Pakistan Independence Day Celebrations in Los Angeles
By Hassan Naveed
Pictures by Faiz Ahmed and YKKB


Grand marshal sponsors Dr Meher Tabatabai and Mr Qaisar Madad with Alamgir (left). A section of the massive crowd (right)

Los Angeles, CA: As the appetizing aromas of tandoori chicken, seekh kabob and biryani flood the backdrop of music at the Exposition Park on August 8, Saif Naveed, a fourteen-year-old Pakistani-American from the city of Fontana about thirty miles east of Los Angeles, makes his way to a partially organized line for food. In his mixture of Urdu and English, he orders a bowl of steaming haleem with naan. His buttoned-up shirt and designer jeans undoubtedly fashion him as a resident of the cultural fads of the Los Angeles area. Naveed sits on the edge of a section of white audience chairs eating and waiting for the feature performance. In the melee of babies crying, music and conversations of Urdu and English, Naveed speaks over the din of sounds “I can’t wait for Jal to come up”.
Among other performances, the Independence Day celebration featured the popular Pakistani band Jal. It attracted teenagers and young adults, who constituted the majority of event attendees. “I own almost all their songs, and I can’t wait to listen to them”, said Naveed.
Prior to the headline band, the evening started with a variety of other musical performance.
Alamgir, another acclaimed artist from Pakistan, performed his popular songs. Hundreds danced in front of the stage, jumping up and down and singing along with Alamgir. The Los Angeles Police Department Band ushered in the musical concert with their performance of the national anthems of the United States and Pakistan. During the ceremonious opening, the crowd waved several Pakistani and American flags. The patriotic moment recognized the pride of being a “Pakistani-American”.


Glimpses of the Independence Day celebrations at the Exposition Park in Los Angeles

“The event really gives my children the unique opportunity to experience my culture even if we are thousands of miles away”, said Samina Akbar during the opening ceremony. Ms. Akbar drove over an hour from the Inland Empire to attend the event. The colorfully-lit stage centered the park as food vendors and other merchants enwrapped the surrounding areas. Clothes, jewelry, religious books, music CDs and DVD movies were among the numerous items being sold by retailers. Nearly twenty food vendors served thousands of people. As Ms. Akbar encircles the various merchants she reminisces her home country, “This reminds me of a bazaar in Pakistan”.
The United For Pakistan Independence Day (UFPID) plans this celebration annually. The event proves to be more than just a celebration for Independence Day of Pakistan but includes a strong cultural component making it the largest cultural event for Pakistanis in Southern California. The UFPID encompasses a diverse list of Pakistani companies and organizations. Their unification is integral for a celebration of a united Pakistani Independence Day. This is different from the multiple celebrations by different organizations in New York and other cities. Their efforts confirm the phrase, “A united community is a strong community”. In addition, it establishes the unity needed in the diverse Pakistani community.
The diversity of Pakistan is evident at the celebration by the clothes, language, food and music. Men, women and children wore their ethnic clothes, spoke their dialects and ordered their regional foods. Whether they were Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Baloch or the other cultures of Pakistan, attendees represented them all. “We all come here as a diverse community and represent our love for being Pakistani. This event is not only to celebrate our Independence Day but to also celebrate our cultures”, said Ms. Akbar.
As the announcer presents Jal, hundreds of young attendees make their way to the stage. The crowds nearly doubled from the previous performers. Naveed finally gets to rock the rest of the night with his favorite band. Rahima Naveed, a student at Cal Poly Pomona, follows her brother commenting, “They are one of my favorite bands as well. We’ve been waiting for them all night”. After hours of relentless waiting, the hour for “the young” finally ushers in with the strum of the electric guitar by a band member of Jal.
The band performed a variety of its major hits including “Woh Lamhey”, “Dil Harey” and other songs in their hour-and-a-half long set. Jal has received a variety of music awards from MTV Asia, GEO TV and the Indus Music Award for the best rock band in Pakistan.


Glimpses of the Independence Day celebrations at the Exposition Park in Los Angeles

The dancing crowd of young Pakistani-American represents a unique generation. Many of them are first-generation Pakistani-Americans of parents from the tail end of the second wave of South Asian immigration. Some are the first to attend a college in their family, submerge in an exclusively American social life and at the same time attempt to retain their Pakistani heritage. These events are critical to the identity of these young Pakistani-Americans. Jal represents the bicultural nature of being Pakistani-American with the mere fusion of Urdu, Pakistani melodies and American rock n’ roll. “Jal appeals to me because I love rock music; the combination of Urdu and the electric guitar really speaks to who I am”, says Saif as he steps in to dancing dark crowd.
The clock strikes midnight and the celebration continues into the late night. Ms. Akbar checks her wristwatch while listening to the Jal performance. Her eyes are tired from the festive night of fun and entertainment. This is one of the rare nights Ms. Akbar will even stay up this late. She comments, “I am happy to see my community unite in this festive manner – this makes me proud to be a Pakistani-American”.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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