Concerts in Karachi: Bring back fun to this city!

Published: November 20, 2013
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We would save up money to be able to witness musicians like the Vital Signs or Aamir Zaki play and they made us believe in a Pakistan which was more than the negativity. PHOTO: ANUSHAY FURQAN/FILES

We would save up money to be able to witness musicians like the Vital Signs or Aamir Zaki play and they made us believe in a Pakistan which was more than the negativity. PHOTO: ANUSHAY FURQAN/FILES We would save up money to be able to witness musicians like the Vital Signs or Aamir Zaki play and they made us believe in a Pakistan which was more than the negativity. PHOTO: AFP

I was at a Strings concert a few days ago. It was one of those fancy sit down affairs, with hideous white sofas and people taking selfies of each other to upload on social media.

Bilal Maqsood began singing “mera bichra yaar” and the LCD screens behind him played a very old video from the 1990s. It was then that it hit me. Suddenly I wasn’t nodding and smiling politely to the music, but in a half built amphitheatre, I was screaming as the crème de la crème of the urban rock phenomena in Pakistan belted out their numbers.

The memory of the past is still so fresh.

Strings give a series of riveting performances in seven cities. Photo: Publicity

Yes, there was such a time in this city when concerts had a wild passion in them. One wonders why such an aesthetically vibrant era was over so soon. Just think about it; it’s not like the 90’s were a time of peace in this city; there was always ethnic strife and small proxy wars going on in Karachi’s ghettos back then as well. So then what was keeping it all at bay?

Was it because back then, Pakistan’s developing music industry had realised its potential and was on its way up? Perhaps they had more opportunities to gain sponsors, which are harder to find now? Or maybe people appreciated music more back then than they do now?

I think none of these are true.

With the music scene in Pakistan at a more mature stage and sponsorships being available, not just locally but in our neighbouring country as well, it cannot be a money issue. Also, it cannot be an issue of talent suddenly dissipating from our society because one listen of any episode of Coke Studio will tell you that we have ample talent. Obviously the phenomenal success of Coke Studio and some 20 odd FM channels tells us that Pakistanis love music in every shape and form, and I am not just speaking of the more endowed strata of society. The most musically attuned Pakistanis will be found in our masses, who break into song and dance whenever possible, even while performing tasks in urban or rural settings!

Ahmad Ali Butt revs up the crowd at a local concert. Photo: File

I distinctly remember, during my school days, when we would see the simple but colourful posters of concerts happening in venues like the Arts Council. We would save up money to be able to witness musicians like the Vital Signs or Aamir Zaki play and they made us believe in a Pakistan devoid of the negativity surrounding it even in that day and age. These were no-frill venues with people sitting on stone steps most of the time; tickets were cheap and everyone, regardless of class or background, could go and enjoy the music.

Yes, fights broke out then too, but they never managed to impact the mad rush at the gates. Pakistani spirit was high and everyone wanted in on the fun. The air in Karachi was festive despite the political turmoil. This was our break from everything sad and gloomy. It was a way for us to break free of the darkness engulfing the city, without having to leave the country. We knew that the next day, the rat-race would begin once again, but we also understood the importance of such events to the sanity of our citizens.

We would gather at the request of anything, from ‘kidney centre organised walk for a cause’ to a simple carnival or flower show. We took whatever we could get and in return we provided our very own musicians the encouragement they needed to work harder and strive for better.

But where did those glory days go?

A crowd cheer during a concert in Karachi. Photo: AFP

Why are our children being made to live in a bubble? Why are they stopped from meeting their friends or attending any sort of theatre or performances even now?

The first thing that comes to mind is the cost and secondly, our own mentality acting as the biggest barrier between our kids and simple entertainment.

Event organisers need to understand that it isn’t just ‘top performances’ that will attract crowds. People will come for anything good if the ticket prices are reasonable. Once these events soar, top artists and performers will reduce their prices as well. If nothing else, it will be for the sheer energy that one can draw from a spirited crowd.

When it comes to our mentality, we need to stop thinking of the worst consequence in every possible scenario. Yes, we live in a volatile environment but that doesn’t mean that every time there is a play or concert, we should avoid going for the fear of being ‘targeted’. Can you give up your job just because you are scared you will not make it back alive? No, you can’t. In the same way that a job is a necessity, so are breaks.

A concert featuring Noori and Karavan, along with some underground bands was held in Karachi. Photo: Publicity

Plus,  for those who still fear the worst, there are many small scale performances that take place too, for example, T2F (The Second Floor) puts up acts and musical performances every week!

The point, I am trying to make, is that we are becoming increasingly limited as a society on entertainment options and we have no one to blame but ourselves. We either eat out, and any doctor will tell you how many of us are suffering due to that pastime, or we crib and complain. We have to be able to let go and have a little fun. It’s alright, nay healthy even, for a teenager to wait and count the days until they can see their favourite band play live.

That is the whole point of growing up in a city like Karachi where all the cultures of this nation are fused together in a melting pot.

We need let go of all the negativity, hate and constant judging, and just realise that it’s completely fine to have fun. I would genuinely like to see my kids growing up and enjoying the full spectrum of life this city can provide; the same city that I enjoyed my childhood years in.

How do you want your child’s future to be?

Seeing and experiencing the world through first hand or living off of whatever second hand portrayal they can get from those who lived here in the past?

faisal.kapadia

Faisal Kapadia

A Karachi based writer who blogs at deadpanthoughts.com and tweets @faisalkapadia (twitter.com/faisalkapadia)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ali Abbasi

    I remember the early 00’s, when concerts were happening every week, new acts were coming out of every mohalla, music channels were doing great business and sponsorships for events were being given out left right and center.

    The second coming of Pakistani music was a good time to be living in.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    There should be a concert by ZZ Top. Their look would fit right in.Recommend

  • Shahrukh Kazmi

    Karachi produced one of the biggest rock bands in Pakistan, it was the hub of Rock music i remember attending the rock fest almost every year where talented bands like Dusk, Brain masala, Messiah, Northern Alliance, Ganda banda, Seth etc etc played there heart out and a lot of people come every to see such bands but now its all gone!Recommend

  • Patriotic Pakistani

    I remember how ecstatic I was when I went to a concert of Haroon organized in Karachi. Another memorable moment for me was when Strings had come to play on the convocation organized by my university for us graduating students. The feeling was awesome, seeing your favorite band performing so close, cheering with your friends until your throats become sore… pure nostalgia :D Karachi definitely needs the spark and the entertainment. Kudos to the author for writing this blog. It brought back some amazing memories :)Recommend

  • deep

    The author asks – So then what was keeping it all at bay? – The ‘it’ or insecurities the author refers to that was kept at bay in 1990s was because the jihadis were busy spreading mayhem in India’s part of Kashmir – there were also regular train blasts in my hometown of mumbai interspersed with bloody riots. So there. That is the secret to bringing back a modicum of security in Pakistan I supposeRecommend

  • faisalkapadia

    Perhaps its gone because the audience is not demanding for it to happen like we all did back then?? I doubt if there has been any decrease in talent!Recommend

  • faisalkapadia

    Thank you, the whole reason for writing it was because the same memories flooded back to me..and its time we did something so the future can experience the sameRecommend

  • Real khan (Mongol)

    How come girls are enjoying concerts without burka… shameless…no wonder pakistan is being destroyed morally..Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Not sure if serious or troll. If troll, well done sir.Recommend

  • faisalkapadia

    By that principle deep India should be thriving in original rock bands right now since it is now pakistan which is soaked in blood? So Name three bands from india please? Recommend