THE fourth Lahooti Melo took place over the weekend at the Sindh University in Jamshoro: a two-day festival of music, dance, poetry and discussion that was open to all. Originally envisioned as a meet-up for musicians by Saif Samejo of The Sketches — where up-and-coming musicians get opportunities to interact and learn from the more experienced names in the industry — the festival has expanded to include panel talks on contemporary issues with a large guest list including several prominent names in government, civil society, academia, journalism and entertainment. The guest list included activists and authors Amar Sindhu and Fouzia Saeed; musicians Hamza Akram Qawwal, Mughal-e-Funk and Rachel Viccaji; storytellers Tajdar Zaidi and Mohammed Hanif; and filmmakers Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Jami.
Keeping in mind the global discourse surrounding women’s rights and safety — and a young woman’s account of being assaulted by one of the guests at the Lahooti Melo last year — the talks this time around were focused on themes that affect girls and women: forced marriages, unwelcoming public spaces, and the #MeToo movement. Clearly, the issue of harassment is a topic nobody can ignore anymore; it affects men and women in every industry, although it has surfaced most explosively in the entertainment industry here. The intentions of the organisers were surely noble — even if logistical issues at the event and the quality of many of the panel discussions left much to be desired. What can’t be denied though is the importance of hosting such events outside the big cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. While these cities host several discussions, musical meets, theatre performances, concerts, food and literary festivals throughout the year, the smaller cities and towns tend to be overlooked. For a change, guests had to travel from Karachi to Jamshoro to attend a highly anticipated event. But what was most promising was the large attendance of students from different parts of Sindh. All cultural festivals are learning events after all.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019