Written By: Urooj Zulfiqar
Have you ever wondered how Pakistani’s in America have created their own mini Pakistan? Have you wondered what makes them strong and together in a foreign country? Wondered how they have made the country proud?
The Pakistani community has come so far since 9/11 in playing its role in America that today people are aware of the nation that they weren’t a decade ago. The main credit goes to the Pakistani youth of today. The young generation of Pakistan has brought the Pakistani community together outside the nation by having Pakistani Student Association in universities. They have held events such as charity events, political discussions, and concerts featuring Pakistani artists. Such a university organization is University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s PakSA (Pakistani Student Association). UMBC’s PakSA has held events such as Eid Formal, Basant Mela, and Bhangra night in the past to spread awareness about Pakistani Culture.
The group started a year ago in Fall of ‘08 by Yahya Zia, its first president. The main goals of the group are: spreading awareness about Pakistani culture and involving students of all races and color. The legacy of the group continued with Esmat Lakhani, first female President. Not only she kept the group alive, she gave the group a new standard. She took the group to a new level by running smooth and successful events such as Eid Formal, Garoor Night featuring Bohemia, and recently successful event Bhangra Night featuring The Bilz & Kashif live in concert. She is working on the upcoming events, such as Basant Mela and PakSA night, both related to Pakistani culture which hope to have the same spark as the recent one did.
Garoor Concert was the first concert held by UMBC PakSA to spread awareness of Pakistani music industry as well as to bring the community together. It was held on November 21, 2009 at the university hall and it featured Bohemia the Punjabi Rapper as the main attraction but it also featured other local talent from the young Pakistani community. The concert not only attracted Pakistani students but it also attracted the non-Pakistani students. It was a huge success, especially for the group’s first time.
The Bilz & Kashif Concert, second of PakSA’s concert, was held on March 6, 2010 at UMBC, Maryland, U.S.A. The event started late and there were no seatings but due to the amazing acts that came throughout the night, everything was forgotten. The event started with an open dance floor by DJ Raj of Platinum Production and Turab the dholi, where students showcased the Bhangra dance form. Then the show started with a skit performed by UMBC students and written by Azeem Bhiatti. The skit was a small attraction done to create much hype for the upcoming PakSA event. The show continued with a dance performance by UMBC’s all girl fusion dance team, Adaa. Their dance was phenomenal, as always, but due to a mishap it was cut short. But never-the-less, they were tremendous. Hold your breath…the final act of the night was the main attraction, which the crowd was impatiently waiting for and they came just to see these guys perform. My oh my, what a performance it was! The Bilz & Kashif definitely know how to give the crowd what they want.
In the beginning of their performance, people were caught off guard because they were still reeling from Adaa’s dance performance being cut short. But once The Bilz & Kashif took the stage, it was a site to see. Bilz & Kashif, a Montreal-based South Asian group, whose main audience is South Asian race, did mixture of songs from both their old and new albums.
They opened the concert with “O Meri Rani,” one of their number one hits from their last album titled The Bilz. The song was a mixture of Spanish and Indian music and the lyrics, written in English and Punjabi, talk about a Spanish Girl. The hall was filled with screams of audience, who mainly consisted of girls and women. They chose songs that appealed to the masses and each song they did had a different feel to the music, bringing a unique taste to it. The song, titled “Mehendi” (from The Bilz) had a slight mixture of both Hip Hop and Punjabi rap, where as the song, titled “Na Na Na” had the feeling of Pashto music and slight English/Bollywood touch to it. When they performed the song “Na Na Na,” they danced in-sync. Oh boy, what a surprise it was! It came as a surprise to me as well! At first, everyone backstage thought it was a Bollywood-Tapori dance but then if you listened to the music carefully, it sounded more Pashto than the latter. I forgot everything and just joined the audience in screaming on top of my lungs. They jumped right into the new songs from their recent album, Breaking Barriers. When the song “Against All Odds” came on, the site of the audience was unbelievable. The crowd truly went wild! The music was tight, a real techno feel to it. From the beginning of the song till the end, the screams of the girls were endless. And the way Kashif ended the song with his energetic dance, the hall surely demanded for more. The group also performed their number one Punjabi-hit of all time, “2-Step Bhangra,” which had the crowd up on their feet Bhangra-ing all the way through. Next song was a semi-R&B and Punjabi mixed song, “Heer-Ranjha,” this romantic number had the audience singing along with it. The trio finished their concert with the much awaited song, “Turn the Music Up,” the most popular song next to “2-Step Bhangra.” Before they performed on the song, they opted for the audience’s attention and their interaction. As if the screams were not enough before, the music of the song itself brought on enough screams to have my ears go numb for a life time. Each and every person knew of this song and they all sang and danced to it. The night was magic as the audience did the “Helicopter, Motorcycle, and Bow and Arrow” and danced like “No Body’s Watching.” Whereas their old album was mellower and more cultural, their new album, Breaking Barriers, is more hyped-up and more non-cultural.
From time to time, they involved the crowd. In between songs they kept the excitement going among the crowd either by giving away signed CD or by just building hype of their recent album, Breaking Barriers. Not to mention, all three of them had their own personality and charisma that involved the audience in their own way, Kashif with his energetic dancing, Master-D with his amazing Punjabi and DJ-Vicious with his upbeat DJ-ing. They entertained the crowd with their amazing skills through their music.
I was given the opportunity to meet the guys backstage and what an experience that was. As soon as their performance ended, they were taken backstage to rest for 5 minutes before the meet and greet session. After much rest, the time came to meet them. The wait was worth it because each person had an original and unique personality that set each of them apart from the other. It was visible how each brought something unique and individual thing to the group and their music. Kashif was the charismatic, energetic and jovial type, who created the friendly and welcoming feel to the group. Master-D, compared to Kashif, was much more reserved, focused and observant, just like his style of singing, focused. DJ Vicious was apart from the two, being the tallest of the two, he had more of the Hip-Hop/ Rap feel to him, which was oblivious in their songs.
Although the timings and the arrangement of the concert were a little off, overall the night was truly magical. Not only the performances were top-notch, the team who put together the show was amazing as well. If a message was to be taken out of this night, then one can say that hard work pays off. The night was made possible by PakSA’s president, Esmat and her cabinet. This shows what girl power is truly about. PakSA is not only about being Pakistani but it’s also about being diverse and welcoming to all others. If such groups keep forming, then surely we can achieve a lot and make Pakistan proud.