The Mystic Music Sufi Festival, the flagship event of the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, took Lahore on a musical journey last weekend. The two-day festival was held at the Alhamra Cultural Complex, Qaddafi Stadium, on the 11th and 12th of February. Numerous renowned artists from all corners of Pakistan including Mai Dhai, Pappu Sain, Suraiya Khanum, Sain Zahoor, Ali Sethi and Hadiqa Kiani gathered to celebrate the love and beauty of Sufi music and philosophy. The festival had been the talk of the town ever since the organizers unveiled the list of artists who were in the pipeline for the event. Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop has staged some of the best performances in the country, and had to meet its own historical benchmark.
The event kicked off on Saturday at a beautifully decorated mystical-themed stage. On the opening night, Ali Sethi, who has received immense praise and recognition for his soul-stirring vocals, performed live at the festival. Magical Ghazals and Qawwalis were also passionately sung by the Niazi Brothers, Mian Meeri Qawwal and Rizwan-Moazzam. With an almost occult sense of rhythm and repetition of the dhol beats, the duo of Mithu Saien and Gunga Saien put the crowd in a trance. Performances by Nighat Chaodhry, Krishan Lal Bheel, Chaand-Soorj, Bushra Marvi and Akhtar Chanal Zahri were particularly remarkable.
The second night began with the awe-inspiring dhol performances by Shaukat Dholia, which were soon followed by another dhol and raks (Sufi dance) performance by Pappu Sain. It was a unique, intoxicating experience for even those who had witnessed Pappu Sain’s magic at Shah Jamal. A more specific form of raks was beautifully performed by Wahab Shah, while Sain Zahoor rejoiced as he passionately sung poems of Bulleh Shah. The second night concluded with the mesmerizing singing of Hadiqa Kiani and Sanam Marvi.
The arrangements made by the Rafi Peer Group were immaculate, with an elaborate stage set-up and lights that changed color according to the rhythm of the music. The full moon shone brightly down on the open theater and added to the aesthetic appeal of the wonderfully decorated stage. The setting of the stage between performances took place with remarkable efficiency and without any delays, which would have marred the atmosphere created by the preceding performers. Food and tea were available for purchase, as were snacks and drinks; a credit to the roaming vendors.
A noteworthy element was the diversity of the artists and performers on both days. The presence of Mai Dhai from Tharparkar, Krishan Lal Bheel from Cholistan, Bazm-e-Liqa from Gilgit, Hunza and Chitral, and other artists from all corners of Pakistan, proved that the powerful medium of traditional Sufi music can act as a unifying force for the entire country. Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop has intended to convey a similar message of unity and peace since the inception of the Mystic Music Sufi Festival back in the year 2000. In addition to providing quality entertainment, it has a deeper implicit message about universal harmony and the exploration of one’s self while cherishing the love for mankind and the Supreme Being.
The lives of the great Sufi legends convey how we can break the shackles of our biases and transcend sectarian, linguistic, racial and even religious differences. The power of such a message could be seen at Alhamra’s jam-packed amphitheater, where spectators from all walks of life having little in common except the love for Sufism, danced and chanted in remarkable sync. More frequent occurrence of such events would not only bring us closer as a community, but would also help build a better image of Pakistan.
All images have been taken from the 'Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop' Facebook page.
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