When Mary McBride last toured Pakistan three years ago, she won over the local crowd by performing fusion music with Abu Ayaz and Farid Qawwal. Thrilled by this style of music, she plans to do it again on her next visit here. As a touring ambassador she loves going places. “I thrive on it,” she says. “My band and I toured Russia and from there have come to Pakistan. We have done 23 tours abroad and I am happy to be back and will come to Islamabad for a music festival soon, collaborating with local musicians. I love coming here because we now have friends, and I like doing charity work and meeting people.”

McBride’s speciality is country rock which she says stems from country music like all the other genres of American music. Her love for music comes from her parents who are from Louisiana which is known for its soul music. They would regularly go to a club which was famous for its music performances, with Elvis Presley performing there along with African- American gospel bands. McBride would accompany her parents and fell in love with the music. “I basically like rock because it is interesting. I grew up in Washington which also has African-American music and we do Americana style. Gospel and country music have similarities. My band and I do a lot of covers such as Ray Charles and play a bit of everything for people. We like to introduce different styles of music during our tours.”

Of her four albums her favourite is The Way Home as it has old school music, and McBride likes to play its central song while touring. “When I made my first record I sent it to musicians including Delbert McClinton who is my hero, to hear it. We later performed with him in a club at his invitation. That opened doors for me and soon we made a name for ourselves while touring and have now built an audience. We did everything you’re supposed to do to be known. Musicians get frustrated that the audience doesn’t know them, but you have to work at it to get the audience to know you. That’s an organic way to do it,” says McBride.


From performing with qawwals to raising funds for breast cancer awareness, country star Mary McBride has pretty much done it all


She did one song in the film Brokeback Mountain. It wasn’t a big film, she says, but the subject was great and it was nominated for an Academy which was a surprise for everyone, and McBride was on seventh heaven having sung in it along with other famous singers.

She started Home Tour in 2010 from Washington. “One day I was with a group of senior citizens and they said ‘why don’t you play for people at a home. So we began performing in homes for disabled people and did 20 tours in different cities in pilot programmes. Then the State Dept noticed us and we did 23 countries for them. My hope is to bring other singers into the Home Tour.”

Next came the Pink Line project which focuses on breast cancer. McBride did a programme with them once, and pink being their colour she came up with the idea of painting the road pink and holding a press conference there. “It was very successful along with the concert we organised, and raised a lot of money for the cause.”

McBride says touring can be very tiring physically as one is literally living out of a suitcase. Having performed at Karachi’s Frere Hall for schools early in the morning that day, she found it energising to play for children who don’t usually get a chance to hear such music, and loved the response. “And then I am not tired anymore. I played at Darul Khushnood in the afternoon and they loved it and responded fantastically as they have no inhibitions. Children respond well to music whatever the background. I am also working with mentally disabled children in Connecticut and it is so good to see that music helps these children.”

McBride is working on fusion music with a band here. “I have my interpretation of music and they have theirs. Fusion can be confusing if not practiced but we have worked for a week and I feel good about it.”

Was she afraid coming here this time? Her family had misgivings, she said, but McBride wasn’t worried as she has lived in New York which she says is a pretty dangerous city. “I have played in Iraq and other similar places. If we go by news we wouldn’t be travelling at all. New York has five boroughs, we don’t know what’s happening on the other end. So it isn’t fair to say this place or that is dangerous, on hearsay. As long as you are careful things are fine, so I’ll keep coming here as long as I can.”

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 17th, 2015

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