ISLAMABAD: Saturday may have been the biggest night for electronic dance music in Pakistan’s history, as three-time Grammy-winner Diplo headlined a concert at Islamabad’s The Rock Musicarium.
The American DJ-producer was joined by two Swedes — singer Elliphant and DJ Pellegrosso — along with rapper Adil Omar, DJ-producer Talal Qureshi, singer QB, and other Pakistani acts.
Before the live acts began, The Express Tribune ran into actor-director Shahbaz Shigri, who said, “It’s cool that international artists are coming here and performing with local artists, I hope it opens the doors for more international artists.”
Nearby, a young girl named Shahreen echoed the same sentiment, saying she was “very excited that [Diplo has] come and this event might open Pakistan for other famous musicians”.
The rising decibels at around 8:30pm signalled the start of the show for the 1,500-plus attendees.
DJ duo Database kicked things off before making way for Talal Qureshi, whose pulsating mix kept the audience in an anticipatory frenzy.
Adil Omar then joined Qureshi on stage, beginning with their hit ‘Nighat and Paras’.
Their combined set was cut quite short, lasting only around half an hour. Qureshi later told The Express Tribune that they had to shorten the set due to technical issues which had delayed the start.
This set the stage for Elliphant and Pellegrosso, who arguably stole the show with a visceral performance which included original material from the Swedish singer and her various collaborations. Elliphant performed most of her set right next to the audience on the lower stage and set the audience alight with her presence.
Pellegrosso later described the experience as “Lovely”, while adding that he “would like to come back soon to play in Pakistan again”.
Saad Mahmood, the honorary consul general of Iceland, described the show as a fantastic event and that it was great to have artists from overseas performing in the city.
The headliner then took centre stage and played an energetic yet nostalgic set, catering to a broad range of musical tastes.
“I love your energy, give me some more,” he said as the crowd grew louder. The first wave of explosive reactions came to mixes of ‘Sorry’ by Justin Bieber and ‘Get Low’ by Dillon Francis. “I was really nervous playing [here], but you guys are really cool, I swear!” he exclaimed midway through his two-hour set.
In the audience, dancing skills ranging from laudable to laughable were shown, but one thing was certain — everyone had a ball.
In a change of tone, Diplo also slid in a mash-up of Sean Paul’s ‘Sexy Lady’ and Panjabi MC’s ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’, followed by ‘Amplifier’ by Bohemia and Imran Khan, much to the audience’s delight. He then played some of his work under his Major Lazer collaboration.
“Thank you Pakistan, it’s an honour to play with you, to party with you, and dance with you while we’re young,” he said, in reference to the lyrics from Major Lazer’s 2015 hit ‘Lean On’. He then dropped the same song and started performing the Indian-inspired dance moves from the music video while waving a Pakistani flag.
“All you music lovers in Pakistan, I’m here for you guys,” he said, adding that he looked forward to hearing more music from this part of the world. The set ended with Jack Ü and Justin Bieber’s ‘Where Are Ü Now’.
The performers later assembled on stage and waved Pakistani flags.
Actor-director Aisha Linnea Akhtar said Diplo was “a super-cool guy for doing [the show] and I hope other international artists follow his lead”, while also praising Omar, Qureshi, and organiser-promoter Eyad Ibrahim for putting the event together.
Talal Qureshi told The Express Tribune that helping put together and then perform at the event was “a dream come true”, while a smiling Adil Omar could only say “I have no words”.
QB said it was good to be on stage, but what makes it truly amazing is to have big international artists in Pakistan.
Organiser Ibrahim called the experience “surreal”, adding that he was happy that the event met people’s expectations and helped show the world a different side of Pakistan.
Haroon of Burka Avenger and Awaaz fame said, “Events like this not only give wonderful entertainment but also give a different perspective to foreigners. Diplo has been tweeting about this and giving a totally different image to Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2016.