Ahmed Godil, the mysterious host who took over the stage, and went on for quite a while, led to a lot of laughter on the internet with memes and jokes writing themselves.
The trippy landscape was as if it was forgotten that pyrotechnical wizardry is one of the biggest part of such shows. And so there were erratic gaps that made little to no sense.
The opening ceremony is always special because it is marked by the presence of foreign and local superstars of cricket as well as star-studded performances that are advertised in advance. This year was different because the opening ceremony took place at the National Stadium, in Karachi as opposed to its usual venue in Dubai.
But things went awry from the moment Fakhr-e-Alam took over from Ahmed Godil. For one thing, what was Fakhr-e-Alam doing there when Pakistan has a wave of actors who can double as hosts or musicians who can do the same? Nothing against Fakhr – he can be quite entertaining – but it’s also necessary to build on and nurture stars of the moment, which he is not. Moving on, the world was then introduced to a bizarre version of Sufism. It was in the form of a performance that deserves its own column.
Sanam Marvi, Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad Qawwal and music group Soch were meant to highlight the land of Sufis. They were joined by dervishes moving in complete disharmony. The choreographed dervishes did not look believable. Meanwhile, amidst Sanam Marvi and Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad, one couldn’t figure out what Soch was doing in the middle. Were they supposed to represent the contemporary face of Sufi music because Natasha Baig, who just released an album, and also collaborated with Fareed Ayaz (on Coke Studio) would have made a much more interesting choice. How about Hadiqa Kiani? Saakin is another name that comes to mind. Imagine ‘SubhanAllah’ reverberating [from their rendition of ‘Sik Mitraan’] through the night? The mystic magic would have come alive. But we’re stuck. Whomever PCB thinks will get them the most number of viewers is taken without keeping in mind the real essence of the subject, in this case which was Sufism. The Sketches or Arieb Azhar on live guitars would have made a far more sensible choice.
Sajjad Ali is a terrific performer and he knows his audience and how to move them. He began with the classic hit, ‘Baybia’ and then went into his massive India-Pakistan hit, ‘Sohni Lagdi’ and just when you thought things were improving rather tremendously, Sajjad Ali song came to an abrupt end. Did they stop playing the tape because none of it was live anyway? The abrupt end forced him to wave to the crowd and leave the stage. And once again, the dark pyrotechnical flaws became so apparent with the music so trippy that it could induce you to sleep, particularly if you were tired and watching at home.
Aima Baig managed to elevate the crowd with two nondescript songs, which shows just how popular she has become and disappeared with her cape just as easily as she had come. The dancers accompanying her, well, they were in their own zone.
Abrar ul Haq
Abrar ul Haq is making the same music he was making when ‘Billo’ was released in the mid-nineties, and he brought that music – not live – but with a great deal of energy as he ran around the stage and sang ‘Nach Majajan’ among other tracks before riding back in a colorful rickshaw and the big V (representing 5 years of PSL) appeared again. Pyrotechnical failure of the highest order.
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan
One of the great singers of our time, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sang ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’ and though the women taking circles around him with a red flag left us clueless, this was one of the better performances due to sargam in between and the fact that this performance ran for at least three minutes. And the song is as an old classic that RFAK carried.
PSL anthem: ‘Tayyar Hain’
Featuring Ali Azmat, Arif Lohar, Asim Azhar and Haroon Rashid, ‘Tayyar Hain’ was accompanied by a great deal of fireworks but the show director cut lines of the artists, leaving them blindsided. In a later interview with a local channel, Ali Azmat confessed that in a show of this stature, chaos does take place but a lot of artists left disheartened. “In our song, the parts of Asim Azhar and Haroon Rashid were never played so we were surprised. Disappointment is a small word for it and sadness and anger was expressed as well because either we should have been told that a short version would be played but it felt like somebody played the wrong file on the computer and we’re standing there and we don’t know what is going on after two days of rehearsals and 3 and a half minute song was reduced to maybe 60 seconds.”