Posted by Mahim Maher
The annual Daniel Pearl music day was held at the US consulate in violence-addled Karachi, Pakistan. It was tight security so unfortunately the kids who should have come from all over the city to attend and learn about him, had to read about it in the newspaper. The closest they will get unless things improve. I had the event covered for our newspaper. Our reporter Mahnoor Sherazee was largely disappointed with the performances and wanted to just paint a pretty picture. But I told her that she had to tell it like it was. Good or bad. The National Academy of Performing Arts or NAPA students were invited this year. This was a good decision as it gives them a chance to connect with an important cause and philosophy. For me the most depressing part is that these music days can’t be held out in a huge park with thousands of excited young boys and girls in Karachi coming to attend for free. When I went on the Daniel Pearl fellowship, San Francisco was a stop. I went to a concert in the park where a young violinist associated with the foundation played. There were at least a thousand people. I hope it’s like this some day here too.
This is the newspaper report. You can find it at http://tribune.com.pk
NAPA’s Saima Zakir holds up an otherwise lukewarm evening
KARACHI: Sur, taal, guitar and sitar came together in perfect harmony as students and graduates of the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) performed at the eighth annual musical tribute to Daniel Pearl called Harmony for Humanity.
The concert this year hosted by US Consul General William J Martin at his residence paled, however, in comparison to those of previous years. The night began with violinist Saeed Ahmad’s solo performance of the soundtrack of the 1965 romantic drama Doctor Zhivago, but it received a lukewarm response from the crowd.
The second performance, a cover song “While my guitar gently weeps”, originally played by the Beatles’ George Harrison started out promising a great deal more than it delivered. Another cover, this time Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Tu Mera Dil” was at best a good try but failed to light the much-needed spark in the evening.
This was followed by an original item titled “Bolo bolo tum ye kya jano” that was a good attempt to rope in the crowd, especially with its commercial feel, but lacked the oomph to seal the deal. It wasn’t until the undoubted star of the night, 26-year-old Saima Zakir hit the stage performing a Santana cover, “Europa”, that the audience sat up and took notice. The skill with which she played the pentatonic scales was remarkable for her bare two years of professional training under teacher and mentor Afaq Adnan.
“I grew up listening to Santana who is such a soulful guitarist. I never thought I would end up performing like this,” she said flushed from the stage. “But here I am and I will be doing this for a very long time now. It’s just me and my guitar, wherever life takes us.”
Her beaming teacher noted that Saima even improvised a little towards the end of the song. Afaq Adnan told The Express Tribune: “There are very few who can play Santana and talent like Saima’s is very, very rare.”
The next song managed to maintain the tempo with another original, “Aaja Ve Mahi”, performed with 34-year-old Kholod Shafi at the sitar. Shafi is a doctor by profession but once she finished studying medicine she had an unshakeable urge to take up the guitar. “The first time I put my hands on the sitar strings, it was 10 years ago but then I was so busy with medicine I had no time. For the last two years I have been totally focused on the sitar, which is a difficult instrument to play, but it’s my passion,” she explained. Discussing how there aren’t many girls in the profession or even studying music, Shafi said, “It is a cultural thing here. I don’t know why people cast music in the light of gender, music brings us all together.”
Up next was another original, “Tum jano ya na jano,” and concluding Napa’s performance for the night was a Fuzon cover “Deewane Chalay”.
On the trend of music fusion, which has significantly picked up over the last decade, NAPA head of music Nafees Ahmad said collaboration with international artists and making inroads into the global music scene and was key for students. NAPA, he said, was doing its best to promote its students, by sending them to international music festivals. The consul general agreed, saying he would like to bring western artists here to play as well to promote the cultural exchange.
The Daniel Pearl music days are held in memory of the Wall Street journalist who was killed allegedly while in captivity in Pakistan. Pearl was a great lover of music and enjoyed playing with his Pakistani musician friends. Every year this concert is held in remembrance of Pearl and the love he had for music which transcends all boundaries. Sadly, however, while the event should ideally be held for the public in Karachi, due to security concerns it takes place at the US consul general’s residence, which is off limits to nearly everyone.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2010.
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Posted by Mahim Maher
God can seem distant, inaccessible at times. In Pakistan, however, there are more tangible intermediaries to beg for intercession. They are the mystic Sufi saints – the face of a more affectionate Islam that preaches love and peace, uses music as a vehicle for remembrance of Allah. And no one hates this culture more than the puritans of Islam, the Deobandis. For them it is all Day of Judgment, fire and brimstone, sin and punishment, errant human nature, hijab and burka, shame and groveling.
Just a few days ago, on Oct 7, a Sufi shrine in Karachi was attacked by two bomb blasts. The investigators are not clear if they were twin suicide bombers. Two heads have been found but only one striker sleeve, which is the pin used by a suicide bomber to detonate his jacket. They think one bomb was planted because the ball bearings packed in it were not found with human flesh as is usually the case. Not much explosive was used and the damage was mercifully muted. Only 10 people are dead, a miracle given the fact that people throng the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi on Thursday nights each week. Thousands come to pray for help, get a free meal from the numerous charities that work there, seek solace from the grind of daily life.
In July Lahore’s world famous Data Darbar shrine was also attacked with bombs. This kind of terrorism disgusts Pakistanis, a majority of who subscribe to a more mystical Islam. Shrines and their saints are revered – even if you are not religious – for the culture they have given the Indian subcontinent. According to legend, Shah Ghazi was approached by fishermen who asked him to tame the wild Arabian Sea. And uncannily enough, Karachi has been protected for centuries from cyclones and Tsunamis. They always pass by at the last minute. We were on high alert for cyclone Phet recently, but it passed by. People mused that Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s hand was at work.
In Pakistan we tend to focus on the West, or the US etc. etc. But something we don’t talk about much is that the suicide attacks are carried out by men who call themselves Muslims. These men target public places such as Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine where other Muslims are killed. It is simple Muslim killing Muslim action. It isn’t the great white Infidel.
I suspect, however, that something more is afoot here in this case. And it worries me. The timing of the shrine attack was strange. It happened a day after a big-shot Deoband (read orthodox) cleric was murdered in a drive-by shooting. This cleric was prayer leader at a mosque that the Deobandis and Barelvis had been fighting over for a while. The Deobandis do not get along with the mystic-loving Barelvis. A Barelvi leader is buried at the shrine as well. Was this retaliation? It seemed like a hastily thrown-together job, said some investigators. They didn’t use a large amount of explosives.
If, and only if, this theory is proven by investigators, I fear we could be looking at a sinister trend: groups in Karachi settling scores not just with gunfights but bomb blasts.