A whirl of ecstasy
KARACHI: It was freezing by Karachi standards, but even so Karachiites came and by and large sat riveted till the end. Organised by the Annual Giving Committee of Aga Khan University, the Mehfil-e-Sama with musicians, performers and narrators drawn from Iran, Turkey, India and Pakistan.
Karwaan-e-Rumi was a hotly anticipated event. Anything undertaken by Indian filmmaker Muzaffar Ali would be. The mutual fascination of India and Pakistan continues and it was this that drew the upper echelons of Pakistani society to the steeply priced fundraiser titled Karwaan-e-Rumi.
The show started on time and carried on in a seamless flow. Instrumentalists from Turkey played while dervishes whirled around, spinning like ethereal tops and never ever colliding. The evening moving on to a narration by Zia Mohyeddin and readings by Nandita Das and Murad Ali. The latter two were good, but paled in comparison before Zia who moved effortlessly between Urdu, English and Farsi, the original language of all of Maulan Rumi�s verse.
The highlight of the show were the qawwals from Iran whose performance was by far the most haunting feature of the show. With only �Allah Hoo and �Ya Ali Madad discernible to the Urdu speaking ear, it was art at its peak, transcending the boundaries of language. Even Abida Parveen�s rendition paled in comparison, or perhaps it is just because one has heard her so many times before.
Karwaan-e-Rumi had all the making of an unforgettable evening, but throughout the evening, one got the feeling that something was amiss. It was the ambience. By putting Sufic performers on a stage lit for a concert was a mistake. The psychedelic lighting and the great distance between the performers and the audience took away from the authentic Mehfil-e-Sama experience that the event claimed to provide.
One kept on wishing that it had been held at the Mohatta Palace or Hindu Gymkhana, but if cost kept that from happening, one did wish that the seating was on the floor with rugs and cushions.
There is an innate intimacy about a night like Karwaan-e-Rumi and the authentic experience has to be retained for it to draw people in. The night had all the ingredients but the pot they simmered in was just not right.
One doubts that Maulana Rumi would have approved of the event, even if he did approve of the cause.