KARACHI: It was almost a week after Ali Azmat’s father — Nazir Ahmed, popularly known as Butt saheb — passed away, that his son performed to a packed house at the Karachi Arts Council before the play Aangan Terrha. According to sources within Ali’s family, Butt saheb had been suffering from lung complications and had been on the ventilator for some time.
Ali’s father was a middle-class businessman who lived in the humble area of Garhi Shahu. Ali had been taking care of his parents for quite some time and is said to have been very close to his father. “He was very close to his parents in general,” a family friend told The Express Tribune. “He took care of his father and took his parents wherever he lived, including Karachi. He is not the spoiled rock star that people make him out to be,” he added.
The last thing you would expect before a play like Angan Terrha is an Ali Azmat performance; but Ali is one of those performers who can force the most sophisticated of audiences to lighten up and enjoy his music.
The short and melodious performance kicked off with Yaaron Yahi Dosti Hai as guitarist Omran Shafique and base player Kamran Mannu Zafar set the right groove with Qaiser Zain ul Abedin providing the beats. During his performance, Ali gave a message to Karachiites. “I love the way Karachites have gathered here today,” he said. “This city shall come to life again…all the forces willing to divide us will realise that we are a single and united nation.” He proceeded with the classic number Sayeen that gave the crowd something to tap its feet to, but also brought tears to Ali’s eyes. He said, “Life is uncertain and short, so live and enjoy it as much as you can, love each other and never let go”, reflecting how his recent loss has affected him.
The late Butt saheb was not just a father figure but someone to look up to for Ali’s friends. They recall the late Butt saheb’s sense of humour and wit.
“Butt saheb was one of the most jovial and kind-hearted people that I have ever met,” guitarist Asad Ahmed told The Express Tribune. “Whenever I was in Lahore, I made it a point to go and see him — he had such a pleasant personality. In fact, Ali gets his sense of humour from his father. May God give his family strength and patience.”
Dawar Mehmud, the director of Angan Terrha, explains that he had planned to call off Ali’s performance due to the demise of his father. “I rang him right away and told him that we can adjust the performance at a later date, but he was professional enough to say ‘If I have committed then I’ll perform’, and so he did.”
The crowd at the Arts Council sang and cheered Ali’s popular song Maula from Jism 2, followed by the epic Junoon number Sayonee. After the soulful and energetic performance, one can daresay that Ali lifted the audience’s energy too much for an opening act for a simple play.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2013.
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