NEW YORK - Thousands of New Yorkers on Tuesday clapped, danced and swayed to the Sufi devotional songs and music rendered by Abida Parveen-led Pakistani group of artists in the Citys spacious Union Square Park.
The hot and humid weather didnt dampen the spirit of men and women thronging the park in lower Manhattan who seemed to enjoy the concert. Those who could not get in stood in the side streets, hampering the traffic. Many in the crowd joined the singers from Pakistans four provinces as they performed. Apart from Americans, music lovers from several Arab and African countries as well as Indians and Bangladeshis joined the gathering.
The concert marked the start of the three-day Pakistan Sufi Music Festival, which brings to New York a message of peace and healing less than three months after the failed Times Square bomb plot.
As the show progressed, clouds blanketed the hot sun when Abida Parveen appeared on the stage, providing some comfort to the people from heat. She was given a standing ovation as people pressed closer to the stage to catch her glimpse. After devotional recitations, she gradually built into a crescendo, with the numbers like Lal Meri Pat Rakhiyoun Bhalla and Hey Jamalo. Virtually every one in the crowd sang the finale with her.
This is the real face of Pakistan, not sound bites you see on your television, an elated Pakistan UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon told the cheering crowd.
We believe in peace, brotherhood and love. Individual acts of violence espoused by any minority cannot be allowed to define us all. Pakistan is at peace with New York, ambassador Haroon added.
Although all artists performed creditably, Baloch-istans Akhtar Chanal Zehri caught special attention, as his recitation resembled somewhat like that Western rap artist. He received huge response from the crowd. People also voiced appreciation for the music of Sung Faqirs from Sindhs shrine of the revered Sufi saint Sachal Sarmast.
The entire three-hour proceedings passed off peacefully and in an orderly fashion. Every one seemed to be happy with the event and said it was highly successful. Many Pakistanis said that the concert was a morale booster for them as they had come under great deal of pressure in the wake of the failed Time Square bombing. We feel uplifted today as they community came together today, said one.
Present in the crowd were Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and Javed Jabbar, a former senator and minister for Information and Broadcasting.
The event was organised by a group called the Pakistani Peace Builders - an initiative of New Yorkers, Pakistani-Americans, and Pakistanis.
A special concert for diplomats from around the world and UN officials will take place at Roosevelt Hotel tonight. It will be followed by two more shows will take place at Asia Society and Rubin Museum on July 22.
Pakistani cultural philanthropists, Hameed Haroon, Hamid Akhund, Yousaf Salauddin, as well as the Mohatta Museum Trust played a key curatorial role on behalf of Pakistani peace builders.