In an effort to reinvigorate the classical music traditions of Pakistan and promote cultural heritage among the new generation, a Ghazal Night was held at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Thursday.
The alluring bill of renowned ghazal singers Ghulam Ali, Humera Channa, Saira Naseem and Khalil Haider reeled in a huge crowd of about 3,000 from the twin cities.
The ‘Ghazal Night’, as it was titled, was held in collaboration with the Ministry of National Heritage and Integration.
Youngsters, families and music enthusiasts alike thoroughly enjoyed the varied musical stylings of these legendary singers and their contribution to the ghazal genre in their individual capacities at the event.
PNCA Director General Taqueer Nasir shared various initiatives taken by the PNCA to preserve Pakistan’s musical tradition. “We have a rich cultural heritage which needs to be preserved and promoted to improve the soft image of the country,” he said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Humera Channa also appreciated the receptive audience but said that compared to other countries such as India, musicians and artists in Pakistan do not get the appreciation they deserve. “With so many stressors in our country, people need an outlet where they can channel their emotions and unburden themselves. Music is one way of doing that”, she said.
Channa added that artists tend to be more sensitive to their surroundings, enabling them to communicate human sentiments on a greater level. “When I’m watching the news and see the suffering of my brothers and sisters, I can’t help but cry and try to communicate their suffering through my music,” she said.
“I can tell that this audience included connoisseurs of the ghazal genre, it was obvious from how intently they were listening,” said Saira Naseem. Audience member Hamida qualified Nasim’s statement by saying that it is a novelty for singing legends to play a free show like this, which is why the turnout was so big.
Azfar Iqbal, programme management specialist at the American Embassy, said his job often requires culture coordination between the two countries and it hurts him that the social welfare of artists is not considered in Pakistan. “The government needs to prioritise our artists as they are an integral part of our heritage and if given patronage, they can become indispensable to our culture,” he added.
The void of appreciation left by the government was however, filled by adoring fans as a group of starry-eyed individuals surrounded Ghulam Ali backstage. Ajmal Saab, a tabla master and a gem of Islamabad’s classical music scene, attended the event strictly as an audience member, calling it “an honour to spend some time with Ghulam Ali in Islamabad and watching him perform. “Such events need to become a staple of our city as our cultural and musical heritage is not as well-cemented compared to other cities,” he said.
Moreover, the maestro Ghulam Ali was full of appreciation and praise for the singers that preceded him on the night and also commented on the accompanying band, saying “even though the singer is the star in the ghazal tradition, he or she is nothing without the accompanying musicians who can make or break the performance”.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.