Under the Radar
A look at Islamabad

August 19, 2010

I’m on a trip, exploring my not-so-distant past. I’m re-visiting the city I grew up in. Your perspectives change so much when you’ve been away for a couple of years.

So, when I got here to Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan), I asked around. Where do the poets go? What’s up on the performing arts scene? And everyone directed me to Usama Qazi.

Under The Radar

At the beginning of this year, Usama got together with a few friends, and started up Under The Radar. A venue where amateur artists, poets, singers, actors and dreamers can come together, and perform. Held once a month at Planet X, it is the perfect venue. Launching officially in November as a competition, UTR is now in its teething phase.

So, I contacted Usama, and he invited me to come over on their next show that was held on August 7th 2010. At 6 PM, my husband and I opened the doors to a darkened studio. Overhead lights illuminated the stage, and four actors were up there rehearsing their lines.

Usama and his sidekick Salma greeted me at the door. As the hour went by, more and more performers got up, checked their instruments, tested the mikes, and gave instructions to the light crew on exactly what effect they wanted.
At 7 PM, the doors opened to the audience, and the show got under way about fifteen minutes after that.

A poet, SaudUmer Khan opened the night with an interesting take on his love life. Taha, a six-year-old, boy popped and danced his way through techno and bhangra. And Umair accompanied his guitar with soul-stirring melodies. But the highlight of the show was Mariam Nawaz. Her five-minute monologue about visions of murdering her children had the audience enthralled, frightened, scared and moved. Her delivery was perfect.

Mariam Nawaz

There were hip-hop dancers. A skit about not going through with suicide. A rapper. And an interpretation of a sufi poet.

Some of the performances were okay. Others were amazing. But I guess the real great thing about the night is that it happened. When most of us think of Pakistan, we don’t think of music, and laughter, and poetry. But there, that night at Planet X, amongst imagination and originality, I witnessed a side of my city that I had hoped for, but hadn’t really expected to see.

Under The Radar is the result of a dream of a single person. And this dream has allowed so many others to bring their own dreams to life.


Back to Cover

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *