Breakin’ it with qawwali: Lal meri pat, hip-hop style

Published: November 25, 2011

Sudanese singer, Alsarah, sang with qawwal Sabri at the US CG’s residence on Wednesday night. Chicago-based hip-hop band, FEW Collective, also performed. PHOTO: NEFER SEHFAL/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Another evening of fusion – blending hip-hop with eastern music – enthralled a young audience at the residence of the US consul general on Wednesday night.

Qawwal Amjad Sabri, in shining black clothes, sang ‘Ya Muhammad’ with his band while the Chicago-based hip-hop band, FEW Collective, danced around him.

The lawn was packed with youngsters who seemed thrilled with the moves. “I had a really good time,” said Bemisal Iqbal who came with her friends. “I wish it was longer.”

FEW Collective is in the country to participate in the American Festival of Arts, an exchange programme. US CG William Martin said that such events would bring the two countries closer. He declared the event to be special because it was the first time an American hip-hop band worked with Pakistani musicians, as he ended his welcome address with a loud “Karachi rocks!”

Hasan Rizvi and his team from Body Beats Dance and Exercising Studio, were also present. Rizvi was selected as the “Hip-hop ambassador” by the US Department of State to represent Pakistan over there.

“It is time for the Americans to follow us,” the team challenged the American band when they came on stage. Two of the FEW dancers went and rocked a few Bollywood moves to “Awain awain lut gaya.”

FEW also sang their own songs, a few of them in Sudanese Arabic. Each song started off with the DJ reciting couplets of Urdu poetry. At one point, they also wore World Cup t-shirts to express solidarity with Pakistan.

Sabri also paired up with a Sudanese singer, Alsarah, to sing Lal Meri Pat that got the audience to its feet.

The Chicago-based band said that they were thrilled to be in the country. “My mother was a bit worried when she got to know about my tour to Pakistan,” said Aquil Charlton, the FEW rapper. “But I love being here and will definitely come back again.” Pakistan is a beautiful country, he added.

Daniel Haywood, also known as Bravemonk, the dancer of the band, said that collaborating with Sabri was a wonderful experience. “People’s energy kept on building when we performed Lal Meri Pat,” he said. “It moved me.”

According to the founder and DJ of the band, Asad Jafri, hip-hop can bring together people from various cultures and backgrounds. Jafri’s own parents are Pakistanis and he helped Pakistani singers perform in the US in April this year. He said that there will be more such collaborations in the future as well.

The hip-hop band has been touring the country for the past two weeks. They performed in Islamabad and also conducted workshops for university students. They also performed in Brazil, Colombia, Morocco as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2011.

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