Pakistan’s Leading Music Festival: The Lahore Music Meet [#LMM5] hosted its fifth edition which took place at Alhamra Art Center in Lahore on the 1st and 2nd of February 2020. Once again, the team at The Music Meet brought the two-day musical celebration to 4 stages packed with Live Performances, Masterclasses and Conversations with Pakistan’s finest musicians.
This music festival is entirely women-led. consisting of all the female directors. Natasha Norani and Zahra Paracha are the driving force behind the whole setup. Let’s have a conversation about the success of Lahore Music Meet, 2020.
- You have been very successful in providing a platform for the underground music scene. What was the inspiration behind launching such an event?
When we were in college, we decided to do our undergraduate thesis on music in Pakistan. One of the biggest challenges we faced was a severe lack of research and avenues we could explore to find answers to questions we had. The entire industry was extremely fragmented at best, and it was difficult for us to navigate through that. We decided to hold a music conference and bring academics, businessmen, and musicians in the same space to help us with our research. We are also musicians and wanted to do something to help facilitate the music scene in Lahore in whatever way we could at the time.
- Pakistani music, over the last decade or so, has found various avenues to express itself. What sets LMM apart in regards to how that music is expressed?
Absolutely — there are several great avenues where Pakistani artists can express themselves and get the recognition they deserve. Every year, we face challenges and hurdles in the organization aspect of this festival but we still manage to draw in massive crowds every time we do this. I think the thing that sets LMM apart from other avenues is that it is a platform for artists by artists. The programming reflects our musical learning curves and interests at the time. We try to actively scout for and seek talent that we believe people should hear. That’s why we open up applications for the outdoor stage at LMM every year.
- That’s incredible. It’s amazing how you took the initiative to build a platform for local talent where they can express themselves without music without any bounds or chains holding them back. Do you think that’s an important aspect of what makes LMM what it is? The unfettered, unfiltered sounds of Lahore? How important is it for you to maintain that authentic credibility that seems lacking in other music platforms?
Z: There has to be freedom attached to your art, otherwise there is a certain level of inauthenticity. This is a personal value I believe in, and it is a difficult idea to pitch to companies or entities we are dependent on. But when you allow artists that freedom to express themselves, that energy they bring to the stage is what draws people in towards the festival at the end of the day.
N: I do think it’s one of LMM’s biggest strengths that we are able to provide a safe, nurturing space for artists to express themselves and share their musicality without having to water down or filter themselves. The value in not being a commercial event allows us to provide this creative control to anyone on the LMM roster.
- So what is the process of discovering talent and projecting them to a large audience full of music enthusiasts? How do you filter through the greats from the good? What is the litmus test for performances?
Since 2016, we began an application process for bands who want to perform. This is a good way to filter out nepotism and discover new talent who may not be able to reach out to us on a personal level. This helps us gauge whether they are a good fit for our overall programming. In addition to this, we encourage our applicants to only apply with original music and not covers. We try to ensure that we cover all genres in this process to showcase the diversity of contemporary Pakistani music.
- Two women leading the charge to bring about the resurgence of underground Pakistani music. What are some of the obstacles you have faced leading such a grand venture?
Z: The music industry is essentially a boy’s club by default — I have found very few women on the technical side of things especially. Since I am the lead sound engineer, I initially found myself in awkward positions trying to get some musicians to talk to me rather than through me. I do not face those problems as much anymore, but I imagine it may have been a different case if I was a sound wala as opposed to being a sound wali.
N: It’s definitely been difficult to be taken seriously from board rooms to studios. There is a lot of having to work extra hard to showcase that I am indeed a credible individual who can navigate through the nuances of the industry. It refreshes every year so it often feels like starting from scratch.
- More power to you! Obviously the underground scene is only beginning to show how much talent is present here in Lahore in terms of music. What surprises me is how well you manage to have a place for a lot of different, diverse genres of music at the same table. Someone who listens to rap might not be interested in what the indie rock scene has to offer. How do you get those fans to get out of their comfort zone and listen to different kinds of music?
The way our programming works is that we fit every area in AlHamra with various sessions happening simultaneously. Normally, people come for a session or two and accidentally end up listening to a couple of bands perform that they end up liking and becoming fans of. The idea is for people to see the diversity that Pakistani music has to offer and to be open to genres that they are not necessarily used to.
- In countries where the underground music scene is already established, it’s incredibly rare to find an event that amalgamates different genres of music. LMM is such an event. Usually, a punk show will only incorporate punk bands, an EDM festival will only cater to fans of that genre. Do you think of the fact that LMM dares to do things differently is a strength?
Absolutely. In Pakistan, it seems that the most visible music gets to be the face of Pakistani music in general, and corporate music gets the most visibility by default. There is an overwhelming misconception about what defines Pakistani music. When we scout for acts and plan sessions for LMM, we come across the strangest and most obscure ideas that are just as Pakistani as the most mainstream of artists. Our programming aims to reflect that diversity even if the contrast is as prominent as keeping a metal band on the same night as a Qawwal group.
- LMM also offers niche sounds that perhaps aren’t for the casual listener. The Avant-garde Dronepop of Slowspin, to the Groove Metal of Takatak, to the Indie Psychedelic Prog-Rock sounds of Janoobi Khargosh and Wisdom Salad. How do you get the audience to have such a great time with music they might not have an ear for?
Z: I feel as though the bands we choose are extremely talented, and if we are able to provide publicity, sound and logistical support, their music speaks for itself. We essentially provide the mahaul while the artists do what they are best at.
N: Honestly, it’s just about having faith in the bands. The people in our line-up are people who personally get us excited as well! If they can elicit those emotions in smaller arenas and in demos, imagine what they can do on an LMM stage!
- In these 5 years of LMM being established, it has quickly found its place as a culturally significant event in the city. Now that you’re an established brand, how do you manage to not only meet people’s expectations every year but exceed them?
LMM is a combination of both of our ideas and thoughts coming together in the form of a festival. Initially, we used to think along the lines of meeting people’s expectations but now we just try to do what we think is best from a cultural and social perspective. Thinking about the programming and curation from a holistic perspective helps this festival become a better version of itself every year.
The Man Behind The Maestro
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan produces magical music and without a doubt he’s amongst the most sought-after world artists
Famed Pakistani music maestros Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s producer and global manager Salman Ahmed has said that the 3 UK concerts had sold out completely showing the popularity of Pakistani artist across the South Asian communities.
Speaking to media, the veteran talent promoter and producer said that Rahat Fateh Ali Khan produces magical music and without a doubt he’s amongst the most sought-after world artists.
Salman Ahmed has been managing Rahat Fateh Ali Khan for about 10 years. The music maestro was well known in Pakistan because of his strong vocal skills but Ahmed turned around everything for the artist and had made him a household name in millions of homes in South Asia and beyond. Three months ago, the University of Oxford awarded the music doctorate degree to Khan – a huge personal honour for the musician and for his country of origin.
“When I look back to nearly a decade long association with the maestro, I must admit that what a journey it has been on a global platform, cities across Vancouver all the way to Auckland. Achievements like the Noble Peace Prize Performance conceptualisation, United Nations, Music Room at the Oxford University, Honorary Doctorate for the maestro and hundreds of concerts all over the world. Thank you to all our associates, promoters and most importantly to my PME family who has made this happened with their devotion. I especially thank to our families, who have sacrificed the most perhaps and to all the audiences who have attended our concerts in huge numbers.”
Salman Ahmed said that credit for the success of Khan goes to his entire team who worked hard throughout the year on the shows and on the brand of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan
“Behind every show, there’s sweat, blood and toll. We work hard all the time to maintain the highest of standards in what we promise and produce. Ustad Rahat performs for a few hours on the stage but thousands of hours of hard work are invested in the production of his shows and that hard work has worked to make him a mega hit. As a way of example, for our concerts starting this weekend at Wembley Arena more than 35 band members will be touring with the singer. There is a team separately working in an international office here in London on logistics, concepts, arrangements, production and marketing. Once these shows are over, we will start working on the next round of events. There is no break.”
In North America, due to India and Pakistan tensions at the government level, Salman Ahmed accepted that attendance at Rahat’s shows was slightly less, however he clarified that all the UK concerts were sold out. “You cannot deny that Rahat is loved by Indians, Pakistanis and other ‘Urdu-understanding’ communities. There is no alternative to him.”
Salaman Ahmed is one of the most experienced Asian art promoters, who has been in the field of entertainment from the age of 16 and started his business in London in 1987. By playing a big role in music maestro Rahat’s international success, he has now known as a global promoter and music producer. His alliance with the showbiz commenced some 32 years ago when he started organizing Bhangra nights and small British Asian concerts when British Asian singers had started making their mark. There was no social media and no Asian channels around. The BBC covered one of Salman’s first concerts at that time with a report to showcase how the second generation of British Asians was growing with a fusion of British and Asian culture. Salman was then just a teenager.
So far Salman Ahmed has worked with some of the top Indian artists including, Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Sonu Nigham, Mika Singh as well.
“You should only do what you are good at. You can do excellence only in your job if you are devoted to it with full passion and commitment. I believe in total commitment and nothing else.”
Unlike the maverick ways of some, Ahmed believes in treating his clients as a product. “My clients are my products. I promote products in the market. We invest in our products. We take risks and we inject our life into our products to make them a phenomenal success,” said Salman Ahmed acknowledging that Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has been the biggest hit for him as a producer.
He says he believes in promoting Pakistani talent before the world and for Rahat’s London shows he is introducing around a dozen Pakistani musicians for the first time. “These are young, educated and dynamic musicians who have been playing at the Basement Café and in the underground scene in Karachi and Lahore. They are doing an outstanding job. For the fusion part of Khan Saheb’s shows these musicians will be used. They will be performing in front of the international audience numbering in the thousands and this will bring a unique kind of confidence in them.”
Salman Ahmed said he was very excited about the latest round of shows because Ustad Rahat Ali Khan will be doing fusion, using instruments and sounds not tried before.
Lightingale Records: Ali Zafar Launches Record Label for Youngsters
Ali Zafar needs no introduction when it comes to performing arts in sub continent. Started his career as sketch artist in late 90s and then came as an actor and finally a vocalist with outstanding skills, releasing numerous hit singles and albums Ali has always managed to keep his job stable and thriving even during the most difficult times of his life.
Considering music is his first love, Ali Zafar has recently announced his record label, Lightingale Records, under which he aims to promote new musicians and artists.
In his recent instagram post, Ali explaining the reason of starting this label, said, “Our land is ripe with talent waiting for the slightest of opportunity to flourish. However, due to lack of understanding of the importance of the Arts and Humanities in our society, we have been unable to develop a culture where talent can be nurtured, groomed and guided to reach its true potential, nor build an industry.”
He further said, “During all these years as a performing artist, I have had the great fortune of learning about different aspects of the music industry. As artists or human beings in general, we are intrinsically prone to become self-indulgent or internally focused, but that is the mistake that most of us make. I feel the only thing that carries on beyond our existence, is the honesty in our work and the sincerity of our intentions. An artist leaves a legacy, and surely that should not just be about him or her. In an era where we are bombarded with tools that bring out the vanity in us, I think it’s important to see the beauty and talent in others and help them achieve their goals and dreams also. Become a part of their struggle and journey and help them in any way you can. As I said before – “you are not a star if you can’t shine for others.” Let’s shine for each other and share the light.”
At the end of the post, Ali announced the launching “Lightingale records” and said that through this endeavour; he would personally mentor, produce, record and showcase talent of young and upcoming artists.
He further explained that their goal is to bring to light at least 10 new artists this year and give people some great songs to cherish.
He also asked his fans and followers to share more ideas for his initiative, “If you have any ideas that can augment this venture, do share. Stay tuned.”
Our Favorite Fashion Divas that have Evolved Over Time
While reading the title, you must be thinking about the acting skills and how these ladies have made their name in the drama and film industry. But no, here we are talking about the fashion game of these actresses that have taken us all by surprise. Perking up their style statement and emerging as few of the finest actresses in terms of being glamorous and presentable, they have absolutely conquered the fashion world.
These are our favorite Divas who have proved that working on oneself is never a selfish thing and this hard work can eventually help you in the long run.
Starting from soaps and not so glamorous dramas, we never saw Saboor Aly dressing up as impressively as she does now. Probably, this is the social fashion awareness that some choose to pick and some don’t. And, we have to say that Saboor is doing quite well with her dress sense while earning a huge fan following at a great pace. She is one of those finest actresses who keep us hooked to their gram-game as something cool and happening just pops up out of nowhere anytime and any occasion.
Our fancy-pants; Nausheen Shah has instantly beefed up her fashion game and we cannot stop admiring her taste and style in whatever she wears. She has definitely come a long way. Also known for carrying bold statements just like in a recent awards show, her hairstyle was quite eccentric perfectly aligning with a blingy Hussain Rehar attire.
Her vibrant tops, glowing face and quirky pants have got our attention and we, indisputably, give her the award of being the most stylish actress among the lot. This was never the scenario from the day she joined the Entertainment industry so, she came this far and has definitely grown into a woman who keeps herself up-to-date in every trend and fashion.
Our recent favorite bride, Iqra has polished herself over time and we love how effortlessly she carries every outfit in sheer grace and pizzazz. Recently, she has been appointed as the face of Al-Karam and this was all a result of gradual progress and immense effort she has put into building her powerful aura and strong-headed personality that beautifully harmonizes with her chic and classic sense of styling.
If Sonya had a synonym, it would be the word “grace”. We love her for her impactful persona, the way she dresses up and the way she owns everything she wears with undying confidence. There are very few celebrities who have evolved to be steezy and sassy in a way that they know what they should actually wear. Unlike some who do not even know their body type. Sonya Hussyn proves that style is always within, you can improve with time but class remains constant.