Category Archives: festivals

Let us celebrate Basant

Mohammad Ali Ilahi

For centuries, Basant has defined Lahore’s cultural identity. It is time for Pakistan’s heart to regain its soul

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Recently, the final match of Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament was successfully held in Lahore. There was excitement all around and thousands attended the match despite security threats. The enthusiasm for PSL showed how starved Lahoris were for recreation and with effective support by the state they were able to dispel the atmosphere of fear that has afflicted the city for long.

For centuries, Lahore has celebrated the Basant festival. Basant marked the arrival of spring, and filled up Lahore’s skies with countless kites of varying colors and sizes. Yet, Basant has always been more than just kite flying. It served as a social gathering where all classes participated in the celebration. It involved music, food that Lahoris are known for and frequent cries of “Bo Kata”.

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Celebrating Diwali in Lahore

By Hum-Aahang
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Most people would think of Diwali being celebrated in Pakistan as an exclusively Hindu event, and mostly focused around Sindh where the majority of the Hindu population of Pakistan resides. However, this time around we made it a point to celebrate this holy festival in our university in order to celebrate diversity that exists amongst us, and as a gesture of respect for a sizable Hindu community that resides in LUMS.
Since most of the problems in the country revolve around a collective lack of empathy and intolerance, it becomes all the more important to hold such events to promote amalgamation and unity between people of different faiths that live with us. Continue reading

A little bit of India in Lahore

 

Naseer ud din shah

The third edition of the Lahore Literary Festival concluded last weekend, a three-day extravaganza attended among others, by prominent Indian writers as delegates and visitors.

Distinguished historian Romila Thapar gave the inaugural keynote address, “The Past as Present”, introduced by Ayesha Jalal, whose recently published book The Struggle for Pakistan also featured in one of the sessions. Both historians participated in a later session on “Living with Internal Differences: The South Asian Dilemma” with human rights lawyer and activist Asma Jahangir and journalist Khaled Ahmed.

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لٹریچر فیسٹیول۔ اُردو سے زیادہ انگریزی میں

کشور ناہید

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ہال نمبر4میں کل 70 کرسیاں لگی تھیں۔ کم از کم 500 لوگ اندر آنا چاہتے تھے۔ مسئلہ بھی ایسا تھا۔ عبداللہ حسین کے ساتھ ایک گھنٹے کا پروگرام لاہور لٹریچر فیسٹیول میں ہونا تھا۔ شائقین فیصل آباد، اندرون شہر لاہور، شیخوپورہ، گوجرانوالہ اور لاہور کے سارے کالجوں سے آئے تھے۔ وہ سب عبداللہ حسین کو دیکھنا اور سننا چاہتے تھے مگر ہال کے اندر گنجائش صرف 70 بندوں کی تھی۔ اس وقت بڑے ہال میں کرکٹ پر مذاکرہ ہورہا تھا۔ اس میں گنجائش 750 لوگوں کے بیٹھنے کی تھی۔ بتانا مقصود یہ ہے کہ اول تو اردو ادب سے متعلق سیشن آٹے میں نمک کے برابر رکھے گئے تھے۔ ان کے لئے بھی چھو ٹے ہال منتخب کئے گئے تھے۔ جبکہ سیاسی موضوعات سے لیکر ملکہ ترنم، نصیرالدین شاہ اور سارے غیرملکی ادیبوں کے لئے بڑے ہال محفوظ کئے گئے تھے۔ Continue reading

Reclaiming Lahore – LLF 2015

This article was originally published here

The Lahore Literary Festival came as a breath of fresh air on the city’s depleted cultural landscape

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“Pata nahin kee hai, koi kitaaban da mela lagda hai,” one of the numerous policewomen deployed outside the Alhamra Arts Council last weekend was overheard saying perplexedly into her phone. It was easy to understand her confusion for it’s not every day that the city witnesses an event of the magnitude that was the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF).

Spread over three days, the festival put up a remarkable 75 sessions that gave the people of the city, as well as those who’d converged on to the Alhamra from various parts of Pakistan, a taste of literature, politics, culture and music. The sessions ranged from tributes to Pakistan’s legends such as Madam Noor Jehan and Faiz Ahmed Faiz to talks by the country’s new generation of fiction writers including Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Bilal Tanveer, interspersed by discussions on global and regional politics that engaged international journalists such as Roger Cohen of the NY Times and Lyse Doucet of BBC with local experts and politicians.

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A walk through heritage

This article was originally published in The News on Sunday

Haroon Akram Gill

A walk through heritageAround 600 photographers from all over Pakistan and other countries i.e. Philippines, Bulgaria, Belgium, UK, USA, and Germany participated in the Walk. — Photos by the author

The Walled City is home to the cultural and architectural heritage of Lahore. Its blind arches and the pillars of its buildings, elegant havelis, multi-storey houses, wooden doors and windows and, above all, its famous Gates are some of the old city’s glorious features, all of which have long fascinated the tourists, especially those coming from outside the city/country. Though, terrorist incidents badly hit the tourism industry over the years, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) is trying hard to pull the tourists back in, by organising cultural activities; ‘Photo Tourism Walk’ being one such event.

The WCLA claims to have introduced the concept of photo tourism by holding walks in 2012. The Photographic Society of Pakistan, having almost 20,000 members (all photographers) is a major partner and has contributed to projecting and saving the heritage. Continue reading

Kabir in Lahore

A four-day long festival in Lahore celebrating Kabir Das, the revered 15th century poet and mystic who defied the boundaries between Hindu and Muslim, ends on Thursday.

 

The Kabir Festival (Sep 29-Oct 2, 2014) has been organised by the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in collaboration with the Kabir Project in India, a unique and acclaimed initiative by documentary filmmaker and musician Shabnam Virmani.

 

The aim is to promote the philosophy of spirituality and harmony through film screenings, live musical evenings, photo and video exhibitions, storytelling, and interactive sessions. The performers include classical and folk singers, scholars, artists, and students of Pakistan and India, who share a passion for the mystical world.

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Bo-Kata – A page from “Lahore: A Sentimental Journey” of Pran Nevile

Basant

I cannot recall anything that thrilled me more than kite flying in my boyhood days. Whenever I observed my kite soaring towards the clouds, I experienced a sense of power and mastery over the elements. Perhaps, in a way, I identified myself with the kite itself flying so free and so high above me, far from the madding crowd, enveloping me in a spirit of freedom and adventure, I felt that kites also signified a hope, a desire for escape, fancy dreams entrusted to a breath of wind and connected to a string and the hand that clasped it.
Those were the days when kite fighting instead of kite flying was in vogue. Pecha larana, or to entrap another kite by pouncing upon it from above or below or sideways, depending on its position, was the most exciting part of the sport. The skill lay in crossing dore with an opponent until the vanquished kite, cut loose, floated helplessly over the rooftops. The victor and the teammate would announce the defeat of the rival with loud cries of Bo-Kata, and throw a challenge for a return pecha. The defeated rival would accept the challenge and stir up a fresh kite into the sky. The rules of the game did not permit entrapping the kite till it was high above in the sky. It required great manoeuvring to entangle or disentangle one’s kite from the clutches of the opponent. Sometimes, we heard a shrill commotion on the rooftops and saw boys running with bamboo poles to catch a drifting kite. A falling kite in a street or bazar also created a stir and passer-by of all ages would run to catch the booty as a prized possession. Some boys who could not afford to buy kites often amused themselves by watching pechas and catching the falling kites.

lighted-basant-night
Every mohalla in Lahore had its own acknowledged khilaris (expert kite-flyers). As soon as they launched their kites, it was a signal for the small-timers to pull back their kites and leave the field open for them. They dared not venture to disturbed the khilaris, each of whom had established his sphere of influence. I was also a small khilari who after accepting a challenge from a rival would enter the battle only at an agreed time.
There was a style of kite flying called kaincha that entailed cutting the twine of the rival kite by dragging and pulling it with a sudden jerk. This was a practice followed by some boys who had very little twine and were looked upon with contempt by the khilaris who would sometimes even give them a beating for attacking their kites in this fashion.

Basant
We always looked forward to Basant, the king of all festivals in Lahore. About two weeks before its arrival, the kite shops were specially decorated and a large variety of kites of different colours, shapes and sizes were displayed along with small and large pin nabs and artistically wound dore in numerous attractive colour combinations, large stocks of kites were also brought from Lucknow for the occasion. The kite makers and dore producers worked round the clock. The khilaris used to pile up their stocks of kites and dore well in advance to avoid the last minute rush. Second in importance to basant was the Lodhi festival held on Makar Sankranti, which usually falls on 13th January. On that day we had kite flying on a large scale, a full-dress rehearsal for Basant, which falls usually in the first week of February. Basant signaled the end of the winter season in Lahore and the onset of spring.

Basant2
The celebrations on Basant day would commerce well before daybreak, when specially constructed box kites carrying lighted candles like lanterns were set afloat in the sky. These moving lights in the sky made an enchanting sight and signified the inauguration of the great kite-flying festival of Lahore, unmatched anywhere else in the world. Rooftops and terraces were crowded with men, women and children of all ages. It was also a custom to wear yellow turbans on Basant day. The women, young and old, also sported yellow chunnis which lent a new charm to the festival atmosphere. By daybreak the sky would be ablaze with thousands of kites of different colours, shapes, sizes and designs. The whole atmosphere of the city also reverberated with the triumphant shouts of Bo-Kata and the blowing of the trumpets to proclaim victories in kite-fighting battles. There were famous khilaris in said Mitha, Wachhowali, Machhi hata, Sutar Mandi, Rang Mahal and other areas of Lahore. They challenged one another for paichas. The Basant festival was also held outside near Haqikat Rai’s Samadh, where crowds from neighbouring villages joined the city crowds and enjoyed kite flying. There were also renowned Khilaris who played for heavy staked in Minto Park. The winners were admired for their dexterity and skills in gauging the winds as well as for the perfection in the tactics of manoeuvring, surging, shielding and stretching during the kite flying.

My Eternal City

Lahore, Lahore aye.
By Pran Nevile

My Eternal City

No city in the subcontinent can boast of a more stirring or more turbulent history, or a stronger vitality, than Lahore—a city ruled by Hindu kings, Mughal emperors, Sikh monarchs, British sovereigns. Scholars, historians, and travelers passing through Lahore were enchanted by its majesty and grandeur. In the heyday of its glory as the capital of the Mughals, the city rose from semi-obscurity to eminence. It became the city of historical monuments and gardens. Lahore finds mention in John Milton’s classic, Paradise Lost. Thomas Moore in his celebrated Lalla Rookh describes the glittering life and pageantry of the palaces, domes, and gilded minarets of Lahore. Rudyard Kipling, the Nobel laureate who was raised in Lahore, immortalized the city in his writings.

The British rulers took active steps to safeguard and preserve old monuments and buildings of national interest and historical value. I remember that many new residential areas were developed in different parts of the city: Krishan Nagar, Sant Nagar, Ram Nagar, Ram Gullies, Krishna Gullies, Gowalmandi, Gandhi Square, Nisbet Road, Mozang and Quila Gujjar Singh. The most novel experiment was the construction of a modern township, Model Town, about six miles from the center, with spacious bungalow-type houses owned by the upper middle class of all communities. Continue reading

All set for the sacrifice – a sheep on a motor bike

A Pakistani man holds a sheep on a motor bike after buying it in an animal market in Lahore on November 6, 2011. Eid, the festival of sacrifice, is Continue reading

Indo-Pak Sikhs mark birth anniversary of fourth Guru

LAHORE: About 500 Sikh pilgrims from neighbouring India and hundreds others from across Pakistan, gathered in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday to mark the 475th birth anniversary of Guru Ram Das, the fourth great Guru (spiritual leader) of Sikhs. Continue reading

It’s time for September’s Critical Mass Event!!!

Critical Mass IIIFellow Lahoris, Critical Mass Lahore has survived the summer and has been enjoyed through Ramzan.  Now, it’s time to rally once more for the cause of public transport, sustainable development, democratic public spaces and, of course, the right to have fun on our own streets!!!

Join Lahore’s 10th Critical Mass Event at 5:00pm this Sunday 27 September 2009 from the Zakir Tikka intersection, Sarwar Road, Lahore Cantonment.

Critical Mass is about having clean cities that provide mobility and accessibility. Critical Mass is about clean transport. Critical Mass is about putting public good over private interest. Critical Mass is about making friends. Critical Mass is about reclaiming public space. Critical Mass is about showing a man or a woman on a cycle is the same as one in a ten lac car. Critical Mass is about democracy.

What do I need to participate in a Critical Mass Event?

All you need is a road-worthy cycle and an sense of fun. Buy, beg, borrow or steal a cycle if you have to, but join the Mass.  Come, cycle around Lahore.  Reclaim your city, and have more fun than you can imagine!

Where and how else do Critical Mass Events take place?
Critical Mass events are typically held on the last Friday of each month in over 250 cities all over the world. In Lahore, it is held on the last Sunday of every month.  For information about Critical Mass Lahore, be at Zakir Tikka at 5:00pm this Sunday 27 September 2009 or visit the Critical Mass Lahore Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=38992998526) or the Critical Mass Lahore blog
Important: Be on time!!!

‘Jinnay Lahore ni Vekhya’ depicts

‘Jinnay Lahore ni Vekhya’ depicts
Sunday, July 05, 2009
By Schezee Zaidi
Islamabad
The portrayal of the most glorifying human emotion of compassion and love as the core element to fight extremism and hatred was at the heart of ‘Jinnay Lahore ni Vekhya’ at the PNCA drama festival.
The popular play, staged by Sheema Kermani and her group Tehrik-e-Niswan on Friday and Saturday at the National Art Gallery Auditorium, was well received by the audience to the last for skilled performances by the entire cast around a well-knitted theme of an immigrant family in post-Partition Lahore.
Conveyed through the powerful and magical medium of theatre, whether in the form of tragedy, comedy or satire, the main idea of the play is to narrate the historical realities, touching the lives of ordinary people and shake up a nation’s collective conscience, make people think and question things, and admonish apathy.
Scripted and adapted for stage by Anwar Jaffery from the original drama, written by Asghar Wajahat, and with a finer touch of direction by Sheema Kermani, the wonderful production of Tehrik-e-Niswan is based on a true story of a Hindu woman, caught in the aftermath of Partition in Muslim dominated Pakistan. Set in Lahore of 1947 immediately after Partition, the story begins with the arrival of an immigrant family in Pakistan, which has been allotted a ‘haveli’ abandoned by a Hindu family. Having spent many torturous months in ‘Mohajir’ camps, the family looks forward to start a new life in their new home but to their dismay, they find a Hindu woman, the mother of the owner Ratan Lal Johari, still living in the ‘haveli’.
The presence of this old Hindu woman also irks some local ruffians, who believe that the country now belongs only to Muslims. This is opposed by poet Nasir Kazmi and the Maulvi of a local mosque. In the midst of the conflict, the old woman endears almost everybody she comes across with her loving and helpful nature, which is why that finally when she dies, a debate ensues in the community over the issue of performing her last rites.
As the play’s theme is based on a real occurrence, the dialogues of Nasir Kazmi have been taken from his letters and writings. The cast gave a very refined and accurate performance as per the mood of the play. It is also not out of context to mention that the play received great accolades in India.
Powerful dialogues with meaningful connotations from people like Sheema Kermani, who are engaged in activism and theatre for a cause, portrays the common concern about the exploration of ways in which the formal qualities of their art form creates a dialogue on ways in which important socio-political issues affect the everyday lives of people. Sheema explains that she believes that culture and cultural activists, the arts and creative media present many opportunities for promoting the understanding of human rights, and forging unity and awareness amongst the people.
Since its inception in 1980, Sheema Kermani’s Tehrik-e-Niswan (women’s movement) has consistently strived to raise awareness about women’s rights in Pakistan through cultural and artistic expression, using the medium of theatre, dance, music and video productions.

By Schezee Zaidi

The portrayal of the most glorifying human emotion of compassion and love as the core element to fight extremism and hatred was at the heart of ‘Jinnay Lahore ni Vekhya’ at the PNCA drama festival.

The popular play, staged by Sheema Kermani and her group Tehrik-e-Niswan on Friday and Saturday at the National Art Gallery Auditorium, was well received by the audience Continue reading

It’s time for Lahore’s 6th Critical Mass Event

Critical Mass -II

Date: 31 May 2009
Time: 5.45pm (till about 7.30pm)
Place: Zakir Tikka intersection, Sarwar Road, Lahore Cantonment

Critical Mass is about having clean cities that provide mobility and accessibility. Critical Mass is about clean transport. Critical Mass is about putting public good over private interest. Critical Mass is about making friends. Critical Mass is about reclaiming public space. Critical Mass is about showing a man on a cycle is the same as a man in a ten lac car. Critical Mass is about democracy.

Critical Mass is not an organization. It is an idea. It is about making a statement. Everyone in Lahore knows how bad the traffic is. Critical Mass Lahore is a step towards making our city clean and taking our streets back.

Critical Mass is an idea. Make it yours.

What do I need to participate in a Critical Mass Event?

All you need is a road-worthy cycle and an sense of fun. Buy, beg, borrow or steal a cycle if you have to, but join the Mass.

Where and how else to Critical Mass Events take place?

Critical Mass events are typically held on the last Friday of each month in cities all over the world. For information about Critical Mass Lahore, be at Zakir Tikka at 5:45pm this Sunday 31 May 2009 or visit the Critical Mass Lahore Facebook page. Important: Be on time!!!

Sufi ‘Mystic Music’ festival to be held from 30th

LAHORE: Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop on Tuesday announced holding its annual Mystic Music Sufi Festival 2009 from April 30 to May 2.

Talking to reporters, the Peerzada brothers said this was the 6th annual Sufi Festival organised by Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. The festival brings with it a rich variety of Sufi music from across the country. Performers from all four provinces will take part in the festival and over 300 artists will perform. “Through the Sufi Festival, we look forward to highlighting the cultural and traditional warmth and wisdom of Sufi poetry,” said Faizan Peerzada. “We are hopeful that such festivals will bless all of us with tolerance, wisdom and a light leading to a new direction,” he added. Continue reading

Kafi Shah Hussain

Below are Part I and Part II of recordings of the Kafi of the Sufi poet Shah Hussain sung by the late Ustad Nazir Butt.

Mela Chiraghan begins with traditional fervour

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Shah Hussain (1538-1599) was a Punjabi poet and a saint. He was the pioneer of the Kafi form of Punjabi poetry.

By: Rana Latif | Published in The Nation March 29, 2009

LAHORE – Mela Chiraghan, festival of light marking the 421st annual Urs of Hazrat Shah Hussain (RA), a saint with a different trait and a mystic poet of Punjabi with distinction, commonly known as Madhu Lal Hussain who lived in Lahore in 16th century (1538-1599), began with traditional fervour at Shalimar, Saturday evening.
It is perhaps the biggest festival of Punjab after the Urs of Data Ganj Bakhsh (RA) and Baba Farid (RA) of Pakpattan. Mela Chiraghan has many distinctions particularly the singing of ‘kafi’ of Shah Hussain in Punjab, who was perhaps the pioneer of Kafi that carried rich intellectual and spiritual values.
He himself sang his own kafis before the people bringing big applause. His kafis reflect the defiant attitude and independence of thought, away from the contemporary thoughts of religious and social hierarchy. The whirling dervishes on the tunes of drums sing kafis at the Mela. It is a rare event of whirling and dancing on the beats of drum. Its rhythm is a heart catching as Shah Hussain’s Kafis carry rich musical values and element of entertainment, liked by folk of Punjab.

The history of Basant

Manzoor has authored a great post on Basant. We are cross posting it here – given that many Lahore Nama visitors are talking of Basant and expressing their great enthusiasm for the festival.  Raza Rumi (ed)

Basant is a centuries old cultural tradition of Punjab. Over the years, it gained an element of controversy as the fundamentalism wiped the norms of tolerance and co-existence in our society. Disregard of law and for the lives of fellow citizens turned it into a bloody sport.

Recently I came across a book “URS AUR MELAY” by Aman Ullah Khan Arman, published by Kitab Manzil Lahore in 1959. I am reproducing the chapter on Basant (p.276-277) here: “Basant (a Sanskrit word for spring) is a seasonal festival of Indo-Pak sub-continent and it has no religious bearings. Basant is the herald of the spring and celebrated in winter (Magh) on the fourth or fifth day of lunar month. This is the reason why it is called Basant Panchami. Basant season starts on this day, therefore, Basant is regarded the herald of spring, wheat grows, and mustard blossoms in this season. (Old Aryan tradition divides a year into six seasons each having two months. Mustard blossom that is yellow in color is considered the color of spring and accordingly yellow outfits were worn).  Continue reading

Urs of Mian Mir from 5th

Miniature depicting Hazrat Mian Mir and his disciple, Mullah Shah, in conversation with Prince Dara Shikoh.

Miniature depicting Hazrat Mian Mir and his disciple, Mullah Shah, in conversation with Prince Dara Shikoh.

LAHORE (APP) – The 385th annual urs of Hazrat Mian Mir will begin on March 5 (Thursday). Secretary Auqaf Punjab Khizar Hayat Gondal will inaugurate the two-day urs celebrations by performing traditional chadar laying ceremony on the grave of sufi saint.
Punjab Auqaf Department has granted Rs 200,000 for holding urs celebrations and facilitating the visitors coming from all over the country, a spokesman of Auqaf Department told APP on Sunday.
Ulema and Mashaikh will highlight the teachings of Hazrat Mian Mir during urs days. Mehfil-e-Sama will also be held in which renowned qawwals will present religious poetry on the occasion.

Great music lives on in Lahore

by Raza Rumi

This is the magic of Lahore and its deep-rooted cultural mores. No other city can boast of such individuals, movements and trends. Hopefully, the music will live on. The interest of younger generations and their experiments with various forms of music hold great promise

Last week the breezy environs of the majestic Lawrence Gardens once again swayed to the tunes of Hindustani classical music. A week long music festival organised by the All Pakistan Music Conference attracted musicians, vocalists and enthusiasts from all parts the country, as well as from the imagined “enemy” India. How could it not be the case when musical traditions emerged out of a cultural synthesis of 700 years or more?

The leading light of APMC was Hayat Ahmad Khan, whose sad demise in 2005 was interpreted as an end to the glorious tradition of subcontinental streams of music in Pakistan. However, 83 years of hard work and philanthropic contributions was not in vain. He left behind a powerful institution and a network of committed individuals and aesthetes who have kept the torch ablaze. Not a small feat in the troubled waters of a Pakistani cultural landscape constantly under attack by nation-state ideology and extremism that consider music to be too “Indian” or, even worse, un-Islamic.

This is the greatest irony of our existence: the Muslims in India contributed to what is known today as Indian classical music and innovations such as the sitar and the tabla. The Qawwal bache trained at the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi under the tutelage of Amir Khusrau became the founders of what was to later evolve as the sophisticated Khayal style of music. In dire times of the Sultanate and Mughal periods, these musicians had to take refuge in the princely states, and this is how the various gharanas, or schools of music, originated. This loose network of musicians organised along the lines of kinship or teacher-pupil bonds, sustained by court patronage and eclectic and secular in appeal, led to some fine moments. Tansen at Akbar’s court, Mohammad Shah Rangeela’s patronage and later the Kingdom of Oudh defined the high-points of this fused and seamless culture beyond religion, communal and sectarian divides.

To keep this tradition alive in post-independence Pakistan was a Herculean task. Pakistan was a moth-eaten and truncated country in the words of its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The psychological trauma and barbarity of the Partition had jolted everyone and the traditional patronage of the state was missing. It was under these circumstances that on September 15 1959, music-inspired citizens met at the famous Coffee House of Lahore and launched a voluntary organization called The All Pakistan Music Conference. Eminent personas such as Roshan Ara Begum were among the illustrious list of its founders.

It should be noted that this was also the age when the maestro Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan migrated to India and Roshan Ara Begum was almost about to give up the passion of her life. Thus Continue reading