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KARACHI: The cultural heritage days organised at the Alliance Francaise began on Friday evening with the opening of an exhibition representing traditional arts followed by a musical concert featuring classical French songs, lovely music from Balochistan and a moving performance on the sarangi by Ustad Mazhar Umrao Bundu Khan.

The exhibition, which will remain open till Sept 26, commenced at the Alliance Francaise library. It has a variety of exhibits representing traditional pottery, paintings and embroidery from Multan, Hala and Balochistan brought by Ejaz Asi, Rizwan Ansari and Maqbool Alam, respectively.

Then there’s a section where ‘truck art’ is depicted. Designed by artist Anjum Rana it shows the different techniques used in the particular art form. What’s striking, among a few other artworks, is the portrayal of the heavily used film culture in truck art. For example, in one exhibit the Indian film ‘Taj Mahal’ with images of its lead characters are shown in somewhat gaudy colours accompanied by the text of the famous song ‘Jo wada kia who nibhana parey ga’. Next to it is the Pakistani film ‘Bin Badal Barsaat’. Then there are paintings done on canvas with vibrant pictures of peacocks just like the ones we see on cargo transport in any part of the country.

The second section of the show was a concert. It was divided into three parts: French traditional songs, Ustad Mazhar Umrao Bundu Khan’s rendition of classical tunes on the sarangi and heartwarming music from Balochistan presented by Akbar Khamisu Khan, the son of the distinguished alghoza player Khamisu Khan.

The gig kicked off with some lilting French numbers sung by Momin Zafar. He was accompanied by Ayesha Tariq on keyboards. Zafar started with ‘Aux Champs Elysees’ inviting the audience to sing the refrain line with him. His performance was enjoyed by the audience who hadn’t turned up in a big number. He crooned out a few more songs, including ‘La Mer’, and all of them were greeted with a generous round of applause.

Ustad Mazhar Umrao was next. Before his act, the ustad spoke on the plight of the sarangi and appealed to the authorities concerned to do something to save the instrument from getting forgotten like some other instruments. He gave out a harrowing statistic, saying that in a country of 18 crore people, there were only 13 sarangi players.

It was a delight listening to the ustad playing the sarangi. His claim that the sound of the instrument was the closes to human voice sounded true as he made the sarangi engage with the audience through notes. His stint on stage was to be followed by Akbar Khamisu Khan’s from the All Pakistan Music Conference.

The event will last for four days. On Saturday a documentary ‘The Art of Odissi Dance’ will be shown in the evening. Another documentary ‘A Private Visit of the City of Light’ will be screened on Sunday, whereas for Monday a talk on the architectural heritage of Karachi is lined up.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2014