After passing through it’s clustered gates, one had to get in a queue to reach the Port Grand entrance. The Modern stage, featuring artists with Western musical orientations, was conveniently set up in the central courtyard and continued to attract a significantly larger audience throughout the show. The Traditional Stage demanded a longer walk, as it was set up towards the rear of the venue. In order to view performances on both stages, one would find people rushing from one stage to the other in between acts as well.
With a brightly varied audience anxiously glancing towards the Modern Stage, the show was underway with an underground Indie band called Janoobi Khargosh. Many similar acts followed, equally driving the audience mad with wild music fervor. Natasha Humera Ejaz and Alicia Dias, two young and promising musicians stole the first half of the show with their powerful and soulful voices. Singles by Natasha Ejaz, such as ‘Hum Bhagay’ and ‘Till the End of Time’ were wildly popular amongst the audience, as one could find many heads swinging to the music. Sikander Ka Mandar, a local Roots Rock band brought a different spark on stage, with their melodic rhythm patterns and catchy baselines captivating specifically the youth in the audience. Performances by Aamir Zaki and Mauj led the viewers in to frenzy, with Zaki’s ‘Mera Pyaar’ causing some serious commotion in the stands. Shehzad Roy’s ‘Laga Rahay’ and Jimmy Khan’s cover of Sajjad Ali’s ‘Kir Kir’ continued to entertain the crowd, bringing a unique Punjabi taste in to the playlist. While a number of artists ensured ethnic dialect in their lyrics, there was also good news for heavy metal enthusiasts. Faraz Anwar’s breathtaking guitar licks caused a significant number to head bang carelessly, resulting in a few concerned glances from the aged members of the audience.
The traditional end of the festival jumped to a start as the very enthusiastic host had the audience fervently chant 'I Am Karachi'. Under the banner of uniting for peace, music began to flow in an attempt to reclaim the resilient city with its traditions and heritage. The opening performance embodied the much adored genre of folk music, presented by the All Star Folk Ensemble, featuring well-known artists such as Babar Khanna, the dhol maestro from Coke Studio Singers Ali Safeer and Latif Ali Khan were also part of the performance. The audience swayed along with the riveting rhythm of the tabla as Safeer sang in praise of the famed saint Shahbaz Qalandar, the epitome of Sindhi folk. Tributes were also paid to several legendary personalities such as Ghulam Ali Khan, Tufail Niazi and Mehdi Hassan, who embody traditional eastern music. The audience was particularly moved by the flute extraordinaire from the Mekaal Hasan Band, Ahsan Pappu. His perfectly articulated and effortless solos left everyone mesmerized. Elderly and young alike merrily tapped their feet and clapped along as many relatable tunes such as ‘Lathay Di Chaddar’ were played.
Taking the audience back to simpler times, Shazia Bano sang all-time classics such as ‘Allah Hi Allah Kiya Karo’ and ‘Chaandni Raatein’. Under the enchanting spell of these talented musicians, the evening perfectly personified the eastern or ‘traditional’ feel, the kind that evoked a whiff of nostalgia over everyone. The highly evocative genre of Qawalli has been popular across generations, creating intense auras of spirituality. Performances by Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers and Fareed Ayaz Abu Mohammad left qawalli enthusiasts in a trance. As artists presented their renditions of transcendent qawalis such as ‘Mun Kunto Maula’, Amir Khusroe's ‘Naina Milaike’ and ‘Duma Dum Mast Qalandar’, the audience passionately raised their hands in praise.
Bringing the raw and unique sound of Rajasthani Folk to the stage, Mai Dhai and her band injected a rather exotic aura in to the evening and swept the audience off their feet. The set up incorporated instruments and genres that represent traditional music. The artists, each in their own creative manner, presented their renditions leaving the audience wanting more. The theme of reclaiming the present with the golden past recurred through each performance, as the delightful audience hummed one famous tune after another. The highlight of the traditional line-up, the legendary Pakistani singer Humera Channa, was also warmly welcomed on to stage. In response to one of her renowned songs from Coke Studio, ‘Ambwa Talay’, the audience repeatedly admired and clapped to the finesse with which she tackled the hardest of notes. The enchanting sound of the instruments, and the flawless quality of her voice proved to be the perfect end to the festival.
Almost eight months of hard work, dedication and undying willpower paid off well for the organizers of the event. Whether it was the soothing tunes from the Modern Stage or the resounding performances at the Traditional one, hundreds of Karachiites took to Port Grand to support the peaceful cause, coming together as a united whole under the enlivened banner of ‘I Am Karachi’.
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