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Getting high on the Mad Decent Block Party

As American rapper, music producer and DJ, the prolific Diplo, brought his Mad Decent Block Party to Islamabad, here’s an assessment of what it means for Pakistani music and its future.........

Getting high on the Mad Decent Block Party

As American rapper, music producer and DJ, the prolific Diplo, brought his Mad Decent Block Party to Islamabad, here’s an assessment of what it means for Pakistani music and its future, beginning with the event itself.


As American rapper, music producer and DJ, the prolific Diplo brought his Mad Decent Block Party to Islamabad, Pakistan, an assessment of what it means for Pakistani music and its future, beginning with the event itself is in order.

Held at Islamabad’s The Rock Musicarium that first hosted the two-time Grammy winning Diplo in 2016, Mad Decent Block Party with a steep ticket price that began from Rs 5000 and upwards, pulled in thousands of fans.

There are various estimations about the crowd. Some say it was over 2500 people, others will tell you the turnout was closer to 7000 people.

This music-filled day was not about catering to privileged Pakistanis, though on the surface that’s what will be perceived by some. In truth, it was about creating and contributing to a legitimate scene where people could come together, enjoy music of the present and revel in an environment akin to club culture, fueled by dance and beats, which is either restricted to private parties of much smaller scale or simply doesn’t exist. It was also about giving a platform to homegrown musicians and it did as Adil Omar and Talal Qureshi’s SNKM along with Lyari Underground, Shamoon Ismail, Zoh, Haider Mustehsan, Mikki Murshed and Osama Com Laude took the stage.

The thing is, you have to start somewhere before it can potentially become regular and grow in an organic, annual fashion.

Though Pakistan is home to several exciting music producers and artists, dabbling in various genres, in Islamabad and beyond, it is incredibly difficult for them to put on a music show because the system is not designed to help the cultural community, certainly not the newer generation. From obtaining non-objection certificates and getting permission to putting together the actual event, it can be a nightmare.

But with the occurrence of Mad Decent Block Party 2018 and its success, it can now be said that at least one platform has been built. And as MDBP tour manager, Brandon, confirmed to Instep, there are plans to do more such events, not just in Islamabad but in other cities, beginning with Karachi and Lahore.

The playing bill at MDBP also says a lot. At a time when several mainstream artists will tell you that it is not feasible for them to release a record, or are far too busy pursuing acting or perfectly content doing one Bollywood song after another, here were artists who constantly innovate and self-release without much support and who have so much to offer. The line-up and the sets suggest that it’s not just about playing instruments and guitar-rock all the time across decades but about new ideas, attitude and the ability to entertain people. There is room for all kinds of music and all kinds of genre.

Lyari Underground

Lyari Underground

Haider Mustehsan showed us that all this time we’ve been chasing the wrong Mustehsan (he’s Momina Mustehsan’s brother) while Shamoon Ismail’s Punjabi blues had us riveted. Lyari Underground, in a scene that can only be described as ironic, had people yelling “Lyari”. Hailing from the war-torn Lyari from the sprawling jungle that is Karachi, the boys rapped to their hits such as ‘Kasani’ and ‘Player of Lyari’ with incredible energy.

Adil Omar and Talal Qureshi’s duo SNKM, playing right before Diplo’s Major Lazer Soundsystem and after DJ Valentino Khan and Chrome Sparks, both of whom killed it with their individual sets, had Islamabad at the tip of their fingers, displaying just what happens when two supersonic minds meet.

Even though the event began at 2: 00 pm, the crowd started turning up right when things began, not just to see Diplo’s Major Lazer Soundsystem, the headlining act, or Valentino Khan and Chrome Sparks but to cheer for Lyari Underground, Shamoon Ismail, Haider Mustehsan, Adil Omar and Talal Qureshi’s SNKM and all the others.

As for Diplo, his decision to come back has long-term value. Apart from the fact that he’s the first major international artist to come to Pakistan in a long time, which by itself means a great deal to music fans (many of whom knew nearly all the songs on display), it means that more artists can come to Pakistan and that the possibilities are endless.

While mainstream music, fueled by corporate projects and film soundtracks, always has room to exist, it’s about time those who take risks are given greater visibility. The involvement of brands in that sense is therefore a good sign. Mad Decent Block Party was about what’s happening presently at home studios and in bedrooms and giving it a larger stage while looking beyond a handful of established names.

Shamoon Ismail

Shamoon Ismail

Was the event without flaw? No, certainly not. You needed either an elevated stage or, at minimum, large screens that showed the artist to the crowd. In its absence, there was constant commotion near the stage as many struggled to see artists who were onstage. Because there were some reports of women being groped, better management would be needed next time around to avoid potentially unpleasant situations.

In the end, Mad Decent Block Party 2018 was about the future of music and those who will represent it in the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead. Given what was played onstage, one must not only applaud the effort but embrace this new generation with as much heart as they put into this particular show.

Maheen Sabeeh

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