Salt Shaker Series 01: 'Sounds of Kolachi' in Concert

The groundbreaking musical performance by Sounds of Kolachi at the Alliance Francaise this past Saturday set the ball rolling for what has been named the Salt Shaker Series 01. Part of the broader ambition of Salt Arts, the leading organizer behind this set-up, the Salt Shaker Series aspires to bring out hidden artistic talent and encourage audiences to step out of their comfort zone and witness the transformative nature of contemporary Pakistani music.

Formed in September 2015, Salt Arts has only recently started building rapport amongst art lovers in Karachi. Founding members Raania Durrani and Junaid Iqbal work with a small but talented team, which includes Hasan Waliany, Mary Therese and Hamna Haqqi. Striving to promote intercultural exchange and audience development, this promising endeavor is a force to be reckoned with – something that has become especially clear after Saturday night’s thrilling performance.

Sounds of Kolachi’s distinct approach to music made them an ideal candidate to inaugurate Salt Arts’ first major project. A diverse band-cum-orchestra featuring up to 17 members, Sounds of Kolachi has made significant headway in the two years since its inception. Incorporating a unique Eastern-Western blend of sound by integrating various genres such as Blues, Jazz, Classical, Rock and Pop, Sounds of Kolachi features an interesting line-up of musicians, including Ahsan Bari (main vocals) and a group of five backing vocalists.

Aahad Nayani of Coke Studio and acclaimed guitarist Faraz Anwar joined the ensemble for the performance, generating energetic cheers from the crowd. Vocalist Bari has previously been quite active in the classical music scene, composing, producing and performing with various artists such as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Aamir Zaki, Ali Azmat, Alamgir and Strings. His deep understanding of classical Indian music and his fascination with the interconnected nature of genres shows quite clearly in the songs he has composed with Sounds of Kolachi.

Staying true to their promise of introducing a creative set list for the evening, Sounds of Kolachi warmed up their instruments with Allah Hi Deyga, one of their most popular tracks. Bari’s brief but impassioned speech prior to the performance produced a heartening response from the audience, as he paid tribute to the late Sabeen Mehmud of T2F with the first song. The 10-minute track was followed by the classic Yaar Daddi, which Bari dedicated to the rich folk music of Pakistan. Backing vocalists Natasha Baig, Quaid Ahmed and Muhammad Ghazanfar were particularly active in this track, their vocals seamlessly flowing with the Jazz/Blues reverberations from the drums, guitars and Sitaar. The set list also featured Dam Mast Qalandar, a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his legacy. Lakh Jatan proved particularly transcendental with its captivating Sitaar riffs and Bari’s emotion-filled lyrics. One could see rows of heads in the audience swaying along with the melody.

Sounds of Kolachi concluded their performance with Taranah, a 12-minute composition filled with tasteful Sitaar, Sarangi, Drums and Guitar, topped with a beautiful vocal. The track set itself apart from all previous ones, providing a thorough, progressive musical journey, perhaps the same one that Bari would often passionately refer to in his mini-chats with the audience between songs.

Last Saturday night saw a packed Alliance Francaise witness a group of art enthusiasts and musicians come together to do what they love most. Through persistent, coordinated effort, Salt Arts’ bold initiative under the Salt Shaker Series aspires to bring about a transformation in how art culture is viewed in Pakistan. Promising a series of similar events in the future, Salt Arts may just have set a firm footprint in Karachi’s entertainment industry with Salt Shaker Series 01.