Most of our media events seem to have been typified by a predictable similarity that puts one on guard. They usually lack in originality and are just rendered as deficient, low-scale replicas of Hollywood and Bollywood mega events. Efforts in ingenuity may bring forth better results, but somehow, our obsession with non-native images foils any attempts, if at all, at inventiveness.
The third Indus Music Awards were held in Lahore at Alhamra on June 17. The award ceremony is the only event in the country that celebrates and acknowledges music, and while it might have emerged as an annual occurrence which is being termed as an institution and a music industry yardstick by many, its scope is more or less confined to pop and rock music. The fact remains that we still need more of such platforms that can help provide equal projection and recognition to major players in all genres of the local music industry, especially in the folk and classical music categories.
For such events to begin offensively late is an accepted norm in Lahore, and so the show that was supposed to kick off around 6:30 pm, started at 9:42 pm to be precise, while the protracted wait was attributed to a delayed Lahore-bound flight. Prior to that, attempts to keep the audience slightly entertained came in the form of a red carpet segment that was being conducted in the foyer outside the hall.
Giant projection screens installed within the auditorium directly beamed the proceedings to the audience, and more big names from fashion, rather than the music industry, appeared to be in attendance. Among those present were Hasan Shehryar Yasin, Tariq Amin, Aaminah Haq, Iman Ali, Vaneeza Ahmed, Nomi Ansari, Faizan, Ammar Belal, and Deepak Perwani, while most of the celebrities donned Nomi Ansari or Muneeb Nawaz outfits. From the music industry, Noori, Call, Jal, Faakhir, Salman Albert, Ali Zafar, and Ali Azmat attended while noticeably missing were the music stalwarts from the local film industry.
The show started off on a ‘dangerous’ note with a dance medley by the same title performed by choreographer Sonu and his team. Though the performance was well choreographed, and the steps were perfectly synchronized, one failed to understand the logic in opening up a show that was being held to recognise local music, with a western medley. Sonu and his team could have done an equally good job on a local pop or rock medley. The opening taste was, however, carried on along the rest of the show, as none of the three dance segments was performed on local music.
In all, there were awards for 19 categories, and the award for the best patriotic song was a new addition to the event. Out of the three presenters who took turns to host the show, Fasi Zaka unquestionably outclassed the rest. Not only were his spontaneous dialogues swathed in wit and acknowledged with thunderous applause, his quick-wittedness also helped save the day for an otherwise not so well organised show. With his witty remarks, he made every blooper and gaffe appear like it was meant to be that way.
After the announcement of the very first award for best lyrics, signs of subtle ineptness in the air were already apparent, as Fariha Pervaiz and Abrar-ul-Haq who were called upon to announce the winner took ages to appear from backstage. Meanwhile, it was only Fasi’s entertaining and responsive words that kept the audience from resorting to hooting and booing. The best lyrics award went to Faisal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood of Strings who were not present to receive their award, and this caused further lag as after a long wait their absence was finally announced.
The second award for best composition met a similar fate, as Mekaal Hasan was also not present to receive his award, and while Vaneeza Ahmed and Shehzad Roy were asked to announce the winner, the latter of the two, again, was not in attendance. With most of the expected guests missing, the musical band Call was finally called upon to perform.
The award for the best alternative track was a valuable addition to this year’s ceremony, as the award focuses on numbers away from the usual, while discouraging corporatisation of music and is meant to encourage musicians who want to do something other than the run-of-the-mill stuff. The award was won by Ali Zafar for his song, "Aik Pal". The best foreign language song award, which could only have been given to an English song (as we don’t have people singing in other foreign languages) was given to ABCD for "My Favourite Dream", rendered by Nabeel Kizilbash.
With the taking over by presenters Younis Shahid and Beenish, the compering got less engaging, and the audience had to focus on deriving entertainment from other sources. The best bhangra song award was pinched by Jawad Ahmad, who was again not there to receive it. At this point it seemed that the fad was catching on at a feverish pace. The absence of such a high number of nominees and award-winners caused quite a disappointment among the audience, and many questioned the reason for such a high rate of absence. It also tainted the credibility of the awards ceremony with many of the opinion that that the organisers should have ensured the presence of at least those who were nominated in the various categories. Some among the audience attributed this to the diminishing popularity of the awards.
Rocking the show by bagging the best rock song award were Noori for their song "Nishan". The band, like the nominees for all other categories, faced tough competition as these were viewers’ choice awards and influenced by their voting. Yet another dance performance dubbed "Grease" was put up, besides others, by IM VJs Anoushey, Alizeh, and Ayesha Omar. Even this performance was rendered to an English medley depicting the music of the ’60s and the ’70s.
An additional segment called Citizens of the World featured on-screen simulations of personalities from around the globe. These included George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Punjabi, Pukhtoon, and a South Korean leader, besides a couple of others. The segment provided a pleasant change as a filler between the various performances including one by Abrar, who sang his all-time famous "Nachan Main Oday Naal Naal". Annie also sang her popular number, "Mahiya".
The fact that film music was totally ignored while planning out the various awards, and while making nominations for them, provoked deep concern among the intelligent members of the audience. “Our film industry is one field that needs encouragement and acknowledgement, and since we have no major awards for film music, the same could easily have been allotted a category or two in these awards,” said a person on finding out the true identity of this scribe. Shoaib and Saleema Hashmi, who were also present on the occasion, stressed the need for all to recognise classical music and ghazal. Most of the key personalities from the music and fashion industry, though, while giving their views on the red carpet, complimented IM for pioneering the trend of music awards, and said that the propensity should snowball so that we could have more of such awards.
Ali Azmat was given the best male pop artiste award, while much to everyone’s astonishment the female version of the same went to Fariha Pervaiz. The audience made no efforts to mask their reaction to the decision when she came on stage to receive her award. Strings won yet another award by being named the best band, while the best album award was presented to Faakhir by the Bombay Rockers. The band from across the border was also given a special award to mark its presence at the ceremony.
There were eight nominations for the best debut artiste, the highest number in any category which, according to industry experts, was an optimistic trend. The award was won by Suroor. The best music video award went to Hadiqa Kiani for "Iss Baar Milo", while Shehzad Roy’s "Saali" came forth as the best pop song. "Hum Aik Hain" was declared the best patriotic song, so Roy bagged yet another trophy. The best musical breakthrough award was given to Overload.
Ustad Hamid Ali Khan, a disciple of the Patiala gharana won the best ghazal award. A life-time achievement award in music was deservingly presented to Nayyara Noor. The veteran singer thanked all those people who had helped her lead a life of service to the cause of music. A beautiful kafi by Ghulam Fareed was rendered by Masooma, who sang so unmistakably like Reshma that one began to wonder if she was the legendary crooner’s disciple. Among other good performances was an English number by the Peshawar-based duo Sajid and Zeeshan, and what was meant to be a medley by the Raga Boys and Annie could not be due to a computer glitch. An appearance by Begum Nawazish Ali also lightened up the audience, as she greeted Lahore in her typically suggestive mannerism, complimenting the city for its myriad charms.
The awards closed with all the DJs performing to a yet another foreign language number, this time from "The Moulin Rouge."
The highlights of the show were certainly Fasi Zaka’s compering and the Bombay Rockers performing two of their popular songs, "Ari Ari" and "Rock The Party". Naf and Thomas really brought the crowd to their feet as they rocked Lahore with their hit duo. Much to the band’s and the audience’s bad luck, however, Thomas’s microphone did not work throughout his first performance, and he kept signaling to let the management know that. It was not until the first song came to an end and he put his agony into words that he was handed a functional one with a wire. With their type of bobbing and wild jerking, the Rockers could probably not conceive singing with their movements confined by a few yards of crimson chord. He exchanged his microphone with Naf, who had to perform with the binding burden, while Thomas was free to rock the party by leaping off-stage and making the audience go wild.
After making the announcement for the best film song award, the presenter suddenly realised that there were no nominations in the category. One may ask why, for wasn’t there even a single soundtrack or film song released throughout last year that was worthy of making it to the IM Awards? It seems that in this case, the answer is no. So instead, a special award acknowledging the actress’ versatility was presented to Reema, who again was not present on the occasion to receive her award. An acting award in a music awards ceremony sounds out of place. If at all IM had to give an award to Reema to make up for a previous omission, this was certainly not the time to do so, whatever the pressure. It would have been much more relevant had they given an award for the soundtrack of her film, "Koi Tujh Sa Kahan", or nominated a song from the same film for the best film song award.Faryal Shahzad