US tries ‘friendship song’ diplomacy in Pakistan


Pakistan and the United States set aside an escalating row over proxy warfare for a night of musical fusion by the moonlit shores of a lake, hoping to cement public friendships, and all that jazz. In Washington, the White House exacerbated tensions with more demands that Islamabad clamp down on the Al-Qaeda-linked network blamed for attacks on US targets in Kabul, but in the Pakistani capital, diplomats trod a softer path.
Hosting a concert by the shores of Rawal Lake, the US embassy brought together America’s Ari Roland Jazz Quartet and Pakistani rock band Fuzon, capping the night with the “world premiere” of a special friendship song. “Paint the colours of love in face of hatred. Let’s forget all indignations and traverse all distances separating us,” went the lyrics of the song entitled “no life without friendship”, received by a somewhat bemused audience Tuesday.
But while political and military harmony eludes the fragile anti-terror alliance, the musical pairing was a relative success, if only to a converted audience of hundreds, mostly the country’s Western-educated elite. “If you look around people here, if they look in their hearts they like their (Americans’) lifestyle. We love fun, we love the people of America. Its their policies that people here are a bit sensitive and emotional (about),” said 32-year-old rapper Waleed Mehdi. “Jazz is the only form of music that’s purely American. They (the bands) fused it. You won’t believe, I had goosebumps,” he said.
By the end of the night, revellers were up dancing, enthused by a rousing mix of patriotic Pakistani anthemns such as ‘Jazba Janoon’, penned for the cricket World Cup, and US classics such as Louis Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’. But in a possible nod to the trials and tribulations of managing the latest diplomatic crisis, Munter did not attend the concert. Plans for him to play piano in a personal show of cultural diplomacy did not materialise. Instead on Tuesday, he met with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
The Americans’ jazz set came first, drawing an enthusiastic response when they turned their double bass, saxophones and drums to Pakistani numbers such as ‘Tere Bina Dil Nah Lagay’. The highlight of the set was when Pakistani tabla player Mohammad Ajmal sat on a red mat alongside 24-year-old Texan drummer Keith Balla, aka “Bam Bam” and their duelling drums kept the audience enthralled. Alternative rock band Fuzon, well-known among Pakistan’s youth, injected a modern flavour, bursting on to the stage in 1980s-style rolled up jacket sleeves, sunglasses, slick-backed ponytails and fedoras to liven up the crowd. “They’re kickass, they’re simply kickass,” enthused 24-year-old musician Nuqeet Khan, falling back on American slang. “There’s no politics in music, music is universal.”