NEW YORK: Defying hot and humid weather, thousands of New Yorkers on Tuesday thronged the city's Union Square Park where Pakistan's living legend Abida Parveen and other noted artists enthralled them to Sufi devotional songs that brought them to their feet.
The crowd, which overflowed the park into the side streets, clapped, danced and swayed to lilting music and even joined the singers from Pakistan's four provinces as they performed.
Apart from Americans, music lovers from several Arab and African countries as well as Indians and Bangladeshis joined the gathering. The concert marked the start of the three-day Pakistan Sufi Music Festival, which brings to New York a message of peace and healing less than three months after the failed Times Square bomb plot.
Clouds blanketed the hot sun when Abida Parveen appeared on the stage, providing some comfort to the people from heat. She was given a standing ovation as people pressed closer to the stage to catch her glimpse.
After devotional recitations, she gradually built into a crescendo, with the numbers like "Lal Meri Pat rakhiyoun bhalla" and "Hey Jamalo". Virtually every one in the crowd sang the finale with her.
"This is the real face of Pakistan, not sound bites you see on your television," an elated Pakistan UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon told the cheering crowd.
"We believe in peace, brotherhood and love. Individual acts of violence espoused by any minority cannot be allowed to define us all. Pakistan is at peace with New York," ambassador Haroon added.
Although all artists performed credibly, Balochistan's Akhtar Chanal Zehri caught special attention as his recitation resembled somewhat like Western rap. He received huge response from the crowd.
People also voiced appreciation for the music of Soung Faqirs from the shrine of revered Sufi saint Sachal Sarmast.
Many Pakistanis said that the concert was a morale booster for them as they had come under great deal of pressure in the wake of the failed Time Square bombing.
"We feel uplifted today as they community came together today," said one.
Present in the crowd were Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and Javed Jabbar, a former senator and minister for Information and Broadcasting.
The event was organised by a group called the Pakistani Peace Builders -- an initiative of New Yorkers, Pakistani-Americans, and Pakistanis.
A special concert for diplomats from around the world and UN officials will take place at Roosevelt Hotel tonight. It will be followed by two more shows will take place at Asia Society and Rubin Museum on July 22.
Pakistani cultural philanthropists, Hameed Haroon, Hamid Akhund, Yousaf Salauddin, as well as the Mohatta Museum Trust played a key curatorial role on behalf of Pakistani Peace builders.
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