Let’s bring back concert culture

Published: January 25, 2012

We really need more people attending creative events and listening to music. PHOTO: AFP

So what do people my age talk about when they meet? When I say my age I mean the mid-30s where almost all of us have settled down to something or someone. We don’t talk about politics like everybody younger than us (thanks to Immy K) and older than us (thanks to the rest) does. We don’t talk about cricket because frankly, we are too busy to remember all the names in this ever changing team which is divided for us into the Afridis and the Misbahs.

So what do we talk  about?


Yes, definitely music. The one force that binds us all and makes us talk endlessly about the the concerts we grew up attending.

Having grown up in Karachi in the 80s and 90s, one can’t forget the times when Vital Signs used to play at the Arts Council unnoticed, until they finally broke through the ubiquitous Pakistani ‘pop’ barrier and suddenly became a stadium filling band with no end in sight but the eventual break up.

The same period saw Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s rise to stardom, from just an ordinary qawal to a world famous music legend.

These watershed moments were followed by the emergence of ‘Junoon’, the biggest rock band of Pakistan,  and for a period of five to eight years, Karachi saw concert after concert of tremendous quality and influence.

Everything used to happen at concerts in that era. It was the social scene, the place you took your date to or where you found one. That was where you hung out with your friends. There was no cyber space, no security threat; it was just a bunch of kids, screaming and singing with dreams in their eyes.

Then suddenly, the world changed.

The war came to us in terms we were unfamiliar with, and the killings, the suicide bombings and the destruction started.The concept of concerts as social gatherings died a slow death in this new era because they had become too much of a security risk. Quite frankly, they still are a risk but I think we have now arrived at another turn.

In 2011, there were interesting things happening in Karachi including concerts (mostly indoors at Royal Rodale) and musicals (courtesy Nida Butt and crew) but people are still reluctant to go to them for mainly two reasons:

  1. People feel the crowd will be too maila (indecent). This is quite unfortunate, as ‘them’ and ‘us’ never existed until a few years ago, or perhaps they did but were never used politically so it wasn’t obvious. Every person has the right to enjoy music and art as much as any of the urban elite do. No one section of society should shun the other. We should try to rise above this attitude and believe me, it is quite possible to do so. The recent PTI jalsas are good examples of it since they aren’t much more than grand concerts and are pretty successful too.
  2. They think the facilities will not be worth the prices attached to them. This is an unfortunate reality in the day and age of many event management companies that are out to make a fast and easy buck. However, if one gets in touch with organisers before hand, rather than believing what’s written on flyers or through second hand channels, the information is closer to reality and you also have someone to hold accountable for it. I personally became a believer again when I took my eight-year-old daughter to Mamma Mia last year.

We are a nation that has suffered much over the years economically, politically and physically. We really need more people attending creative events and listening to music because even though they are ‘cool’, Facebook and social media can never replace the feeling of being in a crowd.

We need music to heal and we need large open air concerts to unite as a city and as a community. Let’s not be restricted behind sections and VIP barriers anymore. Let’s learn to tolerate and participate, if not for ourselves then for our children, so they can also have great memories like ours.

Do you think concerts should be banned, as proposed in the Punjab Assembly?

     View Results

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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.

  • Parvez

    Here’s a bit of news from today’s papers that should gladden your heart :
    The Punjab Assembly wants concerts banned in all public and private educational institutions in the province.
    If this is how our law makers think, is there much hope ??Recommend

  • Kjkhan

    But first we need to be humans. I am sorry, what happened in Alhamara Lahore was barbaric, ask the families of the girls who got killed, they will tell you the importance of concerts.Recommend

  • Waqas Farooq

    Dear Faisal,

    Musical concert is not the only missing link which will bring presperity around us if found. There are a lot of things a social moral uplift, Moraly we are a devastated nation and the musical concert even ignite haphazadness in youth. Govt of Panjab Baaned concert in educational institution b/c if there is a concert means there is no limit!! Recommend

  • Fahad

    Aslamu Alaikum !

    dear Faisal Kapadia

    Do you really think that concerts and musik is our culture and we should struggle to bring it back ?

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    Pakistani nation in general and our music bands in particular don’t have tendency to work as a group as a result they split up . Secondly most of the musicians either move to India or join politics. In such circumstances I don’t see no future of concert culture in Islamic republic of Paistan, people here are more comfortable with Owais Qadris and Nadeem Sarwars.Recommend

  • Mir

    I attended many concerts in 90s in karachi, there was certain type of positivity in environment, once i attended concert in quetta, that brought people of different ethinicities together, nothing can replace concerts of those times, i miss them, which drove the young people then.Recommend

  • SAMM

    @Fahad: would you say, then, that bombing and shutting everybody in purdahs is our culture instead??Recommend

  • http://www.faisalkapadia.com F.K

    Thanks for the feedback people as our poll shows us we all wanna have concerts!!!!Recommend

  • Reactionary

    The video of nusrat says it all… music live music specially transcends all boundaries all race all culture dare i say all hate and all prejudice. Thank you so much for writing this!!!! Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat


    I’m tired of people telling me what “OUR” culture is. You and I are allowed to follow different cultures, it’s the very definition of freedom.

    I need the government to be able to cater for all religions and cultures, and not just those of specific community.Recommend

  • Scr

    30 year olds? Lame
    But then again, no real musicians ever come to pakistan
    If IRON MAIDEN came i’d pay 5000 rupees evenRecommend

  • nida butt

    stampedes happen world over during all kinds of events and gatherings, including Hajj and UMmra,are we going to ban all such activites?banming musical concerts shows a bias against the celebration of music, against art in our society maybe because by many its still considered ‘haram’. people should be held accountable since deaths hav been caused due to negligenc which amounts to manslaughtrt.why were there 7000 girlls there when the venue had only room for 4000.both the venue al hamra and the organisers share responsibllity.dont shut down the industtu but fix it so everyone can enjoy music art and dance in public spaces-and chamge the mamagement at al hamra.enough damage done already!Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/Waleed4li Waleed

    I love the positivity towards music. MUSIC IS NOT BAD PEOPLE! Regardless of what anyone tells you, help bring the amazing glory of music culture back in Pakistan. Music inspires, music uplifts, music energizes, music influences, music soothes, music makes you SMILE! When is the last time you saw the Taliban smile?

    For the sake of humanity, bring some form of inspiration and enjoyment back to Pakistan. Music takes you forward! Junoon is the only Pakistani band to have played in Central Park, New York. This is no easy feat. Imagine the positivity to our nations cultural image during that moment.

    And now? Politicians like Zardari, Rehman Malik etc. bring shame to our country.Recommend

  • Red

    I have a problem with this line “No one section of society should shun the other.” No one’s shunning a section of society. It’s natural to avoid indecent people. Why would you want to interact with men who sexually harass you? Concerts are crowded places. Some men think they can get away with anything. No one ever says that these men are from a certain section (whatever that means…you will have to tell me…I have seen men from all backgrounds misbehave). There is no discrimination based on class. It is based on behavior and makes complete sense. I love concerts but, unfortunately, I can only go when a lot of my guy friends are going as well because being surrounded by them is the only way you can have a fun, positive experience.The only other way I can go is if it is an all-girls concert (something you can find at institutes like LGS) or in some other institution where the entry of outsiders is restricted. Recommend

  • Farah hussain

    @ red i don’t think the writer means it that way, he is perhaps referring to our hesitation to mingle with the lower classes. For example a concert in defense may be as rowdy as a concert in gulshan but we all know the perception attached with each. You are however right in the fact that any girl has to go with male company.Recommend

  • Asim

    Man, you made me think of so many memories i had totally moved on from. Wow..those were the days. Wish it were possible to even have half of the vibrancy Karachi had back then.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Fahad: The answer to your question is : YES. Recommend

  • xyz

    @Faraz Talat:
    whats the harm if the poor guy wants to pen down his thoughtsRecommend

  • Awais

    Do you think if it is not part of your culture it should be overlooked as of minor importance?Recommend

  • Awais

    I sure as hell would too!Recommend

  • Arooj Khan

    Music as a medium is generally good for our uplift and for getting a perspective of the world around us, but in country like ours, where no proper system and rules exist even the simple occasions have the potential of backfiring……In the long term therefore this solution would be the right step forward…..such events are only meant for the westernized nations since they have got a whole supporting system behind them, which means that such occasions can never go wrong.Recommend

  • Think_Tanker

    Concerts must be allowed – but they are not the only social activity / gathering we need or will turn things around. Im tired of suggesting a food place after another to someone who comes to visit me in my city, my home. “Hey, whats there to do in Karachi / Pakistan”, did you try their kebabs, did you try their burger .. come on people, for how long are we going to keep it this way.

    Whoever wants to not attend concerts for whatever reasons, should not attend them. The Lahore tragedy cannot be the reason for a full stop, yes it calls for a rethink. Rethink the way we are provided any security by the authorities, rethink they way we behave at the concerts, rethink what we really want to get out of this social gatherings … the point is, we have to rethink our behaviour, our priorities, our loyalties and everything that we do … because right now, we do it all wrong.

    Do not bring religion into this … who made you the saviour for mankind – if you think these concert goes are gonna rot in hell, then let them. You keep your faith and let me keep mine.Recommend

  • Sumaiya

    @F.K: the poll here only shows the opinion of the people who visit E-tribune blogRecommend

  • F.K

    Yes sumaiya and an online poll will show views of people who can access it on any forum, doesn’t mean it is insignificant. Even if the online barrier was not a question the language barrier sure is.Recommend