I had heard of Doctors without Borders and Reporters without Borders, but when I saw a headline in a Pakistani newspaper about Mystics without Borders, it was a first for me and certainly caught my attention.
It turns out a fascinating festival by the name of the “International Mystic Music Sufi Festival” is currently being celebrated in Karachi at the Bara Dari. The festival is being organised by the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, which is also the group that has been responsible for the popular World Performing Arts Festival held annually in Lahore.
This Sufi festival is the first of its kind in Karachi and certainly an encouraging sign that people are able to express and share their sentiments, devotion, spirituality and passion in diverse ways. This festival is expected to last until May 7, and with an entrance fee of just Rs 300, it promises a lot of entertainment and education to Karachiites. According to the organizers, performers from over 70 countries have been invited to present their specialties in muslim sufi rituals, including music, songs and dances. There are performers from as far away as Syria which can be a delight to watch.
According to the media report:
Usman Peerzada of the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop said that the group’s main aim had been to bring festivals to Pakistan since 1992 and now, as a result of their efforts, the World Performing Arts Festival had become the largest festival of Asia. “Festivals are living festivals and we aim to make the Sufi festival into just that. So please, own the festival,” he said in his address to the audience.
Daily Times spoke to Faizan Peerzada, the master-mind behind the show, to ask him what his audience could expect out of this festival. “A lot of variety. Some of these performers, like the Syrian performers can alone perform for four hours, but we have condensed it into a performance of 32 minutes so that we can manage 17 performances in one day. We have tried to bring together as many performers here as was possible and each one of them is performing a different Islamic tradition, so there’s a collection of so many aspects, which makes this festival unique.”
and the performances so far seem to have kept up to their high expectations:
The curtain raiser began with a performance by Zain-ul-Abideen Shah also known as Jumman Shah and his troupe of five people who sang a qafi by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Their performance was followed by a mind-blowing performance by Mithoo and Goonga Saeein, who presented an instrumental using dhols while three of their members whirled around, representing the ecstasy so indispensable to the Sufi tradition. The next performance was by an Iranian four-member group called ‘Bidaat’, after which Kathak dancer Sheema Kirmani stole the show with her brilliant performance on Ameer Khusro’s ‘aaj rang hai’. With her group of two male dancers and two female, she brought the words to life and used the vacuum of the stage as a canvas portraying a beautiful painting that she successfully displayed to an audience that erupted in a round of applause for her.
Another one of the most appreciated performances of the curtain raiser was by Saeein Zahoor who performed a kalaam by Baba Bulleh Shah. Zahoor is a recipient of the BBC World Music Award and performed for an approximate 10 minutes, not a single second of which could be termed as a ‘drag’. A Syrian group called “Sham group of Syrian and Andalusian Music” performed next and recited verses from the Holy Quran.
We hope this Sufi Festival will become a local tradition, and sthat uch art, folk, mystic, music, poetic, dance, and religious festivals will be held regularly in a city that still hosts one of the most diverse and culturally steeped citizenry.