a music curriculum for schools and colleges. Todd Puckhaber, music festival booker for one of the United States’ largest and most prestigious festivals, South by Southwest (SXSW), gave a workshop for Pakistani musicians on how to market themselves to the U.S. music industry and apply to festivals like SXSW.

“Music has the unique power to transcend boundaries, promote peace and cultivate mutual understanding,” said U.S. Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs Angela Aggeler. “We’re delighted that an exchange program like Center Stage has inspired Arieb and Zeejah to organize this conference, and thrilled to introduce the SXSW festival to Pakistan’s diverse range of musical traditions.”

For the complete schedule of workshops and presentations at Music Mela 2014, visit Follow the mela on Twitter at hasthtag #musicmela.

About Center Stage: Each year, the U.S. Department of State connects foreign musicians with American communities through the Center Stage exchange program, which sends bands on a month-long tour to the United States. In 2012, U.S. Embassy Islamabad sent four Pakistani bands on Center Stage tours, including: Noori, Zeb & Haniya, Danish Ali and Ali Gul Pir, and Arieb Azhar. For summer 2014, U.S. Embassy Islamabad will send two Pakistani bands on tour with Center Stage: Khumariyaan from Peshawar, and Poor Rich Boy from Lahore—both are featured performers at the 2014 Music Mela. Learn more:

About PUAN: The Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network is one of the largest U.S. alumni networks in the world. It consists of more than 13,000 students and professionals who have participated in U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. Learn more:

About FACE: The Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education (FACE) aims to empower and educate people through arts and cultural interactions. FACE organizes public concerts, interactive performances with local and international musicians, workshops, master classes, jam sessions and visual productions. Learn more:

About South by Southwest: SXSW is one of the largest and most prestigious music festivals in the United States. Now in its 28th year, SXSW consists of three industry conferences and festivals: original music, independent films, and emerging technologies. It showcases more than 2,300 acts from around the globe on over 100 stages in Austin, Texas each year. Learn more:

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