Shanaakht Festival (Review)

November 16, 2009

Shanaakht Festival concludes with a fiery concert featuring Noori, Laal,
ADP, Fuzon and Taal Karisma

Abid Hussain

DSC0337As deafening noise emanated from the auditorium at the end of ‘Raag and Roll Concert’, the concluding event of Shanaakht Festival truly brought the house down with some fabulous music played to the full house, which thoroughly enjoyed the four hour spectacle.

With passes running out as early as 10 am on the last day of the festival and waiting list running well into hundreds, it was evident that the event was clearly the hottest ticket in town.

Strict checking ensued due to current security situation and arrangements were made to avoid any untoward incident or gate crashing by the hooligans. Once the gates were opened for the audience, the auditorium started to fill up with eager fans in Karachi, who had for long been deprived of any quality concert.

If one thing was impressive throughout the three-day Shanaakht Festival, it was that time management was given utmost priority; the same was the case at this event as well. With five bands slated to perform, the event began merely 15 minutes later than the scheduled start as Taal Karsima began the proceedings with their brand of fusion music.

The band, formed by four students of National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) with already a successful radio single (‘Ustaad Ji’) to their credit, could not really get the crowd going. Vocalist and lead guitarist Ahsan Bari was certainly not a charismatic figure and he looked somewhat nervous while performing. It didn’t help that the crowd didn’t know much of their music either and looked disinterested.

NooriHowever, things shifted diametrically when Aunty Disco Project (ADP) took over the stage. With a budding fan following due to their released singles ‘Sultanat’ and ‘Nazar’, the band launched into a powerful rendition of ‘Sultanat’, which brought the crowd to their feet immediately.

ADP has been (in past) accused of trying too hard and often failing to fulfill their potential during live performances. This time round, lead guitarist Omar Bilal Akhtar aka OBA was far more understated in his performance and onstage antics, and duly delivered a solid set. The camaraderie between rhythm guitarist Ali Alam and bassist Rahyal Siddiki also helped the band to entertain the audience, while their performance was also accentuated with a superlative performance by Darbuka specialist, Yasir Qureshi.

The band went on to sing their new number ‘Kitnay Vaday’, which had the same opening chords as that of National Anthem, and the crowd joined the band in singing along.

After ADP finished their four-song set, the stage was taken over by Laal. Having performed the previous night to a grand ovation, the band from Lahore delivered a masterful performance yet again. Vocalist Shahram Azhar was on fire, as he began with the heart wrenching ‘Umeed-e-Sehar’ which had the crowd swaying in unison. This was followed by their brand of revolutionary songs that the audience threw themselves forward to enjoy.

ShalamDespite somewhat mellow numbers in their repertoire, Laal showed how to get the crowd on their feet, shaking off their inhibitions.  Lead guitarist Taimur Rahman, despite his limited axe-wielding skills, was a bundle of energy, literally bouncing all over the stage and off it. Laal finished their set with the famous sufi kalaam, ‘Laal Meri Pat’ where a girl was brought on stage by Azhar as well as a psyched up fan who danced and sang with the band, as the audience fully participated in turning up the volume a few notches.

Next up was the famous band Fuzon. Ever since the departure of former vocalist Shafqat, the band has clearly lost the edge which it once possessed. Rameez Mukhtar, the new singer, despite his strong vocals is not in the same league and despite singing some of the fabulous numbers from their arsenal of songs, Fuzon could not continue the good work done by ADP and Laal in terms of electrifying the crowd.

However, after the culmination of Fuzon’s performance, the buzz in the auditorium was almost tangible. The final act of the night was Noori, the rockers from Lahore with a surprise appearance by Yasir Qureshi from ADP on percussions and darbuka.

Omar-BilalAs the crowd drove forward to catch a glimpse of the Noori brothers who have a massive following in Karachi, the band began with their now famous hit, ‘Aik Alif’ which they debuted earlier this year at Coke Studio. As Ali Hamza broke into the opening few verses of the song, one could hear the entire venue singing along as Noori generated a brilliant, reworked version of this magical song.

A nice surprise was thrown in between when the entire team of Citizens Archive Pakistan (CAP) came on stage, and along with Noori and the exuberant audience, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to CAP president Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy at midnight.

Noori continued to belt out their classic numbers, of which ‘Manwa Re’ got a special treatment from guest percussionist Yasir Qureshi. Along with drummer Fahad Khan, the two men kept going in a fabulous percussionists’ duel of sorts, which had the venue reverberating and the crowd clamouring for more. Ali Noor duly delivered, as they segued from ‘Manwa Re’ into the all time classic by late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, ‘Sanu Eik Pal Chain Na Aey’. While Noori were slated to perform four songs, the energy was such that the band ended up singing eight songs before the night was brought to a close by another youth anthem, ‘Dil Ki Qasam’.

For an entertainment starved city, this night was unforgettable as the audience got to enjoy five bands. Credit must go to the team of Shanaakht and the artists for putting up a most memorable show.

– Photography by Bilal Khan