Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pakistan Puts on a Show

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pakistan Puts on a Show

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

A festival promoting the positive face of Islam begins this weekend. David Whetstone reports.

Arriving in the North-East today is a singer with an enormous following in India and Pakistan.

Abida Parveen performed in May at the Royal Albert Hall and it has taken three years to bring her to this region for the first time.

In the London audience in May was Munmun KC who, as project manager for the Pakistan Cultural Society on Tyneside, has programmed the Muslim Arts Festival.

It's this festival which is to begin with Abida Parveen's concert at The Sage Gateshead on Sunday.

"It was amazing," recalled Munmun yesterday.

"There was a huge audience and people were standing up and dancing, even though there was no dance floor."

Anyone who was there in 1995 will remember the stunning concert performed at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle, by legendary Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Although his voice is heard on the soundtrack of many films, the name wouldn't have registered with many non-Asian people.

But his performance ( a Pakistan Cultural Society promotion attended by people from across the UK and Europe, many of them dressed in all colours of the rainbow ( was unforgettable for its unrelenting rhythm and energy.

Sunday's concert promises to be equally memorable, although Abida Parveen, known as the uncrowned Sufi Queen, is probably even less well known to non-Asians here.

After the years of negotiating and wooing, it is a fortunate accident that the singer's appearance in Gateshead coincides with the Muslim Arts Festival ( itself part of the national Festival of Muslim Cultures launched earlier this week in London by the Pakistan High Commissioner.

Both festivals share the aim, in these difficult times, of using arts and culture to present a positive view of Islam's followers. Munmun, a Hindu from India, came to Britain three years ago to study for a masters degree in international development in Newcastle.

She is now studying for her doctorate, having settled well in the North-East after being brought up in Mumbai (which she still calls Bombay).

Having previously worked in Sunderland, she joined the Pakistan Cultural Society as project manager a year ago.

"Art was always my passion," she explained at the PCS office in Fenham, Newcastle.

"I wanted to be part of the arts field and when I came here I noticed there were quite a lot of opportunities in promoting south Asian arts.

"When I was offered this job it didn't matter at all that I was from India and a Hindu, because the culture is not so very different."

Also present yesterday was Newcastle travel agent Mumtaz Sanam, who came to the North-East from Pakistan in 1967. In his professional life, he smiled, he specialised in sending people away "and bringing them back again". …

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