Saturday night in Karachi, the whiz of traffic and a wailing siren fades out as the steady beat of a drum directs us towards a dimly lit building. The strum of a guitar picks up a riff and under the neon street lights, cigarette smoke swirls as boys and girls in jeans make their way towards the entrance of Karachi’s underground music scene. This is the school of Music Art and Dance (MAD). Playing the guitar is 37 year old Hamza Jafri, co-founder of the school. Tonight he is raising funds to provide girls from the dangerous district of Lyari in Karachi with a musical education.
Since 2007, hundreds of girls’ schools have been burned and bombed by the Taliban in Pakistan. Karachi too is prone to violence, especially the volatile district of Lyari. Before Hamza can start teaching the girls he has to convince their parents to allow them to attend his music school. In a group discussion the parents express their fear that music is anti-Islam. With the help of the girls’ school Principal, Hamza and his wife Nida Butt persuade parents to send their girls, and a few days later a mini van driven by a veiled lady pulls up to the entrance of the MAD school.
Eight feisty girls between 8 and 12 years of age tumble out of the van. They explore the bright green music school room with uninhibited curiosity. It soon becomes clear that they have never seen musical instruments like this before. A strong bond is born between the music teacher and his new students. Within weeks Hamza and Nida recognise the talent of some of the girls as they start to experiment with various instruments such as keyboard and guitar. These children become an inspiration, and the co-founders work hard to make it possible for them to explore different facets of music and expression as they begin to prepare for a big show.
In the neighbourhoods of Lyari, conflict and uncertainty are constant companions as four young friends try to reach for the stars while navigating rocky ground. For these young Lyari stars it is a daily battle to continue with their music education. Despite curfews and crossfire, the girls travel to their classes at MAD school as often as they can.
Through the film we see the girls slowly transform and blossom as they learn to express themselves, overcoming personal tragedy and deep rooted fears along the way. We also discover why a rock star decided to dedicate himself to teaching music and how he and his wife keep their music school operating despite dangers and lack of funds. Hamza and his school is a haven to many struggling young musicians, and their music and music videos will punctuate the narrative of the film to provide a broader commentary on the socio-political landscape of Pakistan today.
Through the lives of Hamza Jafri and his students, Lyari Notes will provide an insight in to just what it takes to have a voice in a country where self expression and music are often drowned out by the cycles of violence…