Artists and audiences across Pakistan have forever been lamenting the declining culture of live music. The past few years have, however, witnessed a turn of events. It seems the rise and popularity of music festivals is not dying down anytime soon. With Lahore Music Meet and Hyderabad’s Lahooti Melo 2016 recently wrapped up and Islamabad gearing up for Music Mela, the Arts Council in Karachi has also begun rolling up its sleeves for the All Pakistan Music Festival (APMF).
Talking to The Express Tribune, council general secretary Ahmed Shah said if everything goes according to plan, 2016 will mark the event’s 10th edition. Despite being part of the institution’s calendar for the past decade, the schedule for this year’s APMF that begins on April 22, coincides with that of another notable event being held in the city — the Creative Karachi Festival at the Alliance Francaise Karachi.
Even though, Shah appreciated the efforts of other organisations in putting together similar events, he clarified that APMF is very different from Creative Karachi Festival. “It is more along the lines of Eastern classical music and will only showcase musicians from that genre … renowned ones such as Ustad Hamid Ali Khan, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Humera Channa to name a few,” he said.
The decision to not showcase other genres of music is bound to have an impact on the audience turnout but Shah believes that, as a cultural institution, it is their responsibility to preserve classical music. “Our main aim is to promote our own culture. Mainstream music will always find an audience but it is classical music that requires our support. You will note that arts councils of every country around the world promote their respective classics,” he added.
While APMF is unlikely to feature any panel discussions or workshops like its contemporaries, it will be hosting old-fashioned live performances. “The way we see it, APMF will be entertainment for those who have been listening to classical music. On the other hand, it would serve as an education to the younger audiences who haven’t had exposure to this style of music,” Shah elaborated.
Apart from being a prominent platform for established artists, the festival aims to help aspiring musicians as well. Although a separate event for emerging artists is already being organised, musicians such as Yousuf Kerai and two 18-year-old tabla players have already been roped in to perform alongside the maestros. The roster of artists scheduled to appear at the event is not just going to be restricted to classical singers but will also feature notable instrumentalists such as Kotri-based shehnai player Ustad Abdullah and Lyari-based banjo player Ustad Sabzal.
Hamid mentioned that while it is always heartening to see audiences turn up in large numbers, he is happy to see the arts council promote classical music. “The best thing about this initiative is that classical music is being given the importance and respect it deserves. History is evident of the fact that the countries that forget their own culture and history, are left behind. Events like these would help us reconnect not only with our music but our heritage as well.”
Musical performances will begin at 8pm every day during the three-day event. The APMF is the first in a line of events slated to take place at Arts Council Karachi in the coming few months. Others include a stage adaptation of Shezori followed by the academy’s inaugural drama festival.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.