Backstage during the Flood Relief Concert organised by Juvenile Dignitaries and Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS) at Kuch Khaas Centre for Arts and Culture — a pool of musicians practiced, jammed and mingled before their respective turns on stage. In one corner,played his guitar alongside a troupe of folk musicians (also flood victims) from Thar. Elsewhere, Lahore’s young talent Quratulain Balouch (QB) prepared for her performance with her accompanying band, the lyrics of Adele’s “Someone Like You” pouring off her lips.
A raging success with a massive turnout, the concert proved that the spirit of music, as well as charity, is alive and kicking in Islamabad, with memorable performances from Arsalan Baig, Todd Shea, Balouch, Yasir and Jawad and Azhar to name a few.
“We thought of doing this concert while we were in Sindh for a 15-day flood relief commission,” says Nasim Achakzai, President of Juvenile Dignitaries, which is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious programme aimed to foster talent of the youth of Pakistan. (jdignitaries.org)
Sindhi folk musicians (Am Jogi, Mai Nimani, Iqbal Baloch), with their colourful apparel, groovy instruments and stunning medleys, were the real show-stoppers, inciting the audience into a malang-style dance frenzy. The group composed entirely of men dancing with each other (apparently women just don’t make the cut anymore), some of whom performed the ‘nagin’ dance below the stage, wiggling their hips and arms in a display of musical appreciation.
Edgy and on-the-rise QB — whose hardcore fans could be heard chanting “QB, QB!” in rich baritones — shares a positive view of Islamabad’s struggling underground music scene. “Isloo musicians are so ridiculously talented,” she says with an open notebook of lyrics propped next to her. “I think there’s a lot of soul that comes from here. The only problem is that they’re all so underappreciated.” QB, performing for the first time in Islamabad, laments the dearth of concerts in the federal capital.
However, perspectives vary as much as musical styles do. Folk rock duo Yasir and Jawad believe otherwise. “There’s a lot of concerts that go on in Islamabad especially at universities. We’ve played frequently at both NUST and FAST,” says Yasir. “The situation is still better than in Peshawar,” adds Jawad with a wry grin.
“There are so many diverse musicians here,” says Azhar, who had spent the past few days with the Sindhi folk musicians who were scheduled to perform before him. “I think that better music comes out of Islamabad,” he adds. In Azhar’s view, the music scene in Karachi and Lahore, though more commercially viable, lacks the quality, ingenuity and soulfulness exhibited by the talent coming out of Islamabad.
Azhar’s words counter the tired and overblown supposition that the federal capital is a dry space as far as music is concerned; that it’s a desolate black hole keeping otherwise prolific artists from making it big. “From what I’m hearing about concerts and shows in Lahore and Karachi, I’d say it’s more or less the same here,” concludes Azhar, pointing at the contrary.