Peer and the Purpose

By Sonya Rehman

For the first time in Pakistan, a podium for the classical music maestros has finally been provided. And we’re talking a pretty big podium here.
Launched this year by the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop (RPTW), ‘Peer Artist Management’ (PAM) brings forth a substantial goody bag for the country’s renowned (and upcoming) classical music gems and devotional music experts.

So what does PAM encompass you’d ask? Set up primarily to sift out rare talent all across Pakistan, this independent body will also act as an intermediary between national signed artists and international agents for exciting collaborations at festivals overseas!
Metaphorically speaking, PAM is quite like a colossal sieve – which filters local musicians (from every nook and cranny of the country) into the genres of Classical, Devotional, Sufi, Folk, Instrumental and World music.

Arif Lohar

With an all-inclusive slim file that carries a booklet (complete with scores of artists’ pictures and their profiles) and two audio and video DVD’s of the artists, PAM is currently in the process of dispatching the file to a plethora of agents overseas – in the hope to get their featured artists gigs and shows abroad.

And that’s not all; PAM has also launched ‘The Pakistan Music Awards’ which has been initiated with the main motive of recognizing talent which for years has been (unfortunately) overlooked (rather, ignored) by glitzy, air-headed, local music awards.

Quoting PAM from its press release, it states: “The Pakistan Music Awards will be staged as an annual event honouring artists who have achieved highest performances of their work and excellence in their craft over the years. Some of the award categories will include: Best Composer, Best Song, Best Classical Singer (male/female), Best Song Writer, Best New Artist, etc”.

Goonga and Mithu Saaien

Given the handful of national music awards which limit their scope to a few genres of Pakistani music, The Pakistan Music Awards will come as a much-welcomed ceremony. This is because, instead of skimming over and fishing out from the country’s (vast) talent pool of music, The Pakistan Music Awards will set its foot firmly on a holistic and rather mass level – in a bid to give undiscovered, humble musicians a platform for recognition at home – and possibly abroad too.
Much-needed as it is, and as it has been for decades, PAM’s yearly music awards, according to Faizaan Peerzada will give the artists “mainstream exposure with strong cash awards, will recognize and award legendary Pakistani musicians and will possibly include celebrities from across the border”.

Misri Jogi

Were the artists that the RPTW has been in touch with over the years (for its annual festivals) excited then, about the launch of PAM and the all-Pakistan awards?
“They were very excited”, Faizaan said.

And who wouldn’t be? Someone had to acknowledge the country’s local artist pool and who better to do so than the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop?

Given that they’ve interacted and worked with artists such as Sain Zahoor, the Nizami Brothers, Goonga Sain, Arif Lohar, Sher Ali Mehr Ali (and many more) over the years, the relationship is bound to be one based on a strong foundation of trust.

Krishan Lal Bheel

Explaining why the RPTW deemed it necessary to launch PAM, Faizaan stated that “Pakistan’s important music sector was getting neglected” while local, popular music was “under multinational patronage”.

Seated at the RPTW’s rather colourful headquarters (here in Lahore), Faizaan went on to enunciate that multi-talented musicians at the grassroots often go by unnoticed…like Sain Zahoor for example.
“We discovered Sain in 2000 – when he used to go from shrine to shrine playing his music”. And amazingly enough, in 2005 Sain won BBC Radio’s World Music Award, which further kick-started his journey of music around the world. Furthermore, the RPTW also released Sain’s first-ever album this year (a double audio and video CD) of six, soulful tracks.

“Infact he’s due to play at the University of Bradford on the 28th of June this year”, Faizaan said smiling broadly, “the University’s also agreed to display his CD’s, so hopefully we’ll get a couple of hundred copies flown across”. And for all those drumming/dhol devotees out there, the next CD according to Faizaan will feature hardcore dhol music. Now wouldn’t that be something else!

Having taken a year to conceptualize and develop, Faizaan stood by the fact that PAM and its activities would not be branded.
Explaining why, he stated: “When you’re selling a deep-rooted link to culture, branding drowns it”. Also emphasizing that PAM does not bind its artists, Faizaan affirmed that “there won’t be any contracts. PAM will act solely as the artist’s friend – only for promotion”.

Given the immense media mileage, acknowledgment and support that will be generated for the artists working in collaboration with the Peer Artist Management, the best part about it is this: the awareness factor for those countless, undiscovered local artists who will now have PAM as a guide into maximum exposure for their art.
And this perhaps, will truly be the best thing to come out of an endeavour such as PAM – to give underprivileged artists a spotlight of recognition, and a tangible dream – just within reach!

Images, Dawn

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