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The music of Lahore – now and then

The Music of Lahore. It is the year 2003. You are sitting upfront on the house porch, basking in the warmth of a late September afternoon. Your father has accompanied you with a newspaper, cursing the ‘government’ and the ‘economy’ as he furiously flips through the pages.  From a distance, you can see your mother haggling with an impatient sabzi wala (vegetable vendor) whose cart is parked right in front of your house. From atop the roof you can hear your brother angrily struggle with the satellite dish antenna. After an endless battle, the flickering images on the TV screen in the lounge still and Ali Zafar’s melodious voice fills the atmosphere:

‘Chal dil meray chor yeh phairay,  yeh duniya jhooti, log lotairay…’

Translation (for lack of better words): Let it go my heart, this world is full of lies and frauds.

18 years later, the timeless lyrics and the message hidden in them is still relevant. Since their production in the early 2000s, these vocals have been etched in the pages of Lahore’s musical bibliography. It was this era, in history when the city underwent a tumultuous musical revolution- the transformation from classical chords to raw, unapologetic expression of talent through underground music. Back then, musicians like EP, Noori, Ali Azmat, Atif Aslam and Jal etc who are now placed at an exalted pedestal of vocal excellence were no more than head-banging, guitar blazing, blue jeans- clad, youngsters spreading their wings in this magical city.

Music in Lahore
Image Source: Ali Zaidi

Indisputably, Lahore’s undying love for music has stood the test of time. Today the city offers a plethora of dedicated spaces to explore and showcase one’s musical prowess. One such platform is The Colony, a revamped theatre housed in a 1933 building named the Sagar theatre, amidst the creative hubbub and pounding traffic of the Mall Road. Brainchild of the filmmaker, Saad Sheikh and his comrade Salman Jehangir, the key idea behind The Colony is to liberate art from the confines of the privileged elites who spend exorbitantly on fancy, top-notch shows, and make it accessible for the ordinary people. The club holds a diverse collection of musical rendezvous, from karaoke nights to free-style jamming sessions and live band performances.

Speaking of live performances, an abundance of eateries in Lahore are experimenting with the unfailing combination of great food and even better music. The list is topped by the likes of The Poet and The Peeru’s Café. Besides the luxuriously adorned interior and the mouth-wateringly delicious, desi menu, one of the key attractions of these boutique restaurants is the festive ambience created by the soulful tunes of Ghazal and Qawaali music. Don’t forget to make reservations, a day ahead since these eatries are crowded all year round!

Music in Lahore 2 rotated
Location: Peeru’s Cafe

Music festivals have played an equally important role in the revival and revitalization of the art in Lahore. The Lahore Music Meet, that has been attracting a colossal number of music enthusiasts since its first edition in 2015 is an eccentric combination of talks on numerous music genres, outdoor live performances from internationally acclaimed artists and even witty, light-hearted stand-up.

Music in Lahore 1
Image Source: Lahore Music Meet

All-in-all, for a wholesome music experience it is time you put down Lahore on your travel list!       

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