LAHORE: The third day of Faiz International Festival was celebrated at Alhamra Arts Council on Sunday.
Several panel discussions, musical and poetry performances, debates, political discussions and a book launch marked the indoor activities of the day, while books, food, clothing and photo stalls outside the halls kept participants refreshed and entertained.
“The mathematics in our music” turned out to be an especially informative and entertaining session. Yousuf Kerai and Shehroz Hussain played the tabla and sitar respectively, while educating the audience on the subtle science that goes into producing classical music.
The two extremely talented musicians talked about the 16 notes, how they are differentiated by their exponentially increasing or decreasing frequencies, the refrains, the beats and the “conversation” which musicians both follow and produce in their melodies. Listening to the technicalities involved in the making of raag, the differences between komal and regular sur, shrutis and much else revealed on those present the extremely profound subtleties of music, which we all love but very few know the science of. The two young artists made “words without meanings” from their instruments, and played songs on scales used in classical music.
During their performance, Kerai and Hussain sang “happy birthday” for audience member Mehwish, using shrutis at the end of each line and infusing the age-old song with a new “classical” life.
Toward the end of the session, people began to enter in droves into the hall, and before Kerai and Hussain were through with their performance, the hall had filled to capacity in anticipation of the next performance by Bushra Ansari.
Bushra Ansari, however, was not the only extremely sought after celebrity who was performing in that time slot. In hall 3, at the same time as Bushra was making her audience double over in laughter, Zehra Nigah and Dr Arfa Syeda were engaged in a mesmerising conversation.
Zehra was remembering anecdotes from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s life, inducing both tears and laughter from her audience. She recalled how when a visitor asked Faiz why he would never talk of his long years in prison, including those spent in solitary confinement, the magnanimous poet replied that he had fond memories even from that “dark” period of his life. He recollected how the man who brought him food in his solitary cell would slide a pencil and a tiny bit of paper taken from cigarette boxes into his cell with his plates, and Faiz would use these to write tiny notes regularly. At the end of his detention, the guard presented all of the tiny bits of paper that Faiz had written on, and slid out along with his plates, to Faiz wrapped in a piece of rubber. This, recalled Zehra, was a much more important memory from his days in prison than the hardships it brought.
Zehra further recalled that Faiz would spend hours entertaining all sorts of people who called on him, even when it exacted a lot of patience. She recalled how after listening to a visitor from Birmingham for over four hours, “who wouldn’t tire of reciting his own poetry,” Faiz asked Zehra to concoct a story of his being expected somewhere else, so that he could obtain his leave. “He delegated the task of making an excuse for him upon me because he was so bad at lying,” said Zehra as she narrated the story with visible fondness. She recalled further that when she did enter the drawing room to “remind” Faiz that he was expected somewhere, and that his expectant hosts had just called to confirm whether he was coming, Faiz innocently muttered, “Did the phone ring? I didn’t even hear it.”
What stood out most noticeably during the session was the effortless fluency with which Zehra and Dr Arfa carried their conversation. They paid homages to the great literary celebrities that this region has produced, and in doing so themselves attracted such admiration, that most of the audience were on their feet as they applauded the two ladies at the end of the session.
Meanwhile, Bushra Ansari had been followed by Mahira Khan in Hall 2 of Alhamra, which remained full to the capacity, and those who had already been inside were the only ones able to hear Mahira talk on “Verna”. The upgrading of the security protocol for Mahira’s address were perceptible, which carried also into the following performance of Hast o Neest an hour later, in which the Gulberg-based institute of traditional arts and sciences recited poetry from Rumi and Mian Mir, in an ensemble comprising about 12 male and female students of literature and music.
Sessions on dastaangoi and a theatre play titled “Qaid naan di waar” would mark the end of the third and last day of Faiz festival, leaving in its wake a rekindled yearning among literary enthusiasts for more of such events.