By Sonya Rehman
Artists from Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, France, Pakistan and a few others came together for a fantastic, open-air, ‘World Music Night’ concert at Qaddafi Stadium on the 26th of November, here in Lahore.
The concert was part of the Rafi Peer’s World Performing Arts Festival, which has been running since the 22nd of November, and is due to wrap up by the 2nd December.
Kudos to the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop really, because the festival has been a great way to end a very dreary and bleak year, as it’s given Lahore – an otherwise, culturally ‘happening’ city – quite a bit of a morale lift.
Sorry Karachi and Islamabad, but Lahore truly is the city of lights and festivities – with culture so ripe and num num that anyone would want to sink their teeth into it and bite off a nice, big hunk a’ chunk.
Arriving at Qaddafi’s amphitheatre at 9:30pm sharp and finding a nice, cozy little spot in the second row with some friends from college, we waited for the concert to begin, as people began seeping in through the entrance gates slowly.
The crowd was thin – and comprised mainly of bohemian artist types, families, and couples.
And then, without much delay, the World Music Night began, opening up with a Pakistani ‘brass band’ of gypsies who go by the name of ‘Hero’. Having performed for over three decades in the country, ‘Hero’ performs primarily at weddings – and their music reflected just that. It was very street, very gypsy, and very traditional honky-tonk.
And as soon as the heroes went off stage, the second performance – which comprised mainly of…get this…SEVENTEEN dhol-wallahs – who came together as one ‘band’ especially for the concert – were incredibly spell-binding. ‘Oi chak dey patey’! one wanted to scream (while breaking out into a frenzied bhangra) as the dhol maestros did their thing, and if you’re talking marasi, then baby that was the REAL DEAL.
The energy of the performance was so electrifying, so desi, and so tangible – that the performance (which lasted a few minutes) left one craving as badly as a fat kid craves candy – on a liquid diet. No kidding. They were brilliant. And, we, the audience, were gobsmacked.
The third band which graced the stage were these cute guys who went by the name of ‘Cankisou’, all the way from the Czech Republic – and for some reason or the other, the dude announcing each band made it sound like ‘Chunky Show’ over the loud speaker! Cankisou played some buoyant, fun fusion music – and leaning over, glancing towards the left-hand side of the amphitheatre, I noticed Sufi musician, Arieb Azhar, with his signature bandana, clapping his hands and having a right royal time. With instruments such as the saxophone, electric guitars, drums, a banjo and a didgeridoo – Cankisou’s tunes were earnest and upbeat.
Some of the other acts which followed were classical flutist Akmal Qadri (from Lahore) and Pete Pankee (all the way from Germany who spoke after each song in the cutest Urdu), band Martin Lubenov (from Austria and Bulgaria) who belted out some loopy jazz and gypsy tunes, the French group, Caravan Quartet – who played some very earthy, and rather amorous French jazz – and a few others.
Each band – so culturally diverse – was a treat to watch. And perhaps this really is the best part about cross-cultural exchange between countries – one gets to experience a little bit of foreign art and culture right in one’s homeland.
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