If there’s a standout moment from Vol. 4 of Lahore Music Meet, it might be the standing ovations given by a packed hall of audiences to both Sikandar Ka Mandar and Takatak. It was a risk to be sure, a gamble by festival directors Natasha Noorani and Zahra Paracha, to place two relatively unknown indie bands on the headline stage, right before the greats of our music industry that are Akhtar Chanal and the Qawwal Brothers.
Wait. Up the stakes: Takatak don’t have a vocalist and are a heavy metal band. Sikandar Ka Mandar’s setlist is almost entirely made up of an album that hasn’t even been out for 2 weeks. Now place your bets.
But it was a gamble that paid off spectacularly. Sikandar Ka Mandar’s latest album was strong enough to make an immediate and visceral impact. Takatak’s sheer passion and energy alone forced a tide of applause. It was honestly a beautiful thing to behold. Abu Muhammad and Fareed Ayaz’s qawwali and Akthar Chanal’s unique Balochi folk was, as expected, sublime, made all the more sweeter by the success of their preceding acts. It was the traditional ushering in the modern. Both given equal stage and equal respect.
Outside, in the wintery Lahori sunset, Mauj’s Omran Shafique announced that he’d be back with new music. Shorbanoor offered his ‘deth-pop’ to an unsuspecting audience who welcomed it open-armed. Sameen Qasim, Roots and Kashmir performed their unique styles – mellow acoustic folk, synth pop, rock – onto the lawns of the Al Hamra. Add all the other wonderful performers that I’ve missed. It was the genre fluidity that was the most exciting; you never knew what you were going to get next.
I remember speaking to Sikandar Ka Mandar a couple of weeks before their album dropped. When I asked what they think of the Pakistani music scene, and where it’s going, and why we constantly seem to be in ‘revival’ mode, band member Ali Suhail gave a simple reply. He said he strives to make so much music, be so creative and interesting that there’s no excuses left. So that no one can say ‘there’s no music being made in Pakistan’, or ‘koi scene hi nahin hai’. Be so good, so productive, that no excuse is acceptable.
Watching the acts at Lahore Music Meet I was reminded of those words. The music was brilliant, the atmosphere electric, the performances sublime. There was no excuse really, no other answer to give, other than rousing applause.