The event took place on a cloudy Sunday morning at Dar-ul-Sukun (Home of Peace), a home for children with mental and physical disabilities in Karachi, and was arranged by the American Consulate. Arriving early I had the chance to speak to Richard Silver from the American Consulate where he explained to me that minimal press coverage was desired as this was not a publicity event but rather a grassroots campaign by the Country band Blended 328. The idea behind the bands' decision to come and play in Pakistan (they played at the American Consulate General on May 25 with The Sketches and will go on to play in Lahore and Islamabad) is to demonstrate the universality of music and its power to unite nations.
Dar-ul-Sukun is one of the first welfare institutions one thinks of, right after the likes of Edhi and Aurat Foundation when it comes to establishments with a social conscience. Due to the efficiency of these institutions we have taken it for granted that some people have selflessly given their time and lives to helping the ones we have chosen to abandon. Asking Rita, one of the staff workers who has been there for around two decades, about her motivation to stay employed with Dar-ul-Sukun, was enlightening to say the least. She listed the economy being unreliable and the abuse faced by hired female domestic help and said, she was grateful that at this institution at least, the working environment was familial and the place was functional due to this strong sense of unity amongst the staff.
The greatest flipside to doing a project like this is the constant nagging in your head; is this deed genuine? Are the people involved, in any way, exploiting the children? What are they really doing this for? Unfortunately the world has shown time and time again that it is corrupt and ruthless so it is only natural to be apprehensive of people’s motives. However, with Blend 328, most of the band members were actually educators, one of the vocalists Dallas Brown was a guidance counsellor. Their experience with children was immediately evident as they walked in and took over in a mass of hugs and laughter as though they'd been visiting their whole life. The effort to reach across is commendable in whatever way it is done and this was done with enthusiastic sincerity. Gabriel Jordan, the guitarist, explained how they will be going to Russia and South America after they tour Pakistan and that the point of such diverse destinations was to reinforce the idea of connectivity through music. They call themselves a country band but are rather fluid in their performances with a little bit of blues and pop thrown in there for good measure.
The event was introduced by Cookie, a resident who has been at Dar-ul-Sukun since the day of her birth. The Australian government having been responsible for most of the corrective surgery she has undergone, Cookie is now actually a teacher at her institution. She teaches English writing and comprehension, leads her classes in arts and crafts as well as indulges them in poetry and short stories. She welcomed the guests and thanked them for being part of an event that would prove ‘enjoyable for all of us.’ I spoke at length to Rubina as well, another resident who gave a little drum solo before the concert began, to the delight of everyone present.
This was incidentally the first time I had witnessed how powerful music can be and how it is bliss without needing a translator. When Blend 328 took the stage so did the residents of Dar-ul-Sukun, they danced with abandon and exuberance. I think that is what made it so much worse to witness, that it takes so very little to enrich a life and even that is too much for those who can afford it the most. Life will always show you that altruism doesn’t really exist and someone somewhere will always profit or lose from a situation but this time the end may have justified the means; the people for whom this event was arranged were overjoyed. Even the toddlers in their cots were dancing. I hope Pakistan continues to see the privileged reaching out to the marginalised and making them a part of their solace.