The Karachi Files: Berlin Meets Karachi

I had a hell of a lot of fun last night at what was probably Pakistan’s first international electronic music concert. Held at the Arts Council, the open-air auditorium was the perfect venue for this coming together of Pakistani and German electronic musicians, who performed for an hour and a half in front of an audience that was half-enthralled and half-perplexed at the sounds being created in front of them.

The musicians working on a beat

A little background on the project:

In May 2015, a group of electronic musicians from Germany and Pakistan (including one from the Maldives) had followed the invitation by brothers Hannes and Andi Teichmann aka Gebrüder Teichmann, the Forever South crew and the Goethe-Institut Pakistan to meet in Karachi for a two week long “soundcamp”.

Karachi Files, a collection of electronic fused works is a melange of different cultural backgrounds, with inspiration taken from its surroundings. The corpulent body of work harmonizes a balance in the elements, delivering a variety of tracks, from electronic club music to electro acoustic experiments. 

On the 14th of May, 2016, the Karachi Files were performed for the first time in the framework of the festival “From Inside to Way Out” at Hebbel Theatre (HAU) in Berlin together with the release of the CD.

Last night, during the German Consulate’s German Weeks program, all musicians again came together to the place of the origin of the project, to Karachi, with the musicians: Alien Panda Jury, Arttu (aka Lump), Dynoman, Menimal, Natasha Humera Ejaz, rRoxymore, Ramsha Shakeel, Rudoh, Tollcrane, Taprikk Sweezee & Gebrüder Teichmann.

The stage was set up with long tables of electronic equipment and a screen behind. Flashing lights and images accompanied the electronic music, which was so alien to the audience that people started walking out from the very first song. Stefan Winkler, the director of the Goethe Institute under w

Natasha Humaira Ejaz

whose auspices the concert took place, told me, “We expected that. Many people have never been exposed to this kind of music before. But sometimes we want to be edgy!”

Behind me I could hear a local journalist complaining: “This is not music! I went to the British High Commission the other night and there was a pianist who played wonderful classical music. Now that is real music!”

I thought to myself, chuckling, I can’t wait to read his review.

But many stayed and were rewarded by this eclectic group of musician’s on-the-spot creation of soundscapes, with Ramsha Shakeel taking a violin bow to an electric guitar, and Natasha Humaira Ejaz adding her vocals to the songs, distorted and sampled and amplified to eerie effect. By the end of the concert I actually felt like I was no longer in Karachi but in a smoky underground club somewhere in Berlin, grooving with fifty people and having a great time.

The crew didn’t play dance music as such, although you can dance to electronica if there’s a beat that your feet understand. There’s something hypnotic about electronic music, though, which draws you in and makes you forget about everything else. I was a little perplexed myself to see eleven people standing at computer equipment with headphones on and what seemed like very little interaction between them. But somehow they built up a sound that was very much the result of collaboration between all the artists.

When the concert was over, all the musicians came out to take a bow, looking positively triumphant. And so they should. Two of the German musicians were wearing what I thought was shalwar kameez but when they came out from behind the tables I saw they’d matched them with short pants, which made me laugh. It’s the perfect metaphor for experiments like these that bring cultures together for the sake of music, and bridge-building. What results is unique, a little bizarre, and delightful.

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