The pandemic might seem like a distant memory for some of us, who are venturing out, rejoining offices and reintegrating with the world despite the risks and uncertainty on account of coronavirus. The isolation it forced pushed us to explore new avenues for re-connecting, restructuring and remotely accessing human interaction. Once we were secure in our homes, there was a desire to re-discover events that brought together like-minded people.
Dastaangoi is a bespoke virtual social lounge that has an open door policy inviting anyone ready to embark on their carefully curated, multisensory, interdisciplinary, mystical and poetic journey into the inner world of South Asian classical cultural traditions.
It provides a baithak filled with guest speakers, music and dance performances, screening of short-form films and music videos. The feel good vibes are infectious and shared between the 700 guests visible on the Zoom session and Youtube live stream. A charming soiree blending the old with the new was hosted by Amad and Waleeya Mian. They guided the audience through each phase of the programme. Zainab Tariq and Usman Muktay moderated the chat keeping the audience company. The event provided the viewers a chance to celebrate and converse about cultural heritage, memories, nostalgia and classical arts across borders and time zones.
Over 1,000 people had signed up for Volume 2 that took place on September 6 at 8 pm Pakistan Standard Time. The programme had contributions from Meesha Shafi, Rabbania Shirjeel, Sannan Mahboob and Sarmad Khoosat.
Meesha Shafi narrated a tale about Tansen dating back to 1562. She said the story resonated with her own journey of self-discovery while rehearsing with an ustad. The audience had the choice of chatting with one another during the talk and asking questions delivered through Amad. The format felt immediate and spontaneous. We felt the conversation unfold through Amad’s genuine responses and questions. The screen-sharing tool was used cleverly to screen videos and for transition between various segments of the programme.
Rabbania Sherjeel said she used nostalgia as a medium. Her piece was a narrative monologue that touched on the theme of authenticity of a shared experience. She used memories as ephemera, quoting surrealist anecdotes and stories, to dive deep into the psyche to relate apparently unexplainable experiences. She questioned conventions about reality. She said her nostalgia was imaginative and poetic. She spoke of lighthearted proverbs and sentimental memories of childhood.
A pre-recorded instrumental performance by Leo Twins was followed by a live performance by Rabab player, Sannan Mehboob. He also spoke about his musical journey, saying he was keeping a dying art form alive with his passionate dedication. He said he was learning directly from an Afghan ustad.
The closing act was intense storytelling by Sarmad Khoosat. His connection with the Punjabi language could be felt throughout the performance. He narrated the award winning author, Asad Muhammad Khan’s story Ali Gujjar Ki Akhri Kahani. Sarmad also shared associations, personal histories and understanding. He had chosen a story that showcased the power of creating stories to form a sense of self, the tragedy of being misunderstood and the blurred lines between imagination and reality in relationships. There were musical interludes sung by Sarmad.
There was a surprise performance to end the programme by sitar player Shahrez Syed. The live chat was wholesome and welcoming. Dastaangoi has created an immersive experience using an audio, visual and text based cultural experience. It will be returning next month with Volume 3. Stay tuned to their social media pages and Youtube channel for more.
The writer is an artist and an art therapist