From Bharatnatyam to Disco Deewane

Classical dancer Indu Mitha and students, and Zoe Viccaji rivet the audience with an evening of song and dance.

As requests kept pouring in, Viccaji performed ‘Jab Koi Pyar Se Bulayega’ and changed the mood with Elvis Presley’s ‘Shimmy To Your Left’. PHOTO: HUMA CHOUDHARY/EXPRESS


There is perhaps no better way to celebrate women than through poetry, music and dance. A combination of all three was organised to mark the conclusion of the International Women’s Empowerment conference at Marriott Hotel on Saturday. Organised by and for the United States alumni across the country, the conference included delegates from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and the US.

Indu Mitha, revered classical dancer, introduced her dance students who performed at the event. She spoke about performing arts school, Muzmoon-e-Shauq, which was closed down after 14 years due to financial constraints. “The school is no more and what remains is the evening practice of music and dance (at other venues in the city),” she said. Mitha, who has dedicated 70 years of her life to the classical-dance tradition of the Indian subcontinent, has been teaching the art form for over five decades. She learnt Bharatnatyam at a young age and has garnered international recognition for her work.

The first performance was a combination of kathak and Uday Shankar (creative dance). With ghungroos announcing their steps, a group of young dancers showcased a delightful mix of gestural moves, animated expression and intricate footwork. The latter part of the performance was based on revolutionary poet Habib Jalib’s famous poem Ab Daher Main Be Yar-o-Madadgar Nahi.

Rendered in qawwali style, the poem chronicles the historic women’s rally against the injustices of the Zia regime, when around 100 women were baton-charged for speaking up against the rights of women and religious minorities in Lahore in 1983. Sung by Maimoona, the music of the song was composed by Ustaad Nazakat Ali Khan and Ustaad Farid Nizami.

The dance performance depicted women from a cross-section of society, fighting for their rights and emerging successful in the face of odds. All the couples featured in the performance were parents of Mitha’s students, including her grandson Rahul Tariq and his wife Shafaq.

The second half of the programme featured Mitha’s seasoned dance student, Amna-Mawaz Khan, who performed feminist poet Kishwer Naheed’s poem Yeh Hum Gunahgaar Auratain Hain. “What we present to you today with pride and humility is a poem by the collective voice of women, Kishwer Naheed. It was a great challenge for me to compose the dance because it is extremely difficult to perform a modern poem in classical dance,” she said.

Attired as the Mohenjodaro ‘Dancing Girl’, Khan presented a spectacular rendition of Bharatnatyam. From the diversity of her changing moods to balanced moves, she performed with poise and grace. Sung by Kanwal Iftikhar with musical accompaniments of Muhammad Ajmal on tabla and Ustaad Raees Khan on violin, the composition was a refreshing tribute to women, who refuse to bow down to the status quo. Naheed complimented Mitha, Khan and the musicians for transforming her verses into a well-rounded performance piece.

Zoe Viccaji live in concert

Following the classical music and dance extravaganza, singer-songwriter Zoe Viccaji and her band entertained the packed hall with their upbeat music. Accompanying musicians were Neil Arajauno on bass, Max Dias on guitar, Lenny Massey on keyboard, and Giles Goveas on drums.

Setting the tone of the concert with the enthusiastic ‘Mamma Mia’, they went on to perform the soulfully-mellow tunes ‘Bichra Yaar’, ‘Ishq Kinara’ and ‘Jaana’.  Diversifying the playlist, they also performed a high-powered Sufi number, which saw many audience members break into bhangra moves.

Viccaji’s cover of Junoon’s ‘Dosti’ got a huge response from the audience. She also performed the music of her favourite female singer, the late Nazia Hassan, dedicating it to girls and women. She grooved to the all-time hits ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’, ‘Disco Deewane’ and ‘Boom Boom’, encouraging the audience to sing and dance along.

As requests kept pouring in, she also performed ‘Jab Koi Pyar Se Bulayega’ and changed the mood with Elvis Presley’s ‘Shimmy To Your Left’. She riveted the audience with her rendition of Sajjad Ali’s ‘Bolo Bolo’ and Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.

Making smooth transitions, Viccaji performed a mix of everything, including originals and covers, and showcased her versatility and command over her craft. In a playful spirit, she picked random audience members to jam with her and took selfies, mid-performance. She rounded off the evening with Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’, proving to be a hands-on live performer.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2015.

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Mashaal | 6 years ago | Reply LONG LIVE AMNA MAWAZ KHAN!!!!!!!!!! WE love you.
SK | 6 years ago | Reply Zoe is a great live performer and a great entertainer.
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