It’s a party…it’s a concert…no, it’s the Sindh Festival 2014!
The celebrations have officially begun as contemporary trends and history were exquisitely fused at the inaugural ceremony of the Sindh Festival at Moen jo Daro. The ruins of the Indus Valley civilisation were transformed into a gorgeous, tinselled venue – a manifestation of the rich heritage it hoped to represent.
Spearheaded by the Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the two-week festival is part of a campaign to conserve the heritage of his home province of Sindh.
Instead of dusty plains, Moen jo Daro was a palette of red, green and purple hues. A large wooden and steel scaffolding formed the grand stage, which was decorated like an ancient kingdom. But the cynosure was the stupa, luminescent and majestic.
“This is the first time in the country’s history that we pulled off an event of such importance at such an important site,” Bilawal said when he came up on stage to thank the artists and all those who made the event possible.
Clad in a black sherwani with an ajrak pocket square, he arrived on Saturday in a caravan of four vehicles. It was reported that he had been visiting the site daily for the past couple of days to ensure the arrangements were impeccable. Tents, poles and other material were removed and rearranged a couple of times as they were dug up in the relics or in the area that comes under the heritage site.
But in the end, Moen jo Daro looked even more beautiful than the Mohatta Palace in Karachi.
And the show had it all. From a star-studded line-up of events – a laser presentation of 3D animations, LED dances, concerts and a fashion show – to gentry of the political cream of the province, the event was a celebration of “hope and civilisation”.
Humaima Malik and Shehryar Siddiqui hosted the night, describing the festival as a cultural ‘coup’ as opposed to the “vultural” coup imposed by military dictators. “Superman is fictional, but the Sindhi man is a fact that has sustained for 5,000 years,” they said, referring to the logo of the Sindh Festival.
The dazzling night kicked off with short dance performances featuring a fashion show, followed by a multimedia presentation illustrating the history of this region, particularly the Aryan invasion.
The laser presentation by Laseronix, who created a 3D review of Sindh’s history, through 3D animation wowed the crowd. Laser forms of the Indus dolphins, Sindhi farmers, the Lansdowne Bridge linking Sukkur and Rohri as well as other cultural elements floated and flashed over the stage.
Artists and bands, who are known for creating socially relevant music, such as the Beygairat Brigade, Ali Gul Pir and Azal performed songs especially composed for the festival, apart from their hits. Ali Gul Pir sang “Super Saeen”, written exclusively for the Sindh Festival, and he also tweaked his hit, “Waderai ka Beta” to “Pakistan ka Beta” for the show.
A number of foreign visitors, some wearing traditional Sindhi Ajrak outfits, were also seen among the approximately 1,000 guests.
To summarise, Sharmila Farooqi said, “Today we made a statement by cerebrating the true essence and diversity of Sindh in a very engaging and entertaining manner.”
As the show ended, Fakhr-e-Alam, who is the coordinator of the entire festival, said, “This was a landmark event in the history of Pakistan. The grandeur and immensity of this is a testimony to what is to come in the next 15 days. This is just a teaser.”
However, he admitted that the real challenge is to pull off the entire festival “with equal grace and precision”. “I am thankful to the more than 500 people who have worked day and night to make this dream into a reality.” And that is when the fireworks began, drawing the night to a close.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2014.