Exclusive: There were many roadblocks to Ali Gul Pir’s Peace Jam from the very get-go. Firstly, Pir had very little time to make it all happen. Following the tragic blast in Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine, Pir wanted to make sure that music doesn’t stop playing inside the shrine. He also wanted to put out a statement to terrorists: “You cannot stifle us”. Therefore, whatever needed to be done, needed to be done quick.
So Pir quickly approached many musicians out of which Sounds of Kolachi instantly agreed to come: Ahsan Bari (front man) Quaid Ahmed (vocalist) and Gul Mohammed (Sarangi). He also approached Aziz Kazi, a percussionist who made his appearance on Coke Studio last year.
There were other musicians who initially agreed to come and then cancelled at the last minute. Some of these musicians stopped answering Pir’s phone on the day of the jam. “Something came up,” they said to him. But Pir stood undeterred in making the Peace Jam in Sehwan happen. “I had no money to offer to them, everyone was graciously participating voluntarily so it’s okay if people couldn’t make it,” said Ali Gul Pir regarding the cancellation of other musicians.
Finally, Pir’s entourage headed to Sehwan in a 5 hour long bus drive while momentarily stopping at Jamshoro to try their famous pakoray. After resting for an hour, the dream team headed to the hotel Sehwan Divine to rest before the performance.
At 6.30 pm, Pir and others were standing at the gates of Qalandar, trying to make their way in. They were able to get inside but their instruments weren’t allowed inside for security purposes. After a bunch of phone calls and permission letters from the police, Pir was inside in time to watch the dhamaal take place. Many musicians revealed that it was their first ever dhamaal seen in person. “I’ve never seen this before, it’s magical!” exclaimed Quaid Ahmed and what eventually transpired once the musicians started playing can also be described in the same manner.
Bari, Quaid, Gul Mohammad and Aziz chose a spot inside the mazaar and set up shop: Bari on guitar, Aziz on darbuka, Gul Muhammad on sarangi and Quaid on vocals. They began to play sufi tunes of Qalandar and slowly and gradually, the qalandaris inside the shrine started to come and sit around them.
Quaid sang beautifully and one could tell that he truly felt the pain of what had happened inside the halls where he sat and sang. Eventually the crowd started to grow and as the band picked up the pace, so did the qalandaris. The dhol wala of the shrine quickly grabbed his drums and joined the musicians and tried to follow their beat. Men, women and children broke into a dance and started to sway to the rhythm of the darbuka. Suddenly, a full fledged dhamaal started to take place right in front of the musicians and went on for a good hour. The people dancing and singing cried with the musicians as they remembered their beloved sufi and all the victims of the blast who lost their lives tragically merely a few feet away from where they stood.
Little damage has been done to Qalandar’s shrine: you cannot tell that a bomb blast took place inside because most of the mazaar stands unperturbed. The musicians are back, the qalandaris are back. In fact, more people are now visiting the shrine as a sign of protest. Sounds of Kolachi has been the first band to ever perform inside the gates of Qalandar. Sheema Kirmani and Atiya Khan were also recently seen participating in the dhamaal. Innocent lives have been lost but people are avenging them by not letting the spirit of Qalandar die.
- The author is married to Ali Gul Pir