Pak/India collaborate

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Strains of friendship

India and Pakistan trade in music, fashion

Maitreyee Handique / New Delhi December 31, 2004

The Samjhauta Express, the Sada-e-Sarhad Delhi-Lahore bus service, cricket diplomacy or Dostkari, the handicraft workshop, these are all a part of the government’s confidence-building measures designed to thaw cross-border relations between India and Pakistan.

And now independent business collaboration between the two countries is trying to create a similar goodwill.

Pakistan’s well-known sufi rock band Junoon, currently touring India, is already popular in the country. Singer Adnan Sami calls India his home and is collaborating with Bollywood singers and film stars on music projects.

Hasan Jahangir, the famed singer of Hawa Hawa is in India to cut a remix album which will be released in February 2005. And Delhi-based sports management company Twenty First Century Media Ltd has signed up former cricketer Wasim Akram to handle his endorsements in India.

Spotting a big potential in border trade of a different kind, event management companies are also jumping into the business of organising music and fashion events.

Brilliant Entertainment Networks (BEN), for instance, has signed up Pakistani music bands such as Strings, Fuzon and Junoon (also the Bangla rock group Miles) this year to promote their interests in India.

Earlier this month, the company organised a show called ‘Mission Dosti’ in Patiala on behalf of the Punjab government to promote harmony between the two nations.

“Mission Dosti is a concert label we want to build. There is a huge demand for these artistes in India,” says Raman Raheja, director of BEN. The show pulled a 20,000-strong crowd through invitations and Raheja sees a huge potential in a commercial event.

Like BEN, Sphuling, a Kolkata-based music company, also wants to develop its concert label, Music For Peace. It has roped in Fuzon and Junoon from Pakistan and Miles from Bangladesh to perform at the Salt Lake Stadium on January 22.

“Demand of music from the subcontinent is huge in our country,” says Ranjan Dey, one of the partners of Sphuling. Musicians from Pakistan and Bangladesh charge anywhere from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh in India.

Besides music, the two countries are collaborating on fashion events too. Diivyaa Gurwaara, chief executive officer of Bridal Asia, an event management brand that brings fashion designers of the subcontinent on a single platform, organised the first Indo-Pak show in Lahore last year.

She took designers like Ritu Kumar, JJ Valaya and Anamika to Pakistan. Bridal Asia also showcases Pakistani designers such as Nilofer Shahid and Fernaz Ahmed in India. But Gurwaara says that the two countries still don’t have an open retail policy and the business is moving to places like Dubai and Qatar.

Agrees Deepak Hirani, promoter of fashion boutique Kimaya. He opened an outlet in Dubai rather than in Pakistan, after launching stores in Mumbai and Delhi.

“We have to be insulated from minor Kargils first,” he says. Currently, Kimaya represents 11 Pakistani designers, including Faisa Sami, Imrana Ahmed and Nomi Ansari but says he’d like to take Indian designers to Lahore if the political climate improves.

BEN’s Raheja complains that the visa clearances are still tedious. Junoon, for instance, did not get travel clearance to perform near the Wagah border recently.

Not everyone is looking at a business though. Routes 2 Roots in Delhi, that promotes neighbourly interaction among SAARC nations, brought Pakistani musicians Amjad Adri and Asif Mehndi to perform in New Delhi.

It plans to take similar shows to Lahore. Culture, after all, is the best way to bring people together, says its promoter Amita Gupta.
Posted 05 Jan 2005

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