Turning Tables: Lessons to learn from Hasan Raheem's 'Nautanki' tour

Singer's ‘audio-visual experience’ has set the blueprint for all live musical acts to follow

Asfa Sultan March 30, 2023

“Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow,” Conleth Hill as Lord Varys popularly tells Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister in the Game of Thrones.

Pakistan’s very own wonder kid, Hasan Raheem, it appears, sought Varys’s counsel before embarking on his Nautanki Tour with a team of creatives to cast his shadow across Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. The singer may not have been after power but his influence has certainly grown since leaving a mark on the major cities of the country. His isn’t simply a voice in our ears anymore; it is an ever-encompassing presence looming at the back of our minds as we reminisce his pantomime – his ‘natak’.

When a 21-year-old Hasan came out with Aisay Kaisay featuring Abdullah Kasumbi in 2020, and then a year later, Joona, he was hailed as the new kid on the block taking the music scene by storm with his catchy melodies, natural charisma, and knack for simplicity. A doctor with a pill for all your troubles; his DIY music videos, subtle, laid-back approach to R&B, and hip hop, coupled with his soft, mumble raps and singing, won hearts. It is because of his reputation for achieving maximum results through “minimum effort” that Nautanki came as a surprise.

The singer had announced the tour in light of his debut album that came out in December. With the exception of Peanut Butter and Kaleji, the collection mostly garnered mixed reviews. But it’s as if Hasan knew Nautanki – which literally translates to ‘drama/theatrics’ – had to be experienced instead of simply being consumed.

The element of surprise

Roughly 6000 fans swarmed Karachi’s Creek Club on January 28 to attend the tour’s opening show. Some even followed Hasan all the way to Lahore and Islamabad, with the country’s capital witnessing 8000 fans at the Arts and Craft Village in February for the tour’s finale. What many had not anticipated before buying the tickets was that Hasan had assembled a plethora of artists, including Maanu, Taha G, Abdul Hannan, Natasha Noorani, Kaifi Khalil, and Young Stunners to give the crowd its money’s worth.

Curation for all the shows remained more or less the same while performers differed. Big lights and bigger sound made all artists appear larger than life and served as a smokescreen for minor glitches – if any. Huge LEDs behind arguably the biggest setup any concert has ever seen in Pakistan, offered uniquely designed visuals for each song, creating an illusion of having entered a different space with every performance.


A post shared by Hasan Raheem (@hasan_raheem)

Present at the venue were also live installations depicting elements from Hasan’s album, as seen in the music videos for Nautanki and Peanut Butter, allowing attendees to immerse in the narrative. Performances, too, were accompanied by 3D visuals and well-choreographed antics. Fake money was sprinkled on the audience as Hasan performed Paisa, colourful playballs appeared to ooze out of the screen – a work of magic, among other tricks.

The show also became a personalised experience of sorts as Hasan incorporated a voice note from his mother into one of his songs, played in their native Gilgiti language – Shina, making fans emotional. The whole crowd felt one with Hasan’s struggles and successes. Closing each show on a high note, Hasan got Stunners to headline in Karachi and Kaifi to close the tour in Islamabad, displaying true camaraderie and showmanship.

Putting the show together

Assembling a league of wunderkinds in an attempt to bring his Nautanki to fans, Hasan’s tour was everything a Pakistani music fan could ask for. The idea, courtesy of the singer himself, took months to conceive, as per the show director. “It was Hasan’s brainchild produced by Abdullah Kasumbi. The concept was to bring together the whole music industry and change the game for everyone. It was not a concert we had to curate; it was an experience. And as Hasan put it, it took a village of creatives to do that,” Faran Khan Bhatti, the showrunner, shared with The Express Tribune.

“We’d been at it for six to seven months actually. FT.WA Studio executed the whole creative side of it. Eventm was the show director. It wasn’t a one-man show. It’s never a one-man show. And it was curated according to the album’s vibe. There was a Dibs pass, there was a bathroom, there were these installations that made you feel like you were entering the videos. The idea was to have a live visual depiction of the album,” added Bhatti.


A post shared by Hasan Raheem (@hasan_raheem)

“I’ve never seen anything like it in Pakistan,” Ammar Jawed, one of the shows' attendees, who followed the tour to Islamabad shared with the publication. “The stage, the dynamics, the sound, the locations, the artists, everything was spot on. The concept of launching an album at this scale has never been seen here before. And seeing an album being curated into a concert was completely new for us,” he added.

Jawed also reflected how, with Nautanki, Hasan has emerged from being a small-town performer to being a team player -- someone who is not threatened by the success of others. “Shows you how much he is willing to do for music,” he said.

And after witnessing his magic first-hand, one can tell the singer has learnt the art of pulling in a crowd and knowing exactly how to maneuver it. His concerts are conjuring, altering the audience’s perception of a voice, a song, into a tangible thing that can be felt and touched. Nautanki has elevated Hasan as one of Pakistani music’s hardest-working stars. And his “audio-visual experience”, as he called it while announcing the tour, has set the blueprint for all live musical acts to follow.

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