For the second time in three columns, I will be kicking off things by narrating something I heard a musician say on-stage. Like the last time, this wasn’t said on a concert stage but a discussion panel, which is where you are most likely to find musicians in contemporary Pakistan. In this particular case, the musician answered a question about the dwindling audiences at concerts by arguing that it was because of the lack of good sound and professional stage and lights. In other words, concerts were just not arranged very well.
The reasoning never made sense to me - most of the concerts I attended growing up were often quite amateur affairs, but that hadn’t stopped people before. That being said, with more entertainment options now, perhaps music fans do expect more finesse.
The theory was put to test at a recent performance I attended. The set up was really well done - the sound was great, the lights were bright and the stage and screen all made it look top notch. But that wasn’t the end of it - there were air-conditioners, sofas, chairs in neat rows and waiters serving mocktails and h’or d’oeuvres. Despite the disco lights and the loud music, it felt less like a proper concert and more like a kitty party that had gone rogue.
A great concert is one that always feels slightly on edge. One that’s hot and humid (even if the weather isn’t); one that makes you feel instead of hearing the music; and one that leaves you both exhilarated as well as slightly afraid of how much you enjoyed cutting loose. Unfortunately, in Pakistan that has sometimes ended up including gate crashes and fights and brandishing of weapons and storming of hired guards and the rest.
This is not a dig at the drinks and snacks - which were delicious - but more the fact that the event management team had gone overboard, and ending up killing the soul of the concert itself. This wasn’t the first time I had seen such a musical performance, where the entire atmosphere was less rock-n-roll and more valima function. More often than not, these allowances or luxuries are made for the people in suits who are bankrolling the event, and who are expected to constantly be at ease, even if it means upending the entire purpose of the concert itself.
Here is what I think - a great concert is one that always feels slightly on edge. One that’s hot and humid (even if the weather isn’t); one that makes you feel instead of hearing the music; and one that leaves you both exhilarated as well as slightly afraid of how much you enjoyed cutting loose. Unfortunately, in Pakistan that has sometimes ended up including gate crashes and fights and brandishing of weapons and storming of hired guards and the rest.
But despite those risks, if a concert isn’t at least making you experience and feel something you normally wouldn’t, then it's not doing its job. Yes, they have to be managed professionally, but event managers need to realize that comfort isn’t a priority during a concert – the music is.
Moving on, let’s take a look at the charts from the past fortnight.
Given the flux in the Pakistani music scene as well as the altered dynamics of digitally accessible music means that there are almost always lost of new entries, although not all are new songs.
Of the 11 new entries on the charts this week, only a couple are actually new songs. The most significant of the ‘new’ releases was Abida Parveen’s single, 'Noor-e-Azal', which has been re-packaged for the Ramzan season by a brand.
One actual new release is Shajie’s 'Sab Acha Hai', which really has to be appreciated over several listens, preferably in the company of his other songs. Given that he has such a distinctive style that he continues to employ, the really interesting parts of his newer songs are the more complex layering of the musical arrangement.
At no.1 is a surprise entry - 'Bang Bang Bang' by Dynoman, another one of Karachi’s highly renowned indie artists and producers. While it is a relentlessly wondrous track, its debut at the top was facilitated by a promotional campaign that featured several of the most exciting producers of electronic music in Pakistan. In other words, it remains to be seen whether this run can be sustained after the promotions.
The Sketches also make a return to the charts with 'Jogi' at no. 7, with Bilal Saeed’s 'Heeriye' landing one spot ahead at six with one of his older songs. Usual suspects Bandook (no. 3) and Atif Aslam (no. 15) continue their sustained residency in the charts, which also see a return for Jal (no. 10) and Call (no. 3), the two truly old-school songs on the charts. One great track that has made a return is 'Awaam' by Faris Shafi - one of the best Urdu rap songs ever made.
Amongst those releases that didn’t make it to the charts, one to look out for is the new album by Sibti, titled The Book of Sibt. Known for his raunchy, witty lyrics and eclectic compositions, the album can be an acquired taste, but one worth the effort.