Blaze of glory

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KARACHI: What could be better than a packed audience jumping up and down, screaming their hearts out to Noori at a late-night, open air concert at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS)? How about a follow-up by Ali Azmat and truly astounding performances by Mauj’s Omran Shafique and John Louis Pinto aka Gumby aka drumming legend.

The aptly titled ‘Sound of Hope’ concert pulled together by the IVS Student Council 2010 proved that Pakistan truly does have rock gods in its midst; individuals and bands who shine through despite a lack of venues, lack of shows, a mostly-unsupportive music industry, security fears and a never ending list of woes which have left Karachi fearful, cynical and apathetic.

It was this dreadful apathy that was overcome with the help of good old rock and roll.

Mauj opened to a young, energetic crowd who overlooked the long wait for the concert to start and ignored initial sound issues to dive right into an amazing evening of live music (where musicians actually played their instruments). While Mauj’s stage performance was lukewarm and follow-up Faraz Anwer (of Mizraab fame) had more misses than hits, Shafique stayed on along with Gumby for Noori’s set which began with the black Eyed Peas  ‘I gotta feeling’.

Naturally, the audience went mad.

People were jumping, chairs were abandoned ‘hope’ was replaced with ‘frenzy’ and at points all one could see was a sea of raised hands and Ali Noor head banging on stage through songs such as Saari Raat Jaga or crooning through the haunting Manwa Re. It was largely a set full of punk madness blended to perfection with pop-rock sensibilities, perfect timing, great singing and sheer showmanship as Ali Noor frequently reached out to the audience in a casual, sexy, yet energy-laden tone of a true rock star.

After the intense musical climax of Noori, it seemed unlikely that anyone, even an old pro like Ali Azmat could possibly follow up such an act, and in the beginning that appeared to be the case. Azmat had sound issues through his initial songs, most of which were tracks from his solo work. This threw the audience off, who, having just experienced musical ecstasy, demanded the same from the final act. However, things picked up when Azmat switched over to ‘Mera Mahi’.

Naturally, the crowd went bat-crazy again.

The Noori momentum, while somewhat lost was eventually revived with classics such as ‘Pappu Yaar’ and ‘Saeein’ which the audience seemed to connect to more than Azmat’s newer work. The real surprise however was when Azmat unleashed a brand new song on the audience, the name of which may have gone amiss, but no one leaving the show could possibly forget a chorus like ‘bum phatta, bum phatta, Lahor-a Karachi ki galee mein bum phatta’. After the initial shock of the lyrical content, most of the audience started grooving (even singing along) to what will likely prove to be a brilliant pop-rock number following its release.

Azmat’s set was perhaps more challenging and versatile than Noori’s, and with Shafique and Gumby giving unending, truly epic performances in each song, the night ended for most on a massive high. In a city where there are slim pickings when it comes to even finding a single good live act, it was nigh on overwhelming to witness that much great music in one night.Hope was reborn in even the most hardened cynics, and for at least one night, we all felt extremely proud to be Pakistani.

Published in The Express Tribune.

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