Sacramento Celebrates Pakistan Independence Day with Raheem Shah
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Sacramento is indeed a blessed city. There was a time when Pakistani-origin Sacramento residents used to travel to the San Francisco Bay area to celebrate August 14 th (Independence Day) along with thousands of others from California’s hot inland valleys to the cooler Pacific Coast areas. The Pakistan Association of San Francisco deserves full credit for starting and continuing this tradition but it appears that the inland immigrant community is getting older and now prefers to congregate closer to where they live. This year we were lucky to celebrate Pakistani independence in Sacramento not once but twice. The first has been reported on earlier (August 30 th program) so let us focus here on the September 6 th event.
Roshan Pakistan and a group called NAMC along with a local team of volunteers and many sponsors arranged this celebration at the parking lot of a local RV sales outlet in South Sacramento. For those not aware, September 6 th is also celebrated as “Defense of Pakistan Day”, a reminder of how the country once stood united during the year 1965 when a war officially began on this day. Dignitaries who graced the event with their presence included the Consul General of Pakistan from Los Angeles, Tasawar Khan. This report will be abbreviated in parts because one reporter cannot be at two places at the same time and I was quite late in getting to this venue after the close of another major event in Sacramento.
A recitation from the Qur'an and a colorful segment of flags of the United States and Pakistan started things off along with a very impressive display of Pakistani national attire via a group of cute children. Consul General Tasawar Khan took the opportunity to address the gathering which had easily swelled to over two thousand people. One of the things that the organizers may want to consider in future is a larger venue because it was quite congested for fans standing outside.
The entertainment started off with Ali Sher (of SaReGamaPa TV Show fame) who performed for almost an hour. His songs included Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Tere Mast Mast Do Nain”, a Dhamaal ode to the Qalandar, a Punjabi favorite “Akhiyaan Udeekdiyaan” and “Bismillah Karan”. Following Ali was the very colorful Saira Naseem who amongst many other ladies can claim to be the successor of the late Melody Queen Noor Jehan. Saira is a winner of the Pride of Performance Award in Pakistan and many call her “Junior Madam Noor Jehan” today. But it would be prudent to suggest to her here that many old folks from Pakistan here would have preferred to hear at least some of the Melody Queen's old songs too because for many of us nostalgia is our only connection left to the old country. Saira Naseem’s Mundaia, Kuryey- Chandi Saari Raat and even her attempt at a Pashto number were all well received by many, including emcee Rana Akram. She closed her performance with “Mast Qalandar”.
Now to the grand finale with another Pride of Pakistan Raheem Shah, a Pathan (Pashtun) from Swat and Peshawar now settled in Karachi. It must be noted here that Raheem was here in Sacramento about seven years ago and his performances back then and now suffered from the same problem which is too many people for the venue! His attraction and following, especially amongst the Afghani and Pakistani Pashtun population in Sacramento all the way down to the Stockton area, is easy to understand. And because of him this Pakistani event also became an Af-Pak (Afghanistan-Pakistan) gathering. Raheem Shah began his performance by reminding everyone to appreciate all Pakistani artists because they go through a lot to come here and perform for us.
Pakistan’s national language is Urdu, the majority of its people also speak Punjabi, and if one does not get too academic, the speaker of one on these languages can usually understand the other. Pashto, on the other hand, spoken in the provinces of KP and Baluchistan is a different language altogether. Raheem Shah started off in his native Pashto with a song he dedicated to the late Ghazala Javed who rose out of poverty through her singing but lost her life too early to violence.
The bouquet of songs that Raheem Shah performed was limited to four Pashto songs which seemed to move the Pashtuns in the audience immensely while others were taken in by the beat alone or just sitting there “as if they are in a Dharna” as one observer mentioned. Raheem also sang shorter versions of his two mega hits “Channa” (in Punjabi) and the song that has made him the darling of many “Maa” (Mother). But for all Pakistanis here his Urdu number “Hum Aik Hain” (We are one) or “Kiya Hum Aik Hain” (Are we one?) stole the show and the evening. Raheem held the Pakistani flag in one hand throughout his performance of this song and the word “Amazing” easily comes to mind after recalling it now.
(The American Muslim Voice Foundation in Sacramento and the Bay Area have just announced a clothing collection drive for flood victims in Pakistan. Please contact them through their website at http://www.amuslimvoice.org/ for more details)