People in the audience hustled to grab the first seat they could find in the Main Garden, many sitting on the floor just to catch a glimpse of this maestro they had heard so much about prior to the event. The elderly dominated the audience, and understandably so. Shah is known for her flawless renditions of musical numbers that date back almost a century. Her stage set-up was casual and simple in nature, with support from a very talented group of Dholak, Sarangi, Tabla and Harmonium players. The combination of these fabulous sounds spread an emotionally-charged aura that was strongly felt by all.
Perhaps what captivated the audience most was the idea behind Shah’s enthralling performance. She sought to pay tribute to a number of women who are known to have worked on the first commercial recordings, using the gramophone. Gauhar Jan, Zohra Bhai Agrawali, Sarisviti Devi and Begum Akhtar were just a few among these greats. What set apart Shah’s delivery of these songs was the way she would build up to the performance by narrating short historical stories about the lives of these women. These stories would instantly take one back in time in a resplendent fashion, making the performance all the more enjoyable. While there are a host of technologically advanced ways of accessing music today, Shah expressed her fondness for what is arguably the very first method of recording and listening to music. “People do not know much about these women today – even our beloved Google has no record of their lives,” said Shah.
One could see the dynamics of the evening take a sharp turn when Zoe Viccaji took the stage. The younger ones moved nearer to the stage and the elderly called it a night. Viccaji’s performances at Coke Studio have already given her a big name amongst the young musical enthusiasts, particularly those who enjoy a unique blend of Jazz, Blues and contemporary Pop. Her set list included songs such as Ishq Kinara, Raat Gaey and Mera Bichra Yaar. Each song had a unique and socially relevant message, which Viccaji would briefly narrate prior to the performance. Keeping alive the relevance of Eastern instruments in modern tunes, she had support from a Chitrali Rubab player known as Irfan. Having worked on a love-inspired track with Irfan called Ashiqi Angar, Viccaji decided to perform it live for the first time at the KLF. The single is set to be released in mid-February, and highlights the two philosophies of love in Eastern tradition, namely Ishq-e-Majaazi and Ishq-e-Haqeeqi.
The Karachi Literature Festival continues for another two days, and features a host of exciting talks and performances.
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