A Musical Evening with Bilal Khan at Harvard
By Tahir Ali
Cambridge: It was a cold, dark, cloudy night. The moon sporadically peeked through the clouds, but the stars were nowhere to be seen, no doubt resting under the covers of floating clouds. Yet, as we focus on Harvard's SOCH building on 59 Shepard St., we hear music and a roar of applause and hoo haa from the students - and amidst them Bilal Khan a vocalist from Pakistan was shining like a star, unlike the ones up in the sky.
Bilal Khan is a versatile young singer from Pakistan who became a household name three years agowhen his song “bachana” became an instant hit especially among the youths. Besides being a singer, he composes and writes his own songs. He has to his credit songs like “bachana”, “kabhi ghum na aye”, “lamha”, “tou kia hoa”, “hai intezar”, "khuda", “abhi main naheen aa raha”, "taqdeer", "main aaon ga" and “banda”.
Over the years Bilal has developed a special relationship with the Pakistani youth. It is because of that bondage that the executive committee of Harvard College Pakistan Student Association (HCSPA) sponsored the musical evening with Bilal Khan.
The inception of HCSPA is a derivative of the floods of 2010 in Pakistan that led to a fundraiser for flood victims at Harvard. The mission statement of the association is clearly stated at their website: "To promote interest in and awareness of Pakistan's culture and current affairs within the Harvard undergraduate community. Through events that bring Pakistan to the fore and stimulate further dialogue, HCPSA aims to cater to a diverse community interested in developing an understanding of Pakistan, its culture, affairs and issues."
Harvard students and organizers; Ibrahim Sheikh and Rabiya Attar - HCSPA's treasurer and Outreach co-chair respectively - were kind enough to explain the charter and goal of their association at length. They were cognizance of the fact that the association is growing under the fine leadership of the co-presidents Ibrahim Khan and Humza Bokhari.
Bilal was at ease - for he knew that he was among friends, well wishers and ardent fans. His fans felt the same way as well. Mariyah Ali who traveled approximately 40 miles to attend the musical event, revealed, "I felt comfortable listening to the singer and as well as his exchange of ideas and dialogues." The hall was packed with mostly university students - Harvard, MIT, BU - to name a few. Bilal asked his young audience that how many of the students plan to go back to Pakistan after graduation. Bilal was rightly curious to know the response - because the sublinimal message he wanted to convey was that the educated people and talent usually do not go back to Pakistan once their studies are over. He wished this trend would change. "Pakistan needs your talent." he summarized.
Bilal is on a US tour and plans to return to Pakistan on the 3rd of January 2013. Sarah Kazi came to listen to him all the way from Westboro - she enjoyed the evening and confirmed that Bilal had first performed at Brown University in Connecticut before coming to Boston. Everyone appeared to be deeply immersed and enjoying Bilal's performance. Most of the fans had only good things to say about the evening. However, one Harvard math student did not feel that the essence of this music agrees with him, while another math student from MIT begged to differ. She found Bilal's music very entertaining and well composed. Bilal also sang two songs from Amitabh Bachan's movies Kabhi Kabhi (title song) and La-Waris (Mere Angana mein tumara Kia kaam hai..). But the song that got most applause was his rendition of his own signature song, bachana.
I found Bilal Khan very courteous and a down to earth person. He shared with me the reason he was here on the US tour: "I am a goodwill ambassador and I want to spread goodwill through my music. I have so many fans here. I cannot let them down."
The night may have been cold and dark, but Bilal’s performance enlightened the audience so much that they were completely oblivious of the demanding night.
(Tahir Ali is author of "Muslim Vote Counts". Photo by Ibrahim Sheikh)
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