August Issue 2010
Pakistani Musicians Mesmerise New York
“We were discussing how important it would be to make a peaceful public statement that would give voice to the majority of Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans,” Mahnaz Fancy said, and with that the PPB was born. The Pakistan Peace Builders (PPB) really is the result of a conversation — one day before Faisal Shahzad attempted to blow up Times Square — between two friends in New York. The Pakistani Peace Builders (PPB) organised a free concert in New York City this year on July 20. Spearheaded by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, the PPB hosted a Sufi Music Festival in downtown New York’s Union Square that featured some of Pakistan’s best singers and musicians, including Abida Parveen, Rafaqat Ali Khan, Akhtar Chanal Zehri, the Soung Fakirs from Sindh, the female music duo Zeb & Haniya and the Mekaal Hasan Band.
Two friends, Fancy and Zeyba Rahman (both New York-based professionals), felt it was imperative to host a free concert, with the aim to foster peace and chisel away at the Pakistani-Muslim-terrorist stereotype in America. “PPB’s goal is to declare to the world that ‘This is our Islam and this is our Pakistan!’” Fancy stated. “We also felt it was important to explain the influence of Sufism and its values. And the rich cultural heritage of our Sufi music traditions permits us to demonstrate it in the most peaceful way.”
After their discussion with Ambassador Haroon, he, without delay, rang up the office of the Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and reserved a date for the concert. They were lucky, said Fancy, because a majority of the city’s street festivals and fairs take place in Union Square during the summer tourist season.
“PIA and the Roosevelt Hotel were our lead sponsors and the Mohatta Palace Museum played a key curatorial role for the festival,” Fancy stated. “The blessings of the Sufis stayed with us throughout, and 98% of our visa applications were approved, and this festival came together in less than two months.”
Fancy also said that with the help and support of their outreach partners, such as Pakistani-American, Muslim-American and human rights organisations in New York, an “enormous grass-roots effort” was established — spreading the news of the concert all over the country, resulting in a massive crowd on the day of the concert.
Pakistani filmmaker Mehreen Jabbar stated that for her, it was a matter of “immense joy and pride” to witness the musical splendour at the concert. It was “a treat for the senses … to hear such powerful, soul-stirring music from our provinces in the Big Apple,” said Jabbar.
“It was great to see people from other cultures attend the concert and sway to the music,” said Natasha Jahangir, a student in New York.
“We hope to continue this effort, the public response and support has been incredible and we hope to announce next year’s Sufi Music Festival soon, as well as other similar cultural programmes that will help us show the true face of Pakistan,” said Fancy.
Text: Sonya Rehman
Photography: Khaula Jamil