With the space for musical performances shrinking in our society, thanks to the worsening security situation and lack of interest on the part of the organisers, an informed discourse on music as an art form and as an industry was nothing short of a daring initiative taken by a group of passionate young individuals, most of them fresh LUMS graduates, in the form of the Lahore Music Meet (or LMM).
Held recently at Alhamra the Mall, the LMM was expected to do for music what the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) has been doing for literature and performing arts.
The setting could not have been more perfect with the spring season in its full swing. The Alhamra shone bright under the early April sun, as lovers and critics of music, also random youth, took to the venue to listen to some of their favourite players perform and the industry biggies share their experiences and initiate dialogue on all things music. From noted composer-singer-actor Arshad Mehmood to accomplished flutist Baqir Abbas, veena player Noor Zehra, video film directors Jami, Mandana Zaidi and Adnan Malik, dhol maestro Pappoo Saeen, satirist Ali Gul Pir, underground bands like Keeray Makoray, and marketing doyens such as Selina Rashid, the two-day event got the best of talents from all over the country together to conduct different workshops and storytelling sessions.
Sadly, the LMM remained a rather low-key affair, if you consider how it would have turned out had the organisers jacked up their publicity and promotional campaign; they confined themselves to the social media only. But this was because they had limited budget at their disposal. As Noor Habib, one of the founders of the event, told TNS, “It was challenging for us to sell the idea [of LMM] where the focus was more on discussing music rather than performances.”
Talking about how the LMM was born, Habib said the need for a platform where music performers, music lovers and industry experts could come together prompted the idea. “We wanted discussions on the rich legacy of music inherited by this region, its evolution and the problems faced by those who pursue it as a career.”
Eventually, the sessions were tailored to address the agenda. The inaugural keynote address by Arshad Mehmood where he explained how music is not a tool to overnight stardom, set the right tone for the day’s events.
Mehmood talked about how one-hit wonders mislead the true process of becoming a music professional.
In his well articulate speech, the maestro also discussed the psychology of diverse music audiences and how persistence, dedication and the effort to raise the bar high are the key to success.
In another session, accomplished singer Suraiyya Multanikar shared her life and struggle as an artiste. She also said how she never let her humble beginnings or issues of social acceptance come in the way of her passion for music.
At the close of the session, Multanikar treated an intent audience to a rendition of her timeless ‘Peelu pakhiyaan.’ Everyone inside the mini Hall 4 was moved to hum along.
Music as a vent for socio-political injustices and societal hypocrisy is becoming a popular genre in the country and, inarguably, the LMM did not ignore this aspect. A much-needed debate on ‘Music of Subversion’ featured Beghairat Brigade’s Ali Aftab, Awami Workers Party’s Ammar Rashid, Sangat Theatre’s Sarah Kazmi. Moderated by Hasan Javid, the session had Ammar and Sarah maintaining that the politics of songs such as ‘Aaloo anday’ and ‘Bum pata’ need to be put right because of their immense popularity.
Aftab argued that at the end of the day it has to be well produced. “Right or wrong are relative terms,” he said.
Later, Aftab termed LMM as an event that was long overdue. He commended the organisers for coming up with an original idea and for their conviction to get on with it.
He was of the view that it will grow just like the literature festivals have done in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. “I believe if popular music artistes are made part of such events, the stocks would go up.”
Responding to Aftab’s comment, Natasha Noorani, Chairperson, LMM, said, “The panelists were super stars in their own right. However, although we did reach out to a number of artistes most of which were very appreciative, a lot of them could not show up because of their busy schedules and unavailability. Besides, there were budget constraints.”
Despite that, and considering the oldest member of the LMM organisers is 23 years of age, the response the event got was phenomenal.
PR expert Selina Rashid Khan together with marketing, advertising and copyrights professional Waqas Almas and musicians Jimmy Khan and Raavail Sattar (of Poor Rich Boy) held an all-important discussion on how to market oneself as a musician. The session ruled that to think financial perks come from sold out live performances only was being very basic in one’s approach.
In the same vein, the session on ‘Corporate Patronage of Music in Pakistan’ tried to guide young musicians on how to achieve commercial success.
The universality of Sufi music and how it has associated itself with shrines led to a philosophical discussion with Arieb Azhar, Ahsan Bari, Asrar, Saif Samejo and historian Iqbal Qaiser, moderated by academic, historian and author Ali Usman Qasmi. The session attracted the largest audience on Day 2 of the event. The panel took a rather bold stance that music and spiritualism go hand in hand and one does need to subscribe to a specific religious school to be able to connect with it.
Asrar also spoke of how a major faction of the society enjoys music and is emotionally dependent on it, yet it brands artistes as “kanjar.” He said the already small space for music was shrinking for fear of extremist reactions or fatwas against it.
Saif Samejo (of The Sketches) who has played a vital role in reviving folk music, while lauding the LMM as a milestone step, agreed with Asrar in a way and said the hypocrisy in the society needed to end.
In another part of the premises, Jimmy Khan, Gumby and Goonga Sayeen had the audiences in thrall with their performances. No less inspiring were the musical acts by Ali Sohail, Shahjee, Keeray Makoray, Those Retards, Sameen Qasim and Alien Panda Jury.
All said and done, the Lahore Music Meet could be criticised for not paying much attention to publicity, some management issues here and there, and an apparent lack of structure in designing certain sessions that drifted way too far away from the main topics. But it would be gross injustice not to laud the initiative and the effort put in by young music enthusiasts in creating such an event.