Lahooti Melo goes digital with 47 artists from along the Indus

The annual festival's digital edition features music and stories from Nepal to Nagarparkar.

Rida Lodhi July 26, 2021


Lahooti Melo has returned this year - albeit differently. While last year, the popular festival shed light on the imperative topic of climate change, this year Lahooti Melo is exploring the cultures of the Indus Valley. The three-day festival that is usually organised in Jamshoro has also gone completely digital this year.

"Our plan was to conduct the annual Lahooti Melo in April this year in Karachi," organiser and co-founder Sana Khoja tells The Express Tribune. "And then the country was hit with the third wave of coronavirus. Due to these unprecedented times, we had to postpone. The continuous delays and the handicaps that followed allowed us to explore other options.

The organisers then decided to go digital with this year's Lahooti Melo. “We went through an extensive process to ensure that everything runs smoothly. A set was erected in Jamshoro, which also acted more like a meeting point for artists from all corners of the map to gather, collaborate and go back,” said Khoja.

On top of that, there were artists that weren’t able to make it to Jamshoro and so the festival and the recording setup was taken to record in their neighbourhoods. “We didn't just call artists in the studio, we went to their villages, we studied their cultures and we spoke to them so that the entire process looks as organic as it actually was,” added Khoja.

"The basic idea was to see how they saw things - an insight into their world. How the folk musicians themselves saw spaces such as shrines, and their own culture," added co-founder Saif Samejo. "At the same time we are also featuring Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan's grandson who will be presenting a raag in this year’s Lahooti. So it’s all very diverse."

Trespassing Indus

The theme for this year’s Lahooti is ‘Trespassing Indus’. "The Indus Valley theme isn't just limited to Pakistan; it also includes artists from India, Nepal and the likes. We had specific teams allocated in India and Nepal to record the artists from there. Our one team in India has already sent us the recorded songs, while our two teams in Nepal are working on them."

“We also hope to traverse through the cultures of Tibet, Nepal, Rajhastan, Gujrat and then back to Sindh,” said Khoja. “We have recently finished shooting with the artists in Punjab, and are hoping to record artists from Kashmir as well."

As part of its first-ever digital-only edition, the festival has so far released a couple of tracks and a talk on its YouTube channel. "I wouldn't call these teasers," commented Khoja. "We just wanted to give our audience a flavour of what this year's Lahooti is all about. By mid-august, we plan on releasing Lahooti digital."

Talking about the perks of going digital, Khoja added the transition had made their artists and speakers more candid. "Since Lahooti 2021 isn't an in-person event, it gave our artists more time to prepare. We had ample time to understand the traditions and heritage of Indus and that helped us in having more easy conversations," Khoja remarked. "The sessions weren't scripted at all. People knew what they were talking about and they spoke candidly."

Beyond Sindh

Samejo added how he had hoped to shift focus from just folk music of rural Sindh and Punjab. "We had also hoped to explore the modern pop that is taking flight in Karachi. We thought that would be an interesting angle to highlight," The Sketches vocalist added. "While our main feature is to shed light on Indus Valley, it would not be limited to just music. We will be talking about its culture, food, clothes, norms, the people, their lives and their stories."

The musician added how Indus ties several banks together, but we are still culturally unaware of one another even though we drink the same water. Having said that, he stressed the importance of talking about other civilisations, including just Moen Jo Daro and Harappa.

Speaking about artists, Saif said, "47 artists have already been recorded. We still have to choose a certain number of artists that will go on air. So you can say there are 50 tracks that are remastered and ready to be released."

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