“But to be honest, even until the night before the festival, we were not sure if it was going to happen”.
In 2015, two girls studying at a prestigious university in Lahore had this idea to start a music festival.
With no money, no sponsors, and no experience in event organizing at such a large scale.
On the 6th-7th January 2018, three years after that germ of an idea, the fourth installation of Lahore Music Meet will unfold onto a cold but eager Lahori audience. The Al Hamra Arts Centre will warm up with a series of concerts, workshops and panel discussions. It’s one of the most anticipated events on the Pakistani musical calendar, encouraging big name artists and fresh-faced newcomers alike to participate.
But back in 2015, in that LUMS dormitory, success seemed a long way off. For Zahra Paracha and Natasha Noorani, the co-founders of the Lahore Music Meet, the task was gargantuan.
How do you set up a festival? Even if you succeeded, would anyone come?
“There were so many things we didn’t even think of”, says Zahra Paracha, “things like litter and paying people for trash disposal. There were sponsors who said ‘shart lagadein, yeh to nahin hoga’, and we were like ‘no!’ Hum phir akar mein agaye. Now we had to do it”. In the end, the first Lahore Music Meet was a complete success. “We had Sachal Orchestra and Asrar there. The day was so incredible because people showed up”.
Since that first LMM, both Zahra and Natasha vowed to keep the festival going every year. That, though, proved easier said than done.
Being a woman and organizing a festival, as the main person responsible, is a challenge in and of itself
Zahra, who is also currently part of the band ‘Sikandar Ka Mandar’, has a gung-ho attitude towards the difficulties of being a female in a male-dominated industry. ‘We just do things’, Zahra says, casually. ‘Regardless of whether it’s male-dominated or whatever… I don’t think about the challenges really, just face them. Then when everything’s done, we look back’. It’s an inspiring outlook to have, one that pushes forward incessantly.
Sometimes, though, this push forward has been hindered by socio-political circumstances. Security tensions in the successive years have made organizing the event difficult.
“There was a bomb blast that happened a week before LMM’16. We had all this pressure from everyone saying ‘don’t do it, don’t do it’, which we understood. People said ‘it’s so disrespectful, tum log shughal manaogay?’” Zahra takes a minute to recollect. “I remember Natasha and I were sitting in the car and Natasha said ‘we’re fighting a much bigger battle that we realise right now’. For the two of us, music made us who we are, it helped heal us from things that we would never imagine healing from. And from that logic, we began the work to complete LMM”.
It’s a beautiful sentiment, and one that shines through in every aspect of the festival. It is free of charge to ensure that music is open to all. It brings together big names in the music industry as well as fresh independent voices and puts them on the same stage. Artists who have perhaps only ever made music in their bedrooms for themselves are given a platform to share their creativity with others. It is this underlying belief of music as a beautiful, life-affirming gift that drives the festival. The attitude of the founders has shifted from wide-eyed uncertainty to a resolute determination.
‘Now we know it has to happen’, says Zahra. ‘We know that there are going to be problems, and we’ll deal with them’.
The Lahore Music Meet 2018 will be held from January 6th-7th at the Al Hamra Mall Road.