September Issue 2015
The Digital Solution
Patari’s story is the stuff TED talk dreams are made of. A content analysis of all the “What leads to success” type videos will tell you that passion, perseverance and hard work are the keys to success. It may sound like a load of self-help buzzwords, but for CEO Khalid Bajwa and his team, who have lived with the project for a year, success has taken on a new definition. A Spotify for Pakistani music, Bajwa knew that he had hit upon the right idea.
Initially, Patari started out being a portal for Pakistani dramas. “Bringing back the old dramas of PTV and NTM were the real motivator behind our venture,” says Bajwa. “To this day, I consider the interface I designed for it better than the one I have designed for Patari.” But the television industry was making money and with sites like DailyMotion and DramasOnline.pk, there was no real need for a streaming service for Pakistani dramas. Another founder of Patari, Faisal Sherjan, suggested turning to Pakistani music instead. “We knew early on how we will have a revenue stream. We needed a reason to get people to pay for our service.”
The next step in Bajwa’s plans for music domination was to hire his friends. “My philosophy is, if I understand them on some level, I can manage them.” Maryam Reza, head of marketing says, “I don’t have a background in marketing, but Khalid understood that I knew social media and he offered me the position for head of marketing soon after I started.” Ahmer Naqvi, director of content was hired after Bajwa realized his “hubris had gotten the better of him,” in regards to an exhaustive knowledge of Pakistani music. “I had lived with this in isolation for so long I became possessive about my creation. But it wasn’t mine anymore.”
Despite the initial boom of Patari’s success in the small corner known as desi social media, Bajwa noticed that people weren’t using the site. “I noticed that every Monday when we refreshed the homepage of the site, users looked forward to what was new. This practice reminded me of the Urdu magazines I used to look forward to as a kid.” His research showed that sites like Spotify would send out newsletters with items like “Your friend has made a playlist.” A newsletter was the right way to go. “In the beginning we had no idea what exactly to put in the newsletter,” says Reza. “And knowing my extreme perfectionism, I told Maryam not to show it to me when she launched it,” says Bajwa. Called the ‘Haftanama’ (“Maryam’s idea, not mine”), the newsletter has a quirky Roman-English tone, with a list of songs highlighting what is new on the site.
For the mobile-first world, it was inevitable that Patari would need to have an app. After working on it for months, Bajwa and his developers released the beta version of the app in the first week of August. “Even though they knew it had bugs, Khalid released the app, asking users for their feedback, most of which they have already worked on to fix,” says Reza. “We get essays on what issues people are facing with the app – like the music should stop when you unplug your headphones or make sure the music has stopped once you hang up from a call,” says Bajwa. The marketing team then makes sure that every user gets an email thanking him/her for their contribution. Bajwa says he likes that people can tweet to him directly about Patari. But he does tend to get carried away with retweeting all the praise Patari gets. “Yeah, Maryam has told me to stop doing that,” he acknowledges, laughing.
In light of the child abuse tragedy in Kasur that shook the country in August, Patari realeased the song ‘Bachpan’ by Oreo Maqbool as part of their #NoShame campaign. This week’s Haftanama has a sombre tone instead of the usual “Pakhera raglay, Pataristaniyo!” greeting every week. “We did not want to seem like opportunists by releasing the song at this time. I wanted to wait for a couple days, but Khalid and Ahmer said it was now or never — this is never going to come out in the open like this again. So we released the song, we did the marketing, but the sole focus was on raising awareness and speaking up against this. Patari has absolutely no part in this aside from being the vehicle that brought the song to the masses.”
Rhythm Divine in the City
Music made a comeback like never before during the first week of August. The ‘I Am Karachi Music Festival’ was a week-long series of events, including music dialogues on August 4 and 5, and a live music odyssey on August 8 and 9, as a who’s who of Pakistani music took to the stage in front of a sold-out crowd.
While these initiatives by I Am Karachi and the M.A.D School have to be appreciated, there is a lot left to be desired when executing events like these in Karachi. Sessions which were titled ‘Developing an Ear for Music’ or ‘The Recording Studio’ did not really add to the listeners’ understanding of music.
Another problem was the lack of women on the panels. But this is reflective of a larger problem in the music industry where there are few women practicing music in the first place.
In the session, ‘Developing an Ear for Music’ there was a visible level of one-upmanship from the males in the panel, who comprised four of the five speakers. With quips like “Maybe death metal is a guy thing,” from one of them, and one of the female musicians calling Linkin Park “death metal” — almost sacrilegious — it was almost a relief to see them on stage later, where they are most comfortable, and at their best.
The two-day concert was a particular treat for those nostalgic about a time when Pakistan had a thriving music scene. I was most excited to see Rushk, a one-album wonder that had disappeared completely the past decade. But the entire line-up of musicians on August 8 was nothing short of wonderful, comprising acts like the Chand Tara Orchestra, Sounds of Kolachi, Shehzad Roy and Aamir Zaki , while maestros like Mia Nimani and Naseeruddin Sami took over the traditional stage.
Kudos must be given to the organisers for keeping the sets on time and creating such different vibes for the modern and the traditional stages. While the modern stage had the young (and the old) dancing at the front, the traditional stage had a calmer vibe with seating that extended to the furthest end of Port Grand. The crashing cymbals from the modern stage were nowhere to be heard near the traditional stage, where the thumping of the tabla enveloped the audience in a mesmerising bubble.
The women stole the show once again as they commanded the audience’s attention with ‘Bolo Bolo’ sung by Alicia Dias and ‘Boom Boom’ by Sara Haider. It is a pity that their own music — a staple of alternate music sites — couldn’t get a similar response because of the dearth of music channels and portals for musicians to help get their music heard.
This is where Patari’s absence was truly felt given the work that they have done in getting word out about underground artists. The director of content Patari, Ahmer Naqvi, had to resort to handing out stickers about their organisation to the audience as Patari had not been allowed to put up a stall by the organisers. Both him and his team members also met artists so that they could garner permission to put their music on Patari.
That aside, the I Am Karachi Music Festival succeeded in reinvigorating the city with music. And against the sounds of gunfire and deathly silences, it was pure joy!
This article was originally published in Newsline’s September 2015 issue.