house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Arieb Azhar

When I say 'Arieb Azhar' do you nod with a knowing smile? Do you go blank? Do you want to know more? Do you go: 'OK, OK, enough with all that rhethoric crap, just get on with it and tell us?' Because you're busy and you'll want to find out and get out of here.

So I'll get straight to the point and tell you that when Arieb Azhar opens his mouth to sing, people freeze, enslaved by a music equal to a force of nature. Puppets suddenly, their arms – then whole bodies - are pulled upwards in a delirious dance. They can do nothing but beat the ground with their heels and lift their eyes to the sky without even seeing the stars but, like good mutants, only their pre-programmed dreams. They are led round and round by their own equal steps while their shoulder blades pulse and pull at the skin of their backs like pretend wings: they try, in short, to remember their angel-selves and fly. And when the flute alone is left to pierce the night, the most lonely and haunting of tunes, none of our feet feel the ground anymore. The sky still remote and untouchable but we have all set off, we're on our way.

I'll say that this is not some new-age funk, but potent chanting of an ancient rhythm. Sufi poets of the land have lent their verse to this minstrel: 'Break up the churches', one says, 'tear down mosques / but don't break my heart because / THAT is where God lives.' It may not sit well with the faithful but the Saturday night youth of Islamabad weeps and I find myself, heart in pieces and looking for that crumbled God for the first time in months.

Then I'll go back a step and contemplate the night itself – full of stars and asking for the first scarves of the year. Autumn is here, in the criss-cross of electric party lights. The music is dedicated to Daniel Pearl, a musician himself – they say. While we live we are such complex creatures, full of detail and history and unpredictable turns. After death, simplified to a few words and a faded photograph. Daniel Pearl, the musician. The crowd roars.

But I won't leave it here: I'll take you even further back, and you will have to guess how we made it to this park outside Islamabad. Ta-dammmm, I'll reveal, motorbike, TWO wheels, our little machine roaring louder and rolling faster than they do in any film I've seen (that always happens when things are for real!); glued helmet to helmet, my hands in Moona's pockets for warmth, his ribcage around my heart for safety: feeling, falling into speed. Stars and city lights twinkled together and I let them paint my face, but didn't close my eyes: instead I tried to glimpse two-minute-futures jump across our path just like deer through a clearing. Dashing away from the wolf of clubs; the hunter of diamonds; the soldier of spades; and the manythieves of hearts.

I won't tell you about the supporting act, there ARE things I'd like to forget.

Will I have run out of steam by now? Will you have left the page already? One final thought, perhaps about the tight security at the gates. Is this – we joked – the safest place in the world right now? But if I wanted to bring a bomb-in-a-bag to a show-in-a-field, then why would I not simply lob it over the hedge? 'Heck, yeh' – Moona said. Then we lapsed into a somber silence – he calculated our chances if the bomb landed in one spot or another ('lands there: we get hit by shrapnel, luck-of-the-draw', 'here, we're history')... I pictured a post-grenade pink haze in which our atoms merged. Strangely I didn't mind too much, didn't mind at all.


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