Mominah Zahid |
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
The city of Lahore has created an indelible music festival that is not only an amazing platform for artists from any genre of music to come and perform but also a public space in which anyone and everyone is welcomed to come and exchange ideas, music, art, knowledge and perspectives.
Whenever I walk into the Music Meet, an annual music festival that is being held at Al-Hamra since 2015, I feel a sense of hope revive within me about my country. This hope is revitalized by the sheer number of artists walking around in the premises, by the brilliant graphics that represent the Music Meet in hues of pink and green, and the atmosphere of positive vibrant energy.
At concerts of famous celebrities such as Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar, one is alienated from the performer simply because of the restricted seating, lack of free movement and the utter dominance of the stage. The Music Meet welds everyone together, as musicians and artists walk around the grounds of Al-Hamra, talking to their friends, discussing their music and art with their fans and being at one with the crowd that has come to be with them.
Al-Hamra stadium and the freedom awarded to everyone to be exactly who they are in a country that has such fixed and static models of success and propriety makes attending LMM not only entertaining but a true experience of liberation.
This dynamic equality that has been established by the festival between the audience and the artist is unique. The Lahore Music Meet aims to provide a space and venue for musicians coming from all walks of life and gives them a safe space in which they are free to explore all genres of music and challenge any established norms of the commercial music industry of Pakistan.
This all-inclusive approach coupled with LMM’s objective to ensure free entry to anyone from the general public gives this festival a collective vision and purpose. The main idea behind the creation of LMM was that all the great bands that are not commercially viable and are not being showcased on television should be given a platform because at the end of the day, they are brilliant musicians and they should be able to share that with the public.
Natasha Noorani, one of the founders of LMM, said “The idea behind Music Meet was that everyone from the music industry should collectively come together and make a serious effort to do community building while at the same time there should be a place where everyone can discuss ideas and the elements that are currently missing within the music industry.”
The entire festival invites artists and musicians to not only express themselves to the general public but creates an environment where they have a chance to explain why they produce the music and art that they do.
Musicians from any and every walk of life are invited and encouraged to come and share their music with the public, whether it is hardcore metal tunes or the beats of local instruments such as the harmonium and the tabla.
There is a perpetual identity crisis that encompasses Pakistan and most people living in this country as they find it difficult to define themselves and define what they stand for. For Natasha, it is clear that “music is something that transcends social boundaries and is present in everyone’s life in some shape or form. There is no specific sound for Pakistani music be it underground or mainstream or folk, classical or traditional. All of those genres and everything that comes out of Pakistan in the form of sound can be classified as Pakistani music.”
For one particular performance, my friends and I decided we wanted to go backstage so that we did not have to wait in the endless queues leading to the hall in which the performance was going to take place. A dilemma arose when we began to debate how we would get past security as the backstage entrance was only supposed to be used by the performers and their band members.
The audience that decides to go and listen to Saaeein Zahoor who is a rural based musician who speaks in Punjabi and sticks to local instruments is not judged by the rock and metal lovers who are head banging to electric guitars in the grounds outside.
Lucky for us, one of the performers came to our rescue and lead the way as we hastened past security as he shouted out “Artists, Artists, Artists”. I felt a mixed sense of confusion and pride. I could not believe that in a country where so many forms of art such as music and dancing are frowned upon for being un-Islamic and vulgar, the Music Meet team, had managed to create a public space in which the first and foremost position of power was given to the “Artist”.
This importance and respect that has been garnered, was done through the tireless efforts of the management team of LMM; creating deference for the artist as a performer and as an individual, an act of resistance and a small revolution of sorts. The Music Meet contains a plethora of performances and performers that emanate from all segments of society and produce sounds ranging from our local folk music all the way to heavy rock and metal.
The main objective of this festival was to breed a certain kind of tolerance in the audience and the public at large for all the varied forms of music and art that exist in our country. There is no pressure on the performers to give the public what they want and therefore they brilliantly deliver to the public exactly what they need. There are magnificent bands such as Wisdom Salad, Sikandar ka Mandar, Taka Tak and Shorba Noor that are not only unconventional in the way that they produce their music but also the way in which they deliver their performances.
The irony was that when Tak a Tak began to perform their metal songs with the kind of passion that demonstrates the extent of depth the band possesses, the audience understood the sarcasm of his earlier statements.
The crowd at music meet is large but not enormous and therefore before and after songs, performers always communicate directly with the crowd, interjecting important messages in their introductions. The lead vocalist of Shorba Noor thanked the crowd for being an amazing audience and then began to talk about different initiatives that revolved around charities that are trying to support worthy causes.
He told the crowd that it was very important that the youth began to be more “conscientious about everything around them”. The lead guitarist of Taka Tak, Zain Peerzada also used the stage to incorporate some social commentary in between the performances. He said that he was constantly told to grow up and stop playing metal music because there was no audience for it in Pakistan. He said that he was also constantly asked why their music did not have words; to which he replied that they just don’t have the words and maybe it is because they don’t delve too deeply into things.
The irony was that when Taka Tak began to perform their metal songs with the kind of passion that demonstrates the extent of depth the band possesses, the audience understood the sarcasm of his earlier statements. In different halls of Al-Hamra, different stories were playing out with diverse musicians presenting and discussing their particular brand of art.
The Music Meet contains a plethora of performances and performers that emanate from all segments of society and produce sounds ranging from our local folk music all the way to heavy rock and metal.
There is no other platform that oozes this kind of inclusivity and creates an environment of complete non-judgement. The audience that decides to go and listen to Saaeein Zahoor who is a rural-based musician who speaks in Punjabi and sticks to local instruments is not judged by the rock and metal lovers who are headbanging to electric guitars in the grounds outside.
The entire festival invites artists and musicians to not only express themselves to the general public but creates an environment where they have a chance to explain why they produce the music and art that they do. There is an entire counter culture of tolerance, homogeneity and non-judgement that penetrates the entire Al-Hamra stadium and the freedom awarded to everyone to be exactly who they are in a country that has such fixed and static models of success and propriety makes attending LMM not only entertaining but a true experience of liberation.