From unearthing raw, earthy music to designing curriculum for performing arts, Ahsan Bari is both learning and using his craft to empower musicians and the youth without embracing gentrification.
n most days, you will find Ahsan Bari at the Arts Council in Karachi. He’s had a busy year in
2022. Irrespective of Quaid Ahmed leaving Sounds of Kolachi (a music group that Bari spearheads) on amicable terms, Bari is working with his usual velocity as a multidisciplinary artist.
His rendezvous with theatre recently showed its brilliance as music director for Betaali Prem Katha, an original NAPA play inspired by the writings of Intizar Hussain and directed by Fawad Khan. The production in itself was high on content and therefore music was to be a part of it. However, with Ahsan Bari involved, the music shone to a degree that it found a corner in minds including those who prefer the retro music universe than the present one.
Before presenting this piece of music that caters to art, he also performed with his group, Sounds of Kolachi, at the last edition of Lahooti Melo.
Speaking to Instep, post-game, Ahsan explains his association to various facets of the performing arts including theater and how it connects to the Subcontinent.
“I did Betaali Prem Katha with NAPA Repertory Theater Director, Fawad Khan,” he began. He recounted how the association between Khan and Bari goes back to the early days of NAPA where Bari graduated from the institute in Music while Fawad Khan earned his degree in Theater. Since then, the two have collaborated before, including going to India.
“This play is special because I associate and find myself connected to the Subcontinent,” he says. “People on both sides of the border should realize that our mutual heritage is monumental. The way Fawad has presented this play akin to natak-style, allowed us with an opportunity to work with Bhagat Bhoora Lal.”
Calling it a life-changing experience, Bari continues “Coming out of Sindh, this is raw talent, him and his team.”
Among other things, Sounds of Kolachi has a curious show in the pipeline where they plan to play a South Asian special show which will feature, as Bari noted, a lot of Southasian music presented in a different format.
As for his own label, Push Arts, it is ready to go. “We have four to five artists whom we will be launching. The date is tentative but the hope is for it to happen by October and November. “We will also do at least one curated live show.” Furthermore, there are collaborations with theater artists. “We’re also talking to filmmakers with respect to Push Arts.”
September-October will be even busier for Ahsan Bari as he will be working with Arts Council for a Youth Festival. “All of the districts in Karachi will be a part of it and it will allow children to showcase their talent and win 100,000 rupees. Every category will award 100,000 rupees.
Spread across the city, it will be a great opportunity as it will happen in East or West or Central or North - basically all major parts of the city. The culmination of it will take place at a prominent space.”
If October/September will give Karachi a youth festival, November, as Bari revealed, will host a massive music festival. Work is in progress. “I am director for special programs (Arts Council) and as part of it, my responsibility is to look at course curriculums and work with heads of music, dance and theatre and to create collaborations and to connect the youth with this institution. We’re working on a course curriculum based on three-years with a specialization curriculum for a year.
In other words, it is a degree program we are trying to build and convert it into a performing arts university in the coming years.”
Ahsan admits this is a jam-packed year but it’s something he is enjoying and learning from as well. You can’t argue that.
– Photo by Amuze Studios