It was a warm night in Karachi, and people packed in almost beyond capacity at the MAD School for their 'MAD Gift' benefit — a collaborative effort to provide free arts education to children of Kiran School Systems in Lyari.
The benefit was an embarrassment of riches starring the meteoric Usman Riaz, rockers co-VEN, and featuring our guests from across the pond, Cultures of Harmony.
Cultures of Harmony is the brainchild of William Harvey, a Juilliard graduate, who believes in cultural diplomacy and forging connections through music.
Him and his quartet comprised of Peter Myers on Cello, and Emily Holden and Holly Jenkins on Violin are visiting Pakistan
The show kicked off with a familiar tune played by Cultures of Harmony. Within just a couple of phrases, the crowd realized it was our National Anthem and slowly they all rose to their feet.
Soon they were joined by Usman Riaz who opened his set with his unique brand of percussive guitar pieces evoking shades of guitarists like Michael Hedges, Justin King and Tim Reynolds.
Rarely does a talent come around that makes you run out of adjective to describe it without meandering into hyperbole. But Riaz is just that. His facility with any instrument he touches is extraordinary, and he possessed that rare ability to not only create great melodies but at the same time dazzle audiences with his technique.
The string quartet next joined Riaz in a slow waltz called, "Fragaria Dreams", which was followed by a Chopin-esque piece "Waves," on which Riaz played piano.
With the crowd truly warmed up, co-VEN took to the floor and there was no doubt that the decibel level was about to go up a few notches.
It was an interesting experience hearing co-VEN’s angsty rock mixed with the timbres and textures of a string quartet.
Sikander Mufti held the whole band together with his powerful yet controlled drumming allowing Hamza Jafri and Omran Shafique to go free.
Playing favourites such as “Ready To Die”, “Sailing Fast” and ending in an all-star jam driving the crowd into a frenzy.
The encore provided by Omran, Sikander and Usman was a bluesy cherry on top for the night as Riaz rocked the Harmonica in a raucous blues jam to top off the evening.