By Maliha Rehman
The post-pandemic Pakistani music industry is on a high. There are new stars and new sounds dotting the musical stratosphere, new singles and new albums getting released consistently and with this, concerts have made a much-needed return. The musical winter calendar has particularly been a clustered one, with concerts being announced every weekend in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and even in the smaller peripheral cities. Food festivals, youth festivals and college festivals have been highlighted with live performances by a slew of young musicians who are all the rage with the youth.
But with the return of concerts has come the return of rowdy behavior at these concerts. The Pakistani concert scene has always been a tumultuous one, thronged by fans and also, unfortunately, a crowd that is likely to create havoc. All through the past year, occasional news would filter out of how a popular musician had halted a concert midway because the crowd was misbehaving, particularly with the girls in the audience. There are plenty of horrific accounts on social media in which girls have written about how they had been touched inappropriately or made to feel unsafe while attending a concert. This year’s Karachi Eat food festival – a highly anticipated annual event – also suffered due to similar misconduct. The live musical performances taking place on the last day of the festival were halted midway because the crowd was getting increasingly rowdy and musicians on stage felt that the girls in the audience were particularly at risk.
One of these musicians was Ali Tariq and what he saw from his vantage point on stage made him distressed. It prompted him to stop performing midway, spend the next few days dejected and then, decide to organize a completely free concert just for girls.
“We see something completely different on-stage from what you see from within the audience,” Ali points out. “There’s always this fear when performing in a big public show that the crowd will go out of control and that’s just what happened at Karachi Eat. No one was to blame for it, it was just an unfortunate thing that happened. I was performing on stage when I saw the crowd misbehaving and I just couldn’t sing anymore. I stopped performing and I went backstage, feeling helpless. I tried calling up some of my friends who I knew were in the audience and reaching out to fans that I am in touch with through social media, that I knew were there for the concert. However, there were signal issues and I couldn’t really connect with anybody. It was very upsetting. I left soon after that. Kaifi Khalil performed after me and even he had to stop midway.”
Ali continues, “I just felt very depressed and I randomly posted on Instagram that there should be a concert organized just for girls. The response was immediate. Girls started messaging me, asking me when the concert would take place. I received DM’s on Instagram, recounting harrowing experiences from concerts. Sponsors came on board. Kenneyz Productions and my management AK Projects got to work. Regent Plaza Karachi reached out to me, offering to hold the concert at their venue. We opened registration for attending the concert.”
“Everything simply fell into place and I decided that this concert had to happen. Within eight hours of opening registrations, we were house full!”
Photographed by Saad Khalid (Instagram: @saadkqureshi )
The concert, which took place last weekend in Karachi, was attending by an approximate crowd of 800 women. Anyone who registered could attend, free of cost.
“I don’t think that I have ever enjoyed myself more,” confesses Ali. “The crowd seemed to be so much at ease. I was not tense either. I could just be on stage without worrying about what was going on in the audience.”
The success of Ali’s all-girls’ gig has led to queries filtering in from other cities where women also want to attend a concert meant for them alone. “I have also gotten hate. There are boys who have been messaging me saying that it isn’t fair when they also want to attend the concert!” says Ali.
Nevertheless, with crowd control a constant issue in concerts in Pakistan, an all-girls gig makes a lot of sense. In fact, one wonders why no one came up with the concept before!
“I do plan to do more similar concerts,” says Ali, who was nursing a sore throat when I spoke to him – a hectic concert calendar can do that to a singer!
Other than staying busy with live performances, the young singer who won a Lux Style Award in 2020 for his song Behka Na from the movie Parey Hut Love is working on his first album. “I am still shortlisting the songs that I want to release in the album,” says Ali. “I am excited about it because some of the compositions are very different from the work that I have done so far.”
And when the album releases, we will also be able to hear the songs live – in concerts, at food festivals … perhaps at an all-girls gig too!
What do you think?