Dance & Music by NITRAAL © 2011 sehba_sarwar. All rights reserved.

Dance & Music

Location: 2308 Truxillo, Living Room


The idea of living room art seems interesting to me and it was a new experience for me and my fellow artists to be involved in something like this. The best thing about working with Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB) is that there was an element of rawness in everything that was presented. To me, that made the experience unique. Another cool aspect was the themes around VBB’s Third Worlds: Third Ward/Karachi production and the openness to whatever an artist wanted to express about that theme.

My group, NRITAAL, submitted videos from our rehearsals and from a few performances. Nritaal is a performing arts troupe based on the fusion of dance and live music and we create original works. The pieces for we submitted for Third Worlds were based on the works of famous Sufi poet and musicologist of the subcontinent, Hazrat Meer Khusro, and we presented his work in the form of recordings of live dance and music. Our genre is basically contemporary with elements from Indian dance forms like bharantanatyam , kathak etc and eastern and western—both musical disciplines. We were inspired by VBB’s theme, Third Worlds, where there was a comparison between certain localities of Houston and Karachi. It was an amazing experience for us to communicate with people living in Houston, while sharing a common point of view. I also submitted my story as a musician and a music teacher in Karachi; I wrote the story when there was a bloodshed and series of bomb blasts in the city and I was on my way to home from my recording studio, at night in the cab, watching all those bloody streets. The project motivated us to become part of VBB on the regular basis, and we participated in VBB’s next event as well. I’m looking forward to working with VBB with their upcoming projects.

Karachi is in Pakistan—and as we all know, our part of the world is crucial in today’s times, both politically and strategically. Pakistan is a “third world” country and for the people here, the US is like a dream-world with big buildings, lots of lights and what fascinates people about the US, here in Pakistan, is the colorful and magical side that we usually see in the Hollywood  movies or documentaries and stuff.

Working on this project was a reality check and we got a chance to experience a parallel view and comparison about particular localities of Houston and Sindh. Another interesting thing was that during this course of time I got a chance to have a direct conversation and discussions with lots of residents in the US, and it was really good to know their point of view about various things. This particular project helped me in getting in touch with people in Houston. Since then, we are constantly in touch and also participated in VBB’s spring 2012 production.

For me whatever I produce should be what I feel. I am a music composer, arranger and producer and I am inspired to create music by many things, not just musical notes. For me, music is an experience. When I need to compose something I just look around in my surroundings and I usually get the idea of my compositions from the faces of people around me. Unfortunately Pakistan has been in the state of war since 9/11. We are the direct victim of constant terrorism and extremism. There is a fire burning deep inside every artist’s heart here in Pakistan and we really want to express ourselves but the conditions here do not really allow us to express ourselves as freely as it should be. Due to this frustration, many artists stay quiet and are often depressed. I, however, use that frustration and anger as my biggest tool and that is my greatest inspiration towards making music.

The process is simple. When I have to compose something I get into conversation with a friend or family member (regarding that theme or topic)  and I usually end up with lots of questions and confusion. I just write down my confusion or questions on a computer, using bold lettering. Then, I plug my guitar and start playing random chord progressions or just improvise to see what fits best to my ears and heart. While I’m playing, I keep my eyes pinned on the computer screen at the words of confusion and questions. I usually come up with an idea of a whole composition, or sometimes I end up with a tonality around which I build the structure of my composition. I find this process more expressive than just sitting with an instrument and going directly into composition without having any serious thought process about that theme or topic.

I do want to add that there was a time when my city, Karachi, was a city of lights, a party place. People used to come here just to have a glimpse of Karachi nights. There were nightclubs, music, dance, and there was a freedom. The scene is quite different now. The city, which was once crowded with lots of artists, is no more. Once we witnessed Miles Davis at Hotel Metropole, The Who performing, and artists from around the world. The city of lights is now the city of frights. How and when? Everybody knows what happened—and if you don’t know then, there are many books and articles that will tell you about the scariest thing that can happen to a society and what Pakistan experienced under the General Zia-ul-Haq regime in the late 1970’s. We are still facing the aftereffects of everything that happened when he took power through a coup on 6 September 1978 till17 August 1988 when he died in an airplane crash. I want those old Karachi nights back!! I want my people to get rid of this religious extremist thought and the only tool I have is my music and my love for human beings. I will speak out loud and point out everything that has been a curse for my people since last few decades. I would really appreciate if any one of you wants to join me in this struggle in any fashion that suits you.
—Ahsan Bari, musician, composer and co-founder of Nritraal



NRITAAL (KARACHI, SINDH) is a music and dance group that consists of young and aspiring artists. The aim of NRITAAL is to promote especially the performing arts, dance, music, theatre and poetry. The group is a representation of how different forms of art are closely connected with each other. Ahsan Bari is a composer, singer and musician and serves as Nritaal’s founding member.