Sound of Imagination | WWF
© WWF-Pakistan
Ahsen Bari shares his experience of using music to communicate the message of conservation.

Sound of Imagination

Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Combining music and imagination creates magic that can help communicate any message that otherwise can be difficult.

Lack of care for the environment is a very important issue that we are facing. However, despite all the knowledge and research we have access to, the majority of us are not proactively reacting to the situation. This year, I had the opportunity to collaborate with WWF-Pakistan to use the magic of music and drive home the point that we have a crisis at hand and need to step up to do something about it before it is too late. After all, this crisis is not a natural disaster, it is a disaster of our own creation. The entire world is facing various forms of environmental issues which require us to think of solutions and act on them. The first step of finding solutions is to acknowledge the issue and this is something that we are lagging behind in.

The moment I heard about WWF-Pakistan’s ReFest, an environmentally friendly festival with food and music, I wanted to be a part of it. I had never come across such an idea in my 15 year career. Why didn’t we think of this before? It doesn’t matter though - it’s never too late. What WWF-Pakistan has done is mind blowing, and we are glad to be a part of this movement, not just as artists but as lifelong ambassadors.

I was full of ideas when I was asked to produce music for the festival’s opening, but none of the pieces we had did justice to the ingenious idea that the event focused on. And then my good friend Hasan Daudpota had the innovative idea to produce music using scrap material. Hasan was actually the one who introduced me to the festival, and made me a part of it. The idea was new and innovative, but the real challenge was to create something relevant to the theme. I came up with a 60 minute theatrical musical performance with a story.

It took us three days to get the idea down, all without using any conventional instruments other than the flute and acoustic guitar. Our instruments were barrels, cans, bottles, water drums and steel plates; the ensemble of a unique combination of Pakistan’s best drummers and percussionists - Abdul Aziz Kazi, Ajay Harry Wilson, Shams-ul-Arifeen and Joshua Amjad.

Along with them we had other brilliant musicians on board: Shahid Rahman and the upcoming talent Sarah Waqar on the acoustic guitar, Nimra Khan, Quaid Ahmed, Shan Rajput on vocals and the multitalented Reham Rafiq on creating dancing, movement, vocals and percussion. The performance, a 60 minute original, was called Aik Sher Ki Kahani - One City, One Story.

The performance opened with silence reminiscent of Karachi at five o’clock in the morning. Chaos followed, then peace, then chaos and then peace again. Constructed in four movements, the performance had everybody’s participation, with two full length songs and solos for everyone. We successfully created music using unconventional instruments.

What was very shocking to me during the event, which was attended by thousands of people, was that all waste generated was collected in an organized manner. I have never seen a festival like this before - I wish we could implement the same model throughout the country, starting from our own neighbourhoods. While speaking to the audience onstage, I realized how far we have come. How bad it is now. So busy with everything else, we do not have the time to look at the mess our surroundings have become. We are literally living on garbage.

Pollution causes severe health issues, which are increasing every day in most parts of third world countries. The more we need to think about it, the less concerned we are. We are not even willing to take small measures, like placing bins in our neighbourhoods.

It wouldn’t take much effort for us to start speaking to like-minded people in our neighbourhoods and create a network of individuals who are willing to take ownership of their surroundings. All we need is to start creating awareness and enable people to take basic steps, like disposing of their garbage in bins, and cleaning their streets on a do-it-yourself basis.

I am thankful to WWF’s team for starting this brilliant campaign. I am a part of it now and I will make sure that we make it a nationwide campaign. Trust me, our future generations deserve a better planet. What we are giving them right now is not worth it.

Music is known to create memories for people and that is generally how people connect to a specific piece of music. It is my hope that the unique instrumental performance that we created for the event gave the audience a memory to associate with the message that lack of care for our environment is an emergency we are facing and therefore we need to start treating it like that by concentrating our efforts on looking for solutions and making the needed lifestyle changes at our individual level.

Let’s hope and work for a better Pakistan and a better planet.

Ahsen Bari is a Pakistani musician and CEO of Ahsen Bari Music.