The time has come. Much like the rest of the world, when the Covid-19 pandemic first broke out and lockdowns started being put into place, our music festivals too are now going online.

The 12th Tehzeeb Festival, which has built a reputation for staging performances by some of the best artists and acts in classical (and sometimes classical-rock) music in Pakistan, will be streaming its three-day event online from July 30 until August 2, 2021. There’s something magical about being able to tune in and stream a whole concert online while going about your day. It brings the concert, your favourite artists into your home.

Meanwhile, the annual music festival that’s been taking place in Hyderabad-Jamshoro for the last six years, and which is always threatening to be the ‘last one,’ Lahooti Melo, has also decided to go digital this year. Remaining true to their ethos of spotlighting indigenous folk music (with a mix of pop here and there) predominantly from Sindh — but also including artists from across the country and sometimes beyond — they released their first ‘dump’ of tracks from Lahooti Melo 2021 over Eid.

In Khumariyoon, the Peshawar-Islamabad based instrumental act known for playing music that is a celebration of Pashtun culture, Khumariyaan, collaborate with Akbar Khamiso Khan, a virtuoso on the bansuri who plays typically Sindhi tunes. It’s an interesting combination, because both sets of artists seem to come from very different ends of the country and both play music steeped in their own indigenous cultures.

Khumariyaan and Akbar Khamiso Khan’s Khumariyoon marries Sindhi and Pashtun music and rhythms seamlessly

The track opens with Akbar Khamiso Khan playing a mournful solo before the tabla joins in an upbeat rhythm. Then the rest of the Khumariyaan band joins in, first with the rhythm guitar section complementing the sound tempo of the tabla.

Akbar Khamiso plays a happy, playful riff on his flute that seems to be the main ‘chorus’ sound of the song. Farhan Bogra then copies the same riff on his rabab before heading into the ‘verse’ section of the song through his rabab, this time with Khamiso copying him.

And this way, the musicians go back and forth, giving each other space to lead and follow. If one didn’t know better, one would think they had been jamming to music together for a very long time. But that’s the beauty of music — even if you speak different languages or belong to vastly different areas and cultures, through music you can understand and communicate with each other. Music is the language you have in common.

Do watch out for Akbar Khamiso’s little flute solo towards the end, with Farhan Bogra joining him just as he’s about to finish.

Khumariyoon is a light-hearted, fun number that’s just full of joy. Typical of Khumariyan tracks, Khumariyoon makes you want to get up and dance — but dance of what region? Sindh or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? Khumariyoon is a seamless collaboration of these two cultures. In one track you get to experience both the diversity and the convergence of two distinctly separate (in terms of music) cultures in the country. It’s beautiful.

Published in Dawn, ICON, August 1st, 2021

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