Islamabad- a musical city

How many people would know, Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan is full of musicians; whoever enters your house turns out to be musician. 

“We are going through horrific times in Pakistan but in the middle of all this chaos and tragedy there is a lot that is very beautiful too. I sometimes feel that in Pakistan you can find the worst of humanity and best of humanity here.  As they say,  what doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger, ” says Arieb Azhar.

Arieb is a Pakistani musician. He is known for a fusion between Sufi traditional music and western music. He builds bridges between cultures and traditions. He sings in English, Croatians, Russian, Urdu and Punjabi.

He came back to Pakistan in 2004.  Before that he was in Croatia. He went there for studying film but got more interested in music than in studies. He played with an Irish band, “Shamrock Roll”. He witnessed break up of Soviet Union and then the Balkan war of Croatia and Serbia in 1992  and now he lives in Pakistan and witnessing the “war on terror”.

Am I a Sufi ?

Arieb is not only a musician but also a social worker and political activists. He sings in the left-wing political rallies along with his mother, who is a political activist. He is also present at the protest rallies against the killing of Shia Hazarras in Pakistan. He is spotted everywhere in the city.

He often uses the poetry of Sufi saints of the sub-continent to pass on his message to the people in this time of mistrust.

“The thoughts which are expressed in the poetry by the Sufis are so direct and beautifully expressed that even the most stubborn or  antagonist of people can’t deny the truth of the message. If I was to say these words in my own language, I  could be misunderstood but in this poetry it is irresistible.”

Arieb believes that his music is not only inspired by the Sufis.  His inspirations are universal and include Vicotro Jara of Chile, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti from Africa. His list goes on and on and tells that he doesn’t only make good music but he also is an avid listener.


There are many international musicians who are living in Islamabad and making music along with the local musicians. Arieb invites them to different house gigs he goes to.

There are many international musicians who visit Pakistan also. They perform with the local musicians in Pakistan. However, there are not many public venues in the city and due to security concerns many times the venues are hidden. But the locals are open-hearted and provide their living rooms for performances when the concerts are cancelled due to some threat.

“Music has given us (music band) a language or a way to communicate with the world at large, not only with the surroundings in Pakistan.  Music allows us to communicate better, it cuts through the chase and the layers that we have created around us; the layers of  culture, religions, ethnicity  and language.”

The Taliban attacked the music concerts and musicians and that is one of the biggest reasons that the space for musicians is getting limited. They believe that music is forbidden in Islam and give addict to kill musicians. In these times, musicians like Arieb and his fellow band members are a strong reminder that tolerant, mystical Sufism has a much deeper tradition in this region than the extremist or fundamentalists.

Audio Slideshow:


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