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Regional music festival tunes out Pak bands

The terror attack on Mumbai still fresh in mind,the three-day South Asian Bands music festival beginning next Friday would be bereft of any act from Pakistan.

Written by Paromita Chakrabarti | New Delhi |
February 15, 2009 12:50:50 am

The terror attack on Mumbai still fresh in mind,the three-day South Asian Bands music festival beginning next Friday would be bereft of any act from Pakistan.

The music festival,which began as part of a cultural festival on the sidelines of the 14th SAARC summit in 2007,would bring together 14 bands from Afghanistan,Bangladesh,Maldives,Sri Lanka,Nepal,Bhutan and hosts India.

With over 15,000 people turning up to tune in,Pakistani band Strings’ performance was clearly the highlight at the inaugural regional bands’ festival but organisers say the decision to leave out Pakistan this year was unanimous given the current political scenario. “The aim of this festival is to cement ties outside the corridors of diplomatic exchange,so we want to make it as seamless as possible. All decisions are taken with that in mind,” Pavan Varma,director general of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR),says.

Seher,an NGO supporting performing arts in the Capital,is organising the music festival in association with ICCR and the Ministry of External Affairs.

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It is learnt that the ministry did not spell out clear directives but Pakistan’s absence is clearly an outcome of the November 26,2008 terror attack on Mumbai and the subsequent investigations that tracked the conspiracy to Pakistani soil.

Sanjeev Bhargava,festival director and founder of Seher,says security is one of our major concerns this year. “After what happened in Mumbai,we thought it would be inadvisable to invite Pakistani artistes to perform here,” he says. “Besides,when you invite someone to your country,the onus of their security is also on you.

“It takes only about a handful of people to start a mischief,and in a crowd expected to run into thousands,that’s not something we can afford. So we decided to keep things simple.”

The omission of Pakistan aside,the venue has been shifted from the Central Park in Connaught Place to Purana Quila,usually reserved for classical arts. Bhargava says the festival would use the Quila Qula Masjid wall as a backdrop. “It’s a new site,away from the usual minaret space used for performances,” he says. “With the kind of performers in the line-up,and keeping with past response,we are expecting the event to be another resounding success.”

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