The Humpty Dumpty Institute organized a visit of the Latin funk Grammy award-winning band Grupo Fantasma to three cities in Pakistan (Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore) on April 17-April 28, 2016. This program was part of an ongoing partnership between Humpty Dumpty Institute and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad which focuses on engaging with local communities, including traditional and nontraditional audiences, through public diplomacy. HDI also worked closely with the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education a Pakistani NGO responsible for planning of the Music Mela Festival which was at the center of this program.
Grupo Fantasma was formed in 2000 and is comprised of musicians with American, Texan and Latin roots. Praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre, the group is widely known for their energetic live shows, which NPR describes as “seamless… whenever and wherever they’re on stage.’ The band has received praise from The Wall Street Journal, Billboard, Huffington Post, and USA Today calling the band “Latin-funk masters’. The preparation of the band’s program in Pakistan started in 2015 when HDI hosted auditions for U.S. musicians to participate in the Music Mela Festival series. Grupo Fantasma was a natural fit to take part in this program as they showcased the diversity of the United States. Band members departed on April 17th from Austin to their first stop on the tour – Karachi.
In Karachi, the band went to work shortly after arrival on April 19 with a recording of the band’s song from “Breaking Bad’ television series in support of the U.S. Consulate’s Social Media campaign. That evening the band performed for students and alumni of the Pakistan American Cultural Center (PACC). The second full day in Karachi began with an interview and a live performance at the Pakistan Television (PTV) Studio. In the afternoon, after the band members gave interviews to the Jang newspaper Sunday Magazine in the hotel lobby, they departed to the Indus Valley School of Art (IVS) for a full concert to students from the IVS and the Karachi Vocational Training Centre, as well as friends and contacts of the U.S. Consulate Karachi. The bands’ program in Karachi received saturated media coverage in the mainstream English newspapers and all major papers published stories along with photographs. Several television stations covered the two concerts as well. The acting Public Affairs Officer in Karachi, Li Ping Lo had the following to say after the program: “Grupo Fantasma was amazing, and the audiences at their Karachi performances loved their music – you don’t get Latin funk and rhythm in this part of the world! Thank you, Grupo Fantasma. Thank you HDI.”
April 21 was the first day of Music Mela Festival 2016. The official program started with a radio interview and live performance on City FM89, Pakistan’s top rated radio network which has listeners all across the country and overseas via internet streaming. That day’s program culminated with an early evening performance for children from SOS Village and Sweet Homes – two organizations which work on housing and other needs for the displaced and orphan children; as well as guest from the Mashal Model School and Sir Syed College.
The main performance of the band at the Music Mela Festival took place on the following day starting with a live performance at PTV Islamabad and followed by a radio interview and a performance on FM91. In the afternoon the band departed for their sound check at this year Festival’s venue – the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). Grupo Fantasma headlined the program with a 50 minute set for an audience of over 2,900. The program continued the following day with band members participating in various panels and musical workshops. In the evening of April 23, the band performed at the Residence of the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Jonathan Pratt.
On April 24 the band traveled to the nearby Saidpur village which serves as a popular recreational spot for local and foreign visitors and is well known to have footprints of various ancient civilizations. The program in Saidpur included an interview and a photo shoot with Phaser Mag, Pakistan’s first music magazine, followed by lunch and departure to Islamabad Airport for a flight to the band’s next stop-Lahore.
Grupo Fantasma arrived in Lahore the evening of April 24. The next day the band went to the National College of Arts for an afternoon concert which was covered by the local media. Following the performance, the band members lead a workshop and performed acoustically for English Access Micro-Scholarship Program students from Kasur, a city near Lahore of historical and cultural significance.
On April 26 the band departed the hotel in the morning for their program at Kinnaird College, a university for women. The program included a performance and some interaction time for students and faculty with the band members. Next stop was the Kuch Khaas, a community center for arts, culture and dialogue. Grupo Fantasma performed for an audience of 350 participants which included Youth Councils and Alumni as well as distinguished guests of the center. The last day of the Pakistan program, April 27, included an interview with TGIF music magazine and the Daily Times plus another workshop on playing acoustics with English Access Micro-Scholarship Program students from Lahore and Bahawalpur. The band departed Lahore and headed back to Austin, Texas with lifelong impressions and many new friends.