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Music critics wonder: did television kill the classical music star?

Music critics wonder: did television kill the classical music star?

Kicking off yesterday on a breezy evening, the I Am Karachi Music Festival saw thin attendance at the Music Dialogues.

These are two-day discussions that deal with copyright and recording issues as well as tracing the relationship between music and society, and are a lead up to I Am Karachi's live musical performances due to be held this weekend.

It was a pity to see that not many people turned up to discuss the dynamic music scene in the city. Many questions worth contemplation were posed at the sessions as greats like Arshad Mehmood, Nafees Khan and Ibrahim Khan introduced the audience to eastern music, delving into the reason of its fall later on.

Moderated by Arshad Mehmood the talk titled 'Intro to Eastern Music' hosted notable names like Malahat Awan, Ibrahim Khan, Nafees Khan and Shahid Hameed.

With the notion clear that classical music is the purest and the highest form of music in all aspects, the issue of classical music dying away was raised.

Nafees Khan lamented that before 1977, classical music was promoted and singers like Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hasan and Roshan Ara Begum were given airtime, but after that Fareeda Khanum got banned and was replaced by pop singer Nazia Hasan.

He said that during those times, arrangement of shows was made on personal preferences and a show catering to classical notes was moved to the 11:30pm slot and Muhamamd Ali Shyaki’s show was moved to an earlier one. He clarified that he had no objection against any artists but did object to TV management's measures that brought about the downfall of classical music. He referred to the times when 7:30-9:00pm was prime time and he would listen to a 25-minute sitar session by Ustad Saleem Khan which helped in the ‘tuning’ of his ears.

He added that youngsters don’t even know the names of musicians like Khameeso Khan and Muneer Sarhadi.

It was also highlighted that if people can search the Internet just to learn the meaning of one word in English, they should do the same to understand classical notes.

Malahat Awan of the Tehzeeb Foundation stressed on the need for people to invest in music and posed the question: is the public watching substandard content because the media is showing it or is the media showing substandard content because the public demands it? Classical music, being a serious tradition, demands time and rapt attention. It has the quality to not bore the listener, hence this perception should be present in the mind.

“People who attend music festivals do so because they think it’s in vogue but many don’t buy music in its physical form. Just listening to a 30-minute session is not enough," she said.

Classical music can never become popular; it will always enjoy a niche audience, but this doesn’t mean that it is ignored as an art form by the media, she said. She also pointed out that in India such artists are chosen as showstoppers at fashion shows, which again is a conscious effort.

If someone steals your work, report it: Umer Sheikh

Moderated by Emu, the session titled 'Music Copyrights, Publishing, Licensing' saw panelists Umer Sheikh, Waqas Almas, Zahid Jamil and Zeeshan Chaudhry discuss issues that are landing many artists into hot waters these days. The talk was preceded by a drum solo by Ahad Nayani which was definitely the highlight at the event.

Umer Sheikh, veteran corporate professional, informed that copyright laws are now strong enough to take action against anyone who tries to copy or steal music in any way. He stressed the need for artists to stand up for themselves to defend the rights to the music produced by them. He said that musicians or singers can now directly approach the FIA or Police as they are now very responsive, and given that music is used everywhere, there were multiple cases where these organizations got together to salvage musician's rights.

Zeeshan Chaudhry of EMI also endorsed what Sheikh said, adding that the company has about 65pc of the music archives produced in Pakistan and that they are taking action against all those who do not abide by the laws.

Struggles of a society embedded in songs

The session titled Music and Society, subtitiled ‘Eik Dil Ne Kahi Eik Dil Ne Suni’ and hosted by Hasan Zaidi and Hameed Haroon, discussed how songs represent the society they are produced in and drew from Haroon's research on the matter. Taking the period from 1938 to 1988, Haroon's work described how songs like ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’, ‘Bandar Road Se Kimari’ or even the national anthems and songs had a theme and message attached to them which spoke about the fervour or despondency found in the nation at the time.

The political tension and social struggle of the times was embedded in the songs which was visible in the composition as well as the lyrics.

The research which is seldom taken by music lovers is being compiled by Haroon who plans to publish his research and findings at the Lahore Literature Festival next year.

A second round of discussions will take place today (Wednesday).

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