I feel extremely offended when Karachi is dismissed as if it were only a financial hub of the country. Yes, it remains primarily a business hub, but we are not short of the good things in life – culture, arts, music, and theatre – we have it all. The Pakistan American Cultural Center recently held an enchanted evening, brimming with music, conversation, and celebrated guests from around the city. The exclusive musical evening of old classics was held in collaboration with Sur Sangum Foundation. A brainchild of Shehla Khurram, Sur Sangum is a Toronto-based organisation primarily endeavoring to build communities through promoting cultural exchange, encouraging traditional and contemporary creative expression, and extending the appreciation of the arts and heritage. Junaid Zuberi became an integral part as he cemented its foundation with his diverse experience to bring the platform to where it stands tall today.
“So what started as a small social media group in 2013 to bring musically-minded people together, share and listen to music, network with like-minded people and bring a community together, has morphed into a formal ground for training, with 35-40 performances done in Toronto. Simultaneously, Karachi also held various performances. With more than 22,000 members, the group is an active platform for all those who hold music dear,” says Junaid Zuberi, the co-founder of Sur Sangum, to whom it has been bequeathed.
Literally translated as “harmonisation of musical notes,” the soiree stayed true to these words. With a mesmerising ambiance and a magnificent selection of songs, I realised it was a good decision to tag my mom along for some mother-daughter time out – because she was easily able to reminisce and resonate with the feel of the event, away from the emerging punk and rock birthing from the latest singers.
Organised by Sameer Beg of Sur Sangum, and hosted by the lively Syed Nusrat Ali, portraying an absolute triumph of tameez and tehzeeb, the evening kicked off with the extremely talented Sajjad Syed who sang “Kya Hua Tera Wada.” Touching the finer chords of emotion in music, Sajjad used his moorings in classical music for a rendition that depicted his flair for poetry and served his soul in equal measure, and ours.
Next to follow was Zeeshan Zafar, a recent NAPA graduate, who beautifully reprised Sajjad Ali’s “Sahil Pey Kharay Ho.” He topped it up with Mehdi Hassan’s treasured “Dunya Kisi Kay Piyar Mein.” And then “Zindagi Ki Raah Mei Takra Gya Koi” was another manifestation of his fine vocals with immense potential, leaving a permanent impression on the audiences.
Next to follow was the President of PACC, Makhdoom Riaz, who sang Talat Mahmood. With “Ae Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal,” and “Tasveer Banata Hoon Tasveer Nahin Banti,” he did complete justice – if not more – to both renditions. Singing these two numbers on stage held the listeners spellbound and serene.
However, the lead singer was yet to come. Rakshanda Ahmed took the stage in a beautiful sari as she led the mahaul from endearing gloomy to happy and vibrant Nayyara-Noor numbers. Beginning with a tasteful number by Gulam Farid Nizami, “Ae Ri Sakhi More Piya Ghar Aaye,” she went on to sing a magnificent lineup comprising Nayyara Noor’s “Chaa Rahi Kaali Ghata,” and Lata Mangeshkar’s “Dekho Ji Jiya Churaye Liye Jaye.”
While my mom found these numbers full of verve, what really uplifted me was a change of mood with Nayyara Noor’s “Phir Sawan Rut Ki Pawan Chali,” Shahnaz Begum’s “Aayi Hai Bahaar Jiyara Mora Naachay,” and heart-touching kalaam of Mehdi Hasan’s “Sau Baar Ġham-E-Hijr Se Jaañ Guzrī Hai.” Others included Madam Noor Jehan’s “Kali Kali Mandlaye,” Amir Khusrau’s “Kahe Ko Byahi Bides,” and “Ambwa Talay Dola Rakh De.” The feast of music ended with Sahir Ludhianvi’s “Jurm-e-Ulfat Pe Hamein Log Saza Dete Hain,” in an atmosphere that could not have been improved.
Nevertheless, as a part of the relatively younger lot, I felt that the evening might have resonated yet more with my generation with some recent renditions.
The orchestra of musicians did an incredible job, having been led by none other than Mehboob Ashraf. They delivered with great aplomb and panache. The chilly night of Karachi made for great musical memories as we left the venue on a real high.
I hope and pray for the city’s cultural centres to follow suit, as there is something about the insight and commitment of experienced professionals which achieves something very special.
So many things colluded that night: incredible talent, hard work, loving preparation, gracious hospitality – all magnified and enhanced by the intimacy of the venue, the directness of the performances and the sheer magic of the moment.