The two-day Music Mela is now a very different event in terms of size and glamour than when it started, and the answer to how it stays relevant lies in diversity, showcasing emerging talent and bringing genres and musicians from around the world together.

“Face Music Mela is really amazing, and that’s why we don’t miss it. This is the event were we enjoy different genres of music coming together in one place,” said Maham Batool, who has attended the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education’s (FACE) music festival for the last three years.

This time around, she was at the festival to see one of her favourite bands, Lahu, perform for the first time.

“There’s nothing happening in Islamabad and then there is the Face Music Mela. This is a first rate event for live music,” said Zarah Hashim, who is also a fan of the festival and has not missed it for the last three years.

Held in the gardens of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Sunday, the second day of the mela featured performances by new bands such as Lahu, Quadrum and Wisdom Salad, as well as well-known musicians like the Bakshi Brothers, a collaboration between Maria Ruminska, Kamil Roginski and Imran Aziz Mian Qawwal, Bilal Khan, Chakwal Party and a grand finale by the legendary Sajjad Ali.

This year’s line-up also consisted of four international acts, from the United Kingdom, United States and Poland and France. Face has arranged collaborations between Polish and Pakistani artists for the last four years; this year, Polish folk musicians Maria Ruminska and Kamil Roginski collaborated with Imran Aziz Mian Qawwal.

American country rock musician Mary McBride also performed at the festival, including a rendition of Dil Dil Pakistan that she performed during the screening of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final.

The festival also set up multiple screens for the PSL match, as well as a food pavilion and an artists pavilion to promote Pakistani artisans.

Festival director Zeejah Fazli said a Polish sound engineer was given charge to enhance the musical experience. Mr Fazli explained: “While attracting so many people to one place, this year the festival comes with a cause and has a parallel campaign on gender-based violence called ‘No Means No’.

“Through the Face Music Mela platform we plan to create awareness against gender-based violence and sexual harassment by creating a reporting booth with the name of #nomeansno. The booth will report cases from victims, if any, and provide immediate advice and counselling. The idea is to promote this concept to the extent that the placement of a #nomeansno booth at every public event should become a trend to follow to promote a safe environment for general public and especially girls.”

Kashan Khan, who brought his family to the festival ground for the first time, said that he had heard something good was happening in town. “We thought we would like to be part of it,” Mr Khan said.

Originally published in Dawn, March 26th, 2018