Riffat Sultana Live at Grand Performances
By Perveen Ali
Photos by Annie Ather
Since 2003, the Pakistan Arts Council of the USC Pacific Asia Museum has been partnering with Grand Performances every year to bring Pakistani musicians to perform at the breathtaking California Plaza in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
Grand Performances is a non-profit committed to delivering the best of global culture. It becomes a perfect platform for the Pakistan Arts Council’s mission of promoting Pakistan’s performing arts.
Hailed as the “Best Free Outdoor Summer Concert Series” by Los Angeles Magazine and described as “a grand gift to the public... democracy in musical action” by the Los Angeles Times, the collaboration between Pakistan Arts Council and Grand Performances complements each other’s mission.
Celebrating 70 years of Pakistan’s Independence, Pakistan Arts Council presented the riveting Riffat Sultana, who channels 11 generations of family musicians; she was one of the women voices who braided together innocence, experience and peace into sonic magic. The other women voices included Meklit, whose influences include jazz, folk and East African music; and award-winning Native American a cappella group Ulali. All three groups came together and inspired the audience to recognize the similarities among them.
Riffat Sultana was the star of the evening. Singing Punjabi folk songs and devotional Sufi songs, she had the audience clapping and dancing. There is an ease to her vocalist’s delivery that suggests bloodline, and indeed she is the latest link in a chain that can be traced back half a millennium and 11 generations, to Chand Khan and Suraj Khan, legendary court musicians to Akbar the Great. Riffat’s father, classical singer Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, is himself an icon in Pakistan.
The guests of honor at the Performance were the Consul General of Pakistan, Abdul Jabbar Memon, and his wife, Shehla Memon. CG Memon addressed the large audience comprising people of all backgrounds and cultures. He appreciated how the event was reaching out to non-Pakistanis and showcasing the rich music of Pakistan. The Pakistan Arts Council thanks the Consul General and all our donors for their generous support. Congratulations to Samirah Saleh, President, and the Board of Directors of Pakistan Arts Council for making this event happen. We also want to thank USC Pacific Asia Museum and Grand Performances for giving us a voice.
The grand finale was Riffat Sultana’s rendering of “Lal Shabaz Qalandar”. Hundreds of people in the audience were thrilled as the rhythm picked up. They were on their feet, dancing and swaying to the music. It was an enchanting evening not to be forgotten.