Women warriors for peace and a viral Punjabi music video

Asma-Bushra-wall

A poetic dialogue between two neighbours separated by an insurmountable wall goes viral. Pictured here: Asma Abbas and Bushra Ansari, performing their sister Neelum Bashir’s poem.

There’s been so much going on that I haven’t shared any updates here for a while. On Tuesday 11 Feb., Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave a talk on Pakistan and the Welfare State at Harvard that I reported on: “We can’t say we’re too poor to look after our people”, published in The News on Sunday, 17 Feb.  I was going to post it with an important paragraph that got left out of my report when I cut it down, but the Pulwama attack of 14 Feb overshadowed everything. I’ll share it at some point. Continue reading

Lessons for journalists from a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

Beena Sarwar

Notes from the Nieman Pulitzer 100 event in Cambridge MA, “POWER: Accountability and Abuse,” presented by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University 

wynton-marsalis-nieman-pulitzer-100
Sep. 9, 2016

Cambridge, MA: The thousand-seater Sanders Theatre filled up fast in anticipation of the Wynton Marsalis concert that was kicking off the Nieman Pulitzer 100 event, a few days before my first journalism class at Princeton University. No photography or videos of the performance were allowed but I figured the rule didn’t apply before they started playing so I sneaked a quick photo. Continue reading

An Indo-Pak tribute to Amjad Sabri

Nitin-Saami-PEM

Nitin Mitta and Naseeruddin Saami with the Saami brothers at Peabody Essex Museum. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My article for Aman ki Asha, “hope for peace”, the India-Pakistan peace initiative launched in 2010 by two media giants on either side, the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Times of India

The morning of Wednesday, 22 June 2016 dawned in New York with shattering news of the target killing of Amjad Sabri in broad daylight across the world in Karachi. The tragedy, devastating for millions of fans, was a personal blow for the legendary classical music maestro Naseeruddin Saami and his sons, on tour in the USA towards the end of their first ever visit to America.  Continue reading

Pakistani qawwals touring USA dedicate performances to Amjad Sabri

Saami-PEM-standing ovation

Standing ovation for the Saami Brothers after their performance at Peabody Essex Museum, Salem MA. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Wrote this news report the other day.; working on a more detailed report.

Pakistani qawwals touring USA dedicate performances to Amjad Sabri

Legendary classical music maestro Naseeruddin Saami and his sons, currently on tour in the USA, expressed grief at the target killing of their old friend and colleague the renowned qawwal Amjad Sabri in Karachi. Continue reading

Another assassination in Pakistan; just have to ‘keep on keepin’ on’

My article in PRI’s The World, June 25, 2016

pakistan_singer

Thousands of people attend the funeral procession of Amjad Sabri. Photo: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

“They’ve shot dead Amjad Sabri” — the first words I heard on Wednesday morning marked news of yet another assassination in my beloved Karachi, still “home” despite living in the Boston area since 2011.

Sabri was one of the world’s most famous exponents of the devotional music known as Qawwali. On Wednesday, two gunmen intercepted his car and shot him dead at close range in the crowded locality near his house. Continue reading

A Spanish love song from Quetta

Still from the video of an impromptu performance by students in Quetta

Still from the cellphone video of an impromptu performance by students in Quetta.

This little music video just made my day when a friend sent it to me yesterday: a Spanish love song by his cousin Hamza Khan, with co-singer Syed Zaryab and guitarist Naveed Ahmed. Students at Balochistan University of Information Technology Engineering and Management Sciences, BUITEMS, a leading private university in Quetta, they are also members of the Artists’ League Quetta (ALQ), a platform for the arts started by fellow student and self-taught dancer Farrukh Shaikh earlier this year. The group includes students from different departments in the University – including girls.

Continue reading

Inspiring musical video tribute to Ahmed Faraz from his son Sarmad

The late great poet Ahmed Faraz’s son Sarmad Faraz pays tribute to his father, by releasing a music video titled “Shayar”, which features the poet reciting his verses in his inimitable manner.

Sarmad is a musician and is best-known for being in the band Corduroy. He chose this particular poem of his late father because it espouses resilience, individuality and change.

The poem “Shayar” is part of Ahmed Faraz’s first-ever published book Tanha Tanha (1954). (Read more below).

Continue reading

65 years on… Reviving Jagannath Azad’s poem for Pakistan

Reviving Jagannath Azad’s tribute to his beloved homeland, Pakistan…

An exciting update to the story of Jagannath Azad’s tarana for Pakistan is that the talented young Shahvaar Ali Khan in Lahore has composed and sung it. Shahvaar released the song, that he has titled ‘Azad ki dua‘, on Aug 14 on Youtube. It is also exciting that Radio Pakistan agreed to broadcast it, every three hours on its nine FM 101 channels. Here’s a link to my essay, Pakistan’s ‘lost’ anthem, published in Fountain Ink a few days ago; it begins: Continue reading

Music: Touching the soul, defying the Taliban

Asfand Yaar Mohmand performing - photo: Shiraz Hasan

Asfand and his Rubab! This lovely, moving post by Shiraz Hasan reminded me of another moving documentary film I saw over a decade ago, Amir: An Afghan Refugee Musician’s Life in Peshawar by Dr. John Baily (1985). It is tragic how musicians have been pushed around, forced to flee the fighting during the Afghan war of the 1980s and now, persecuted and punished for their art by the ‘taliban’.

Asfand Yaar Mohmand, as Shiraz Hasan writes, comes from a family of labourers. They initially opposed his decision to become a musician but realising he would “not step back” have came around. “I love playing the Rubab, this is such a beautiful instrument. Its strings touch your soul, literally,” says the 19-year old Afsand.

The only international organisation in the world advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers is Freemuse, which I came across some months ago when Salman Ahmad of Junoon introduced me to its founder Ole Reitov. In an subsequent email Ole wrote that his own “deep interest and dedication to this issue started in Lahore in 1980 when – invited by Raza Kazim – I recorded Iqbal Bano (in Kazim’s studio) and talked to her about the reasons why she stopped performing in public”.

The ‘Bulbul-e-Kashmir’ sings for Indo-Pak peace

This personal blog post is dedicated to an inspiring couple in Mumbai and to the editor who introduced us: May our tribe increase.

Enduring ties: Seema Sehgal at PIPFPD, Karachi, 2003, with me and my daughter Maha. Photo by Ved Bhasin.

I met Seema Sehgal in Karachi, in December 2003 at the 6th Joint Convention of the Pakistan India Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD). Ved Bhasin, the respected Editor of The Kashmir Times, Jammu, introduced us. “Seema,” he said, “is known as the Bulbul-e-Kashmir (Nightingale of Kashmir).”

Ved Bhasin: Shukriya

The petite and unassuming Mumbai-based ghazal singer from Jammu has none of the airs one might expect from a performer of her calibre. She is not only an amazing artist, but she also has a deep and abiding interest in Urdu poetry and in Indo-Pak peace. When relations plummeted between the two countries following the nuclear tests of May 1998, Seema dedicated her new album ‘Sarhad’ to peace between the India and Pakistan. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: