Cynics would have you believe that the live music scene is dead in Islamabad. But wait till you see mainstream bands and underground musicians come together for the first-of-its-kind Music Mela, which kicked off at the Pakistan National Council of Arts on Friday evening.
Brainchild of musicians Arieb Azhar and Zeejah Fazli, who used to perform in the Sweet Leaf City Live jam sessions back in the day, the music festival aims at reviving the live gig and performance scene in the city. The duo has taken this initiative in an attempt to help musicians mark their niche in the industry.
The musician line-up was impressive and so were the décor and sound system. Showered in confetti and brimming with energy, Zebunnisa Bangash (Zeb) began her performance with famous track Bibi Sanam to a gripped audience. She was accompanied by Ustad Mohammad Ahsan Pappoo on the flute, Amir Azhar on bass guitar, Kami Paul on drums, Zain Ali on rhythm guitar and Siddiqi on rubab.
Before singing Chal Diye, she explained that the duo (Zeb and Haniya) called it the ‘Islamabad song’ since they conceived it in the capital, which also happens to be the hometown of Haniya who is presently in Toronto.
With her effortless vocals and captivating persona, Zeb mesmerised the audience, amid repeated requests for the song Paimona. “Oh, God! We’re still caught up with that one?” she laughed and said, before singing an unreleased number Tere Agay. Her power-packed renditions of Chup, Chupke Se and Laili Jaan had the audience crooning along, dancing and clapping.
The mood of the evening was mellowed out when the Mekaal Hassan Band and legendary folk singer Humaira Channa took centre stage. Fusing electric rhythms with a soulful voice, the artistes made an impact with their rendition of the kalaam by Punjabi poet Ghulam Farid.
With her subdued expressions yet powerful vocals, Channa seemed at ease with the hybrid music arrangement. Her rendition of Sanwal was a treat to the ears — the kind that makes one note the difference between live music and audio recordings.
The event was a success and perhaps, that people were seen complaining was when they had to wait in long queues before the concert. But once seated, they seemed to be enjoying the programme in spite of the delays caused due to last-minute sound checks.
“After a long time, Arieb and Zeejah have pulled off a music event without getting interrupted by the Capital Development Authority, which happened often before [when any jam session was organised],” said Khan Belal, photographer and member of the audience. “Everything from the crowd to performances is great and it’s an absolute ‘go-to’ event even for families,” he added.
The Music Mela Conference has been organised by the US Embassy in collaboration with the Pakistan-US Alumni Network and the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2014.