Given that ‘Harmony for Humanity’ was the theme for the annual Daniel Pearl World Music Day event in Karachi, the hosts - the US Consulate - picked wisely in having Arieb Azhar and Noori perform.
The heritage building where the US consul general’s residence is located, heaved with the drum rolls, as the bands paid tribute to the late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl with their selection of music, themed around oneness and spirituality.
US Consul General Michael Dodman said that the event had “huge significance” because it was being held in Karachi, the same city where Pearl was kidnapped and killed in 2002, “because of what Daniel Pearl represented and projected - tolerance and calm.”
“We stand with Pakistanis in condemning violence against Malala Yousafzai,” Dodman said before the event kicked off.
Dodman also paid tribute to Pakistani journalists who have been killed in the past few years. “It is important that journalists can do their work without being persecuted,” he told The Express Tribune, and said that the US would continue to promote a free press in Pakistan. “We also remember and honour the journalists all around the world who have given their lives in the pursuit of the truth,” he said on stage. “We condemn violence against journalists. A free press is central to any democratic society.”
Dodman, a few months into his job as consul general, says that what has struck him is the “vibrancy and dynamism” of Karachi as well as the hospitality. “I’ve said in my earlier speeches that I wanted to come to Karachi because of business and economic issues, and this is the best city to do that.” He regrets that because of scheduling issues he hadn’t been able to travel to the rest of the province and to Balochistan. “I’m sure I’ll be impressed by the hospitality there too when I go.”
On Saturday night though, it was the US Consulate’s turn to show some hospitality to its guests - young students, journalists and a few politicians - and by the end of the night, there were happy faces all around. Press officer Richard Silver led the dancing to Arieb Azhar’s renditions of popular Sindhi folk songs and Sufi poetry as well as the aptly chosen Shaikh Ayaz poem - “I have no country, the world is my country.”
Azhar, Noori and Zeb and Haniya recently toured the US as part of the State Department’s Centre Stage initiative that is administered by the New England Foundation of the Arts and “brings compelling contemporary artists abroad to the US to engage Americans in cultural diplomacy as a way to create opportunities for greater understanding,” according to its website.
Arieb Azhar told The Express Tribune that “some of the staffers here [in Karachi] were in DC when we performed so they heard us there [as well].”
Azhar said his choice of music for the night reflected a “love for humanity” that was “stripped bare of religion and language.” He grew up in Karachi and moved to Islamabad when he was 17, protesting that he was going to have to live in a “village”. Now, he says, he loves the peace of Islamabad but likes coming back to Karachi to catch up with friends, and “there’s the sea.”
Azhar and his band performed a range of songs, including “Dam Mast Qalandar” and Khwaja Ghulam Farid’s “Husn-e-Haqiqi”, with dozens of students and the diplomatic staff dancing along. “The great thing about the event is,” Azhar said on stage, “is that a tragedy can be converted into a celebration, not an act of revenge.”
Up next was Noori - still as popular as they were when they made their debut in the early 2000s - and by the time they ended their set, there were just a handful of people still sitting. The rest were dancing on the floor, chanting the band’s name and shouting out their requests. Noori performed a selection of its well known hits, including “Aik Alif” from Coke Studio, a slower version of the gritty “Saari Raat Jaga”, “Bolo Na” and spliced in the Bollywood classic “Rang Barse” into a song. Frontman Ali Noor, speaking about Daniel Pearl and the event, said that “music has no boundaries or religion and it can’t be misinterpreted... that’s what is most beautiful about it.” On Saturday night, Pearl’s legacy in Karachi wasn’t the images of his captivity and execution that left millions shocked, but the soulful, evocative music bursting out onto the street.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ