Frere Hall decorated for the festival. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

Can the Karachi Mubarak Festival help reclaim the city of lights?

"It's high time then we come out and combat violence by reclaiming all our public places,'' says director Nida Butt
Updated 14 Sep, 2015 04:56pm

It's been a while since people in Karachi thronged to a public place to have a good time, and the Karachi Mubarak Festival is trying to set that right.

An initiative of the ongoing ‘I Am Karachi’ campaign, Karachi Mubarak has been designed by the consortium members and MAD School directors Nida Butt and Hamza Jafri as a touring festival that will take the joy of experiencing the performing arts to different parts of the city.

After the festival launched at Aladin Park on May 2, it travelled to Frere Hall on Sunday, where it transformed its gardens into a fun fair like we haven't witnessed before: sounds of music, dance and theatre reverberated from the venue's five corners, of which one was dedicated to children's activities. Karachiites from all age groups, ethnicities and social strata gathered together to celebrate the essence of the City of Lights.

Karachi Mubarak in full swing with the backdrop of Frere Hall. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Karachi Mubarak in full swing with the backdrop of Frere Hall. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

As if this wasn't enough to excite the crowd, the event's host Faheem Azam (of Bombay Dreams fame) drove the energy level up a few further notches with his animated compering; the crowd hollered 'Mubarak!' each time he would shout 'Karachi'.

“It’s indeed a pleasure to see Karachites celebrating their city's indigenous cultures," Azam said to Dawn.com.

"This should definitely become an example for other cities, which are culturally richer than Karachi. It’s a fantastic city and it’s pleasing to see citizens reclaiming it,” he added.

Eat, sing, dance

It was folk music galore in the music corner, as people gathered to listen to Sindhi traditional songs and instrumental performances by Shazia Bano, Sami and Imdad Ali. 'Washmallay', a Baloch performance, was also thoroughly enjoyed.

Baloch perform their traditional dance. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Baloch perform their traditional dance. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

Joshua Fernandez, a MAD School regular, sat surrounded by instruments and intrigued onlookers, who took turns to try their hand at the different instruments. Following Fernandez’s call, many managed to play impromptu tunes.

The directions for the event. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
The directions for the event. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

Kathak by Shankir Samrat played its part in reviving the centuries old classical dance. Although a considerable number of people watched the dances, a member of the Sindhi troupe said that the response at the previous festival event was far greater than this one.

Kathak performance 1500 by 900 single space. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Kathak performance 1500 by 900 single space. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

People also had a range of food options, including paratha rolls, fries, samosa, chaat, biryani, gola ganda and fro-yo, and could have a look at stalls selling handmade products and embroidered and ready-to-wear clothes.

Messages honouring the memory of Sabeen Mehmud. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Messages honouring the memory of Sabeen Mehmud. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

A memorial board for slain activist Sabeen Mehmud had also been put up; people wrote messages to honour her memory.

A stall selling hand-made goods. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
A stall selling hand-made goods. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

Many celebrities had dropped by to experience the festival's happening vibe; singer Zoe Viccaji, designer Maheen Khan, producer Mazhar Zaidi, model/singer Rubya Choudhry and producer/actor Mehar Jaffri were all spotted at the event.

Karachi Mubarak!

A photo posted by Rubya Chaudhry (@rubyachaudhry) on

Let the plays begin

6pm onwards, the two theatre corners came alive, giving two different experiences of live performance to the audience.

ZAHRSS' Madya Not Medya, which was just recently performed at NAPA, provoked thought about the country's sorry state of affairs, but sent out a final message of hope by showing simple acts of kindness.

A scene from the theatre 'Madya not Medya'. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
A scene from the theatre 'Madya not Medya'. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

“Although there were various other distractions for the viewers, we got a great response from the audience, which we didn't expect,” said Misbah Qureshi, an actor in Madya not Medya.

Following this, LOL Waalay led by Akbar Chaudhry had the crowds in fits with their performance.

Akbar Chaudhry from LOL Waalay takes the stage. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Akbar Chaudhry from LOL Waalay takes the stage. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

“It’s not easy to perform improvisational comedy without an active audience and although the group wasn’t too big, we had a lot of fun,” shared Akbar.

Kids got their share of live entertainment with storytelling by Zambeel, a puppet show and a magician who had the young audience riveted — which was good news for their parents!

This fire-blowing magician enthralled all. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
This fire-blowing magician enthralled all. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

Crowd reactions

“Just returned from Canada and after seeing the fervour here, all I want to say is: Aapko bhi Karachi mubarak ho!”

“This is the first time we are coming to Frere Hall and decided to drop by at this event. The kids are super happy.”

Performance on Sindhi songs. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Performance on Sindhi songs. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

“We tend to live in fear because of the prevailing conditions, but the number of attendees has proved that Karachi refuses to surrender.”

A man makes malai-boti rolls for customers. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
A man makes malai-boti rolls for customers. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

“Our sale of rolls is lukewarm as compared to the second stall because at the other point, buyers are drawn toward the theatre area.”

The pledge

Leading the police marching band, organiser Nida Butt got on the stage to charge up the already charged up audience and spoke about Karachi Mubarak:

Nida Butt charges up the audience. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Nida Butt charges up the audience. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

“The city has been plagued by violence, we have been plagued by violence, but now it is high time that we come out and combat this violence by reclaiming all our public places — they belong to us.”

Members take the pledge. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
Members take the pledge. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

She then asked the crowd to read aloud a pledge with the I Am Karachi members, which centred on the message of ‘peace and removing all distinction of gender, class, ethnicity and language’.

After conducting two successful events, Karachi Mubarak will hold its last show at Port Grand on May 17; standard rates of admission apply.

A stall selling jewelry and accessories.— Photo by Zoya Anwer
A stall selling jewelry and accessories.— Photo by Zoya Anwer