A Night of Bravery and Defiance

COMMENT: The day the music died — Ayeda Naqvi
Daily Times, November 25, 2008

On Thursday night I sat at the World Performing Arts Festival along with thousands of others, mesmerised. Abida Parveen had just finished singing. It was past 1 am. And yet we continued to sit in the biting cold, smiling, warmed by the afterglow of her rousing performance.

This was the Pakistan I so loved — vibrant, diverse and defiantly alive. This was the Pakistan that made me proud, the one that I was always trying to share with my non-Pakistani friends.

Like all other singers that night, Abida Parveen had started her performance by thanking the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop for its tireless efforts to preserve our culture. And then she continued to make a point our government would rather ignore. “A nation which abandons its music and its arts has no soul,” she said. “If you want to kill a country, then kill its culture.”

Just to make sure people understood, she followed up with a thundering version of “Aray logon, tumhara kiya; main janoon mera Khuda jaaney”, a line ascribed to Al Hallaj, the 10th century mystic who was put to death for declaring the oneness of all being. The message was simple: “What I believe is between me and my God.”

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