Sound and symphony

June 27, 2021

World Music Day celebrations remain muted due to pandemic restrictions

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The World Music Day is celebrated on the twenty first of June. If one is not mistaken, the first of October is the United Nations International Music Day. This year, the World Music Day has been like no other even if we take into consideration the impact of the pandemic. Last year, most people had hoped that it might blow away without leaving any permanent scars. However, as the months dragged by, it became more of an endurance test than the sanguinity of declaring victory after a brief battle.

Obviously, music, like many other arts, has suffered immensely. Even if one considered the valiant effort of holding events like the Euro Vision, the Golden Globes and the Oscars partly online, this jargon is starting to dominate the verbal discourse.

Despite the effort and will not to go under, these attempts have been marred by the lack of flawless technology and the time needed to accept the medium as indispensable for human expression. Unlike many others, who have declared a triumph of human creative spirit over the dangers facing humankind, the contours of the medium have to become as essential as ink to poets and the brush to painters for the expression to be meaningful and appealing. It takes time. However, the time has been in short supply in the rush to outdo the damaging impact of a scourging contagious/infectious disease that one thought was a thing of the past.

In Pakistan, a concert was arranged at the Lok Virsa to mark the occasion and to make a statement that the institution is willing to resurrect as much as the circumstances allow. A similar event was arranged by the Walled City Authority in Lahore. While the event in Islamabad was more of a music of the bands, the Lahore event comprised more traditional instruments and forms. Other than these, one has not heard of any other occasion, performance or even a talk to celebrate the World Music Day.

Some advertisements appeared in the papers for talent hunts across the country, particularly in the Punjab, but the drive has been undermined by ever-new restrictions. Just as initiatives are taken to revive performing arts, another variant of the virus strikes. Many concerts held at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts, Lahore’s Alhamra and the other arts councils in the country have been on the hold for more than a year. The melas and urses, too, have been watered down affairs, discouraging the gathering of people on a large scale.

On the International Music Day, the aim is to create a global atmosphere of music, a platform for people to come together in all their diversity and mingle to make a unified whole.

The All Pakistan Music Conference, which used to be held regularly, has been waiting for a go ahead. Some other organisations, such as Tehzeeb, have had a fling or two through digital media.

The International Music Day was initiated on October 1 in 1975 by Lord Yehudi Menuhin. It was first organised by the International Music Council, in accordance with the resolution taken at the 15th General Assembly in Lausanne in 1973.

The Music Day celebrated on June 21 became important not all of a sudden but gradually as the media picked it up as a day to be acknowledged and celebrated. Fete de la Musique, a music festival held on June 21, first held in France has since spread over a hundred countries or cities like Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Israel, China, India, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Colombia and Venezuela.

New York celebrated its first festival in 2007. In 2008, the Iraqi Kurdistan did so in Sulaymaniyah.

Its purpose was and is to promote music in two ways. Amateur and professional musician are encouraged to perform in the streets. The slogan Faites de la musique (make music), a homophone for Fete de la Musique, is used to promote this goal. Many free concerts are organised, making all genres of music accessible to the public. There is a lot of appreciation about the performance of music by the general public of amateurs in public areas after usual hours. Noise restrictions do apply, and can cause some establishments to be forbidden to broadcast music out of their doors and windows without prior authorisation.

On the International Music Day, the aim is to create a global atmosphere of music, a platform for people to come together with in all their diversity and mingle to make one unified whole. Like any other artistic or cultural celebration, the day is meant generally to celebrate art. It is essential to mobilise all means at our disposal in the 21st Century: radio and television, concert societies, opera companies and amateur societies. A great many different types of localities should all be used to their best advantage.

Such days come as a bitter-sweet reminder of what it used to be and the hope that it will be the same again. They are a tribute to the ever living hope and surging will of the humans. In Pakistan, the popular response to music is overwhelming. However, at the intellectual level, it is dodged and riddled by doubt, guilt and bad faith.


The writer is a culture critic based in Lahore



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