I Am Karachi (IAK) in collaboration with Lok Virsa and the Arts Council Karachi will hold a music festival from Nov 11. This was announced at a press conference on Thursday.

Speaking to the media, president IAK Amin Hashwani said IAK had been around for a while. It had three objectives: first, reclaiming public space; second, changing the public discourse; third, to create a platform where like-minded people of civil society could come together. The music festival cut across “all three parameters”: it’s being done at public places, music transcended cultures (so it’s about changing discourse), and gave a platform because “IAK is a movement, not an initiative”.

Mr Hashwani said Karachi had many problems. IAK’s aim was to inspire change. No one individual could achieve that goal — it had to be a collaborative effort. He also requested the media to relay positive news, since whatever the media presented was picked up by the international media.

President Arts Council Ahmed Shah said the council was a venue partner for the festival. He added he was one of the founder members of IAK. The idea was to bring together all pro-art, pro-culture and other individuals, because such a combined effort had a snowball effect. Referring to folk music, he called it the heritage of our land.

Executive director Lok Virsa Dr Fouzia Saeed said Lok Virsa was a national institution that promoted our traditional culture. The additional aim of the institution was to bring the younger generation back to our cultural identity (saqafati shanakht). Lok Virsa gave great importance to the different cultural units and regional languages of the country. Though it was based in Islamabad, its network was all over the country.

Dr Saeed said she hoped that when the institute would bring its artists and craftsmen to the festival, the diverse population of Karachi would enjoy them.

Shallum Xavier of pop band Fuzon said he had been associated with IAK for the last three years. With the consultation of the members associated with the initiative, a music mentorship programme was launched which, he claimed, was Pakistan’s first such mentorship programme. The endeavour was to go to all parts of Karachi and select children and give them musical training. Now IAK was trying to come out with an album of the children’s songs, which would be released in a few weeks.

Executive director IAK Ambareen Kazim Thompson said Karachi was a city of 23 million people, with only three per cent open spaces and a single arts council for such a large population. The festival would last for five weeks, beginning with the Lok Virsa performance at the Arts Council. After that there would be qawwali sessions at places such as Pakistan Chowk and Pur Sukoon Chowk. The intention was to have the festival on a yearly basis.

Curator of the festival and musician Mekaal Hasan said the festival would have every colour (genre) of Pakistani music. Its focus was on community engagement.

Originally published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2017