Pakistan Part Three: Show Time

26th January 2014

As Friday comes around it’s finally time to start putting all this preparation into practice with our first concert. We’re playing in the Crystal Ballroom in the Marriott Hotel, Karachi. As I arrive at the venue I’m confronted with the following scene:

Backdrop at Crystal Ballroom, Marriott Hotel

Backdrop at Crystal Ballroom, Marriott Hotel

Crystal Ballroom, view from stage. Note sofas!

Crystal Ballroom, view from stage. Note sofas!

A pretty impressive-looking venue, and I’m a little jealous of those in the front row getting to sit in the plush armchairs. The concert is introduced by TV host Sidra Iqbal – who interviewed me on her show earlier in the week – along with words from British Council Pakistan Director Barbara Wickham. The show’s soon underway, with a great response from the 500+ crowd. Afterwards I find myself giving soundbites for TV, shaking numerous hands, smiling for about a million photos, and being handed loads of business cards. The next morning I open the morning paper hanging on my hotel room door to find an article in The News. In such a difficult political and economic environment, it seems that people here are quick to latch on to any small piece of good news they can find:

Write-up in Karachi newspaper The News

Write-up in Karachi newspaper The News

Buoyed by the success of our first performance, we’re excited to get going on Saturday’s concert at Indus Valley Arts. Our second show is again introduced by Sidra Iqbal and Barbara Wickham. This time though, it’s going to be streamed live (the unedited recording can be seen here). With the first performance under my belt I feel a little more relaxed during this second show and really enjoy the interplay between myself and the other musicians. Sajid and his son Shehroz both play incredible sitar. The melodies from Jack Hall and Dreams Are Made Of Money sound equally at home on their instruments, but the real highlight for me is the way they improvise. Starting with singing, lyrical phrases replete with bends that imitate the subtle ornaments of the south Asian classical singing style, they slowly increase the intensity with intricate rhythmic interplay, working up to a fast-paced frenzy and often ending with a rhythmically mind-bending tihai. To get a feel for this, have a listen this section of improvisation from both Sajid and Shehroz from the concert here, , starting at 1:07:00, ending 1:13:32. It’s a pleasure to perform with such accomplished, musical improvisers.

Before we play our last song I thank both the British Council and Tehzeeb Foundation for giving me the opportunity to collaborate and perform over here. It’s been an incredible trip and it’s inspiring to think that even in areas of instability and hardship the right support can encourage artists and their art to flourish.