A cultural diplomacy venture called Sarangi was launched on Thursday with a performance by students of the Leif Larsen Music Centre in Altit, Hunza at a reception on Thursday.

Dressed in traditional garb and performing on indigenous instruments, the musicians – who were performing in the capital for the first time – began with a Persian Sufi kalaam. The musicians’ melodious vocals and rhythmic instrumentals came together to mesmerise the audience.

The Sarangi initiative, which was launched by Serena Hotels, began with an online competition that aimed to reach young talent across the country, and aims to promote music and Pakistani talent.

The competition received 50 submissions that were judged by Ali Noor from Noori, music director Nizar Lalani and record producer Sarmad Ghafoor.

The winners were invited to perform at the launch, and the event began with a performance by 17-year-old Ifra Sharon, Ahad John and their band from Faisalabad, who won first prize. The band performed three original numbers, and their powerful vocals and drumming crescendos were interspersed with acapella-style segments.

Second place went to Sannan Mehboob from Swat, who combined traditional instruments with a guitar and tabla. The band’s frontman Inayatullah Khan said: “We are performing a fusion of Punjabi and Pashto styles of music and two of our performers are from the capital and two of us are from the Paradise-like state of Swat. We will begin with a semi-classical Sufi kalaam.”

The M Type, also from Faisalabad, were the third finalists in the competition. Band member Gohar Nayab said: “My band goes by the name The M Type – the Music Type... We will be performing three songs, beginning with the Elvis Presley ballad 'Wise Men Say', followed by Fuzon’s 'Mora Saiyaan Mose Bole Na' and ending with Kailash Kher’s 'Preet Ki Lat Mohe Aisi Lagi'.”

After hearing the musicians perform, Aziz Boolani, the CEO of Serena Hotels announced that Serena would arrange for the winners of the competition to record their work and support the Lief Larsen Music Centre.

The initiative was launched with the conclusion of the Be the Next Star photography competition, whose winners and judges were presented with awards on Thursday as well.

The judges for the photography exhibition were photojournalist and artist Mobeen Ansari, photographer and writer Syed Mehdi Bukhari and documentary filmmaker Wajahat Malik. The winners were Minhaj Ahmad and Sakina Hassan from Karachi.

Originally published in Dawn, November 10th, 2017