Music & Performing Arts

Solis: the rise of the music festival culture in Pakistan

By Maha S. Shahid

Clean Bandit at Solis Karachi | Ticket Wala PK | Ticketwala.pk
Clean Bandit at Solis Karachi

Bad news travels further and faster than the good in our society. So, not surprisingly, focus is on the less than savory events of the fourth installment of the Solis festival, overshadowing Solis’ noble goal[a] of bringing together local and international DJ’s alike while also changing the image of Pakistan to the world.  

FDVM plays with Ayesha Omar at Solis Karachi | TicketWala.pk
FDVM plays with Ayesha Omar at Solis Karachi

Solis’ CEO, Shaz Hayat, has proved he can bridge the gap with three earlier editions of this festival by targeting an audience with a love for international sound[b]. This time, he went a step further, inviting world famous artists like Clean Bandit, FDVM and Kill the Buzz to perform, together with local acts such as Karachi’s very own Turhan James, Neha Khan, and Maleo to name a few.

So what went so colossally wrong this time?

Solis promised to make its fourth installment in Islamabad this year bigger and better than ever, set to take place at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA)[c]. However, the EDM festival that was scheduled to run until 12 am ended abruptly mid-performance around 9:30 pm when the VIP stage collapsed, injuring several people. [d]The mishap was reported to be due to overcrowding due to the sale of fake tickets[e]. Reports are still unclear on whether this was entirely due to an angry mob storming the venue after being refused entry[f].

The venue itself can hold a maximum of 1000 people in the open air theatre, while VIP tickets were being sold at almost PKR 11,000 [g]each. Rumors of under the table tickets and overbooking have blemished the Solis name. Many scathing firsthand reports that have been documented on social media, which also included several detailed [h]allegations of sexual assault and harrassment. [i][j] Several videos[k] are circulating[l] of people trashing the venue after[m] the shutdown. The narrative being put out is; “Pakistan is not ready for these kinds of events.”

According to the Deputy Commissioner’s twitter handle[n], an FIR is being registered against event organizers and an investigation is underway. Solis was quick to issue an apology[o] on instagram[p] stating that, “We chose the venue and our security based on the number of tickets sold and made arrangements based on this… However, we underestimated the sheer volume of thousands of ‘fake tickets’ that were being sold illegally.”

This still leaves us with the question - who is to be held accountable?

At the end of the day, we have to recognize that this doesn’t all fall on Solis. Not to say that organizers shouldn’t be held accountable for whatever mismanagement there was, but for now reports vary. In terms of reports of theft[r], physical/sexual assault[s], and the trashing of the venue (setting Solis back crores of rupees)[t] it really speaks to the part of society that is in fact not ready for such events. In a chaotic situation (such as a stage collapsing on a crowd) the natural impulse should be to help, not to make a larger mess of the situation. Solis may have mishandled some things, but they never condoned these violent acts.

It is important to note that this isn’t the first instance of something like this happening in Pakistan’s music scene. Atif Aslam[u] stalled a concert[v] to tell off men who were harassing a woman in the front[w]. There were also alleged instances from Solis in 2019, where a woman[x] reported being separated from her friends briefly and being harrassed and groped. She also reported that security was negligent.[y] Solis has tried to rectify the situation by implementing gender-segregated sections. But obviously it isn’t enough if people will use such disasters to wreak further havoc.

Solutions?

At the end of the day there is no excuse. Solis has tried to be inclusive to the Pakistani community and bring music culture here that this society hasn’t experienced before – but to those who say Pakistani society as a whole isn’t ready for events like these? As society evolves and progresses there will always be discomfort and pushback. The women’s movement is an example, as is so much else. The minute we exclude and divide ourselves further from globalization, we let the disrupters win. Those who seek to destroy and take such atrocities to their advantage. Clearer boundaries, tighter security, and a number of other measures have to be implemented. But we cannot let the actions of a few define us.

Turhan James @ Solis Music Festival/Ticketwala.pk
Turhan James plays his set at Solis Music Festival

In Ticketwala’s interview with Turhan James at the very first Solis,[z] he raved about the experience, describing a turnout and crowd energy unlike anything he had seen in Pakistan before. International artists[aa] have also been very complimentary about their experiences visiting Pakistan and some artists have returned to perform at Solis more than once. This was a good start to the rise in music festival culture here.

Karachi Eats has a “no stags” policy.[ab] Something that they get a lot of pushback on every year. The policy states that only women and families can buy tickets. Men without a woman accompanying them? Sorry, better luck next time! [ac]If you don’t have a woman to vouch for you, you are not welcome. This may seem harsh, or non-inclusive but in actuality this is just a boundary being set. If you do not know one woman who is willing to accompany you? That’s obviously a problem in itself.

In a blogpost in the Tribune, Arsalan Faruqi praises the “no stags” policy. He explains that in Pakistan in particular, there are many from conservative backgrounds who have entirely different approaches to life. When they find themselves in a culture where they are not segregated they don’t know how to behave. He furthers these claims with, Perhaps it is our fault as a country for not integrating a certain segment of society with the other well enough for them to cope, perhaps it is their own fault for fighting the inevitable progression of humanity. No matter what the reasons may be, there is no excuse.” [ad]

Obviously there is work to be done, but why punish those who come to such events to behave and to enjoy the experience? [ae]

Karachi Eats “no stag” policy

In their instagram post, Solis promised that they “will be back[af],” while that is admirable, the goal needs to be to come back safer than ever. Maybe a policy such as “no stags” is exactly the type of boundary/restriction that needs to be implemented. This also acts as punishment for many perpetrators of sexual and other types of violence. If you cannot find a way to co-exist and treat everyone with dignity and respect then you are not welcome. 

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DEAR ISLAMABAD What was borne from a love of music and wanting to share a piece of the international music world to Pakistan, Solis provided entertainment that didn’t exist and became a community based on peace and unity, bringing together homegrown businesses that supported our economy and put Pakistan on the map. Despite all the challenges of putting together such an experience in Pakistan (the things you don’t see behind the scenes like finding the right speakers, pyro, the security gates that need to be built from scratch, to convincing our artists that Pakistan is indeed safe and beautiful), we made it happen. Not once, not even 3 times in 2019, but for the 4th time yesterday in Islamabad till the incident hours after doors opened. We chose the venue and our security based on the number of tickets sold and made arrangements based on this. We warned against fake tickets on numerous occasions. However, we underestimated the sheer volume of thousands of “fake tickets” that were being sold illegally. These people were denied entry, but broke our barricades and forced themselves in, climbing on VIP platforms which couldn’t take the weight and destroyed our stage putting everyone’s safety at risk. To those that believed in us and came to genuinely enjoy the show, we are deeply sorry that this experience was ruined by others. We know that you came far and wide and we know how much you were looking forward to this event as we were too. For you, our true fans, we absolutely could not put your safety and security at risk and had to stop the event. What some of you didn’t see was the further damage these individuals caused after we shut down the event. Crores Of damage have set us back even further. WE are a community. WE are responsible for changing mindsets- together! While we will hold on Solis indefinitely in Islamabad, we will NOT let this define us. We will LEARN and PERSEVERE and keep giving Pakistan an experience they haven’t had before, much like we have done in the past. We will NOT let the actions of a few decide for the rest of us. We will be back.

A post shared by Solis Music & Arts Festival (@solisfestival) on

Amidst “#MeToo ”[ag] and such global scale [ah]feminst movements[ai] the message needs to be that we as a country prioritize our women the same as we prioritize our men.

International Women’s Day | Ticketwala.pk
Aurat March

Policies like this are of course harder to implement with e-ticketing, but in the age of social media, applications, and so much else there must be a way to have people fill in information online while buying and have it be verified at the gate (ID’s, passports, etc). This would also mean tightening and implementing much more strict and efficient security as well.

There are probably also other ways to make amends for the traumatic events of this past Solis. But what we can take away from Solis and other such instances is that something needs to be done.

Ticketwala stands in solidarity with all those who were physically or mentally harmed by the events that took place.

We hope to see the Pakistani community do better in the future. We hope every party that wronged the general public is held accountable to whatever degree is possible.

To those at Solis, we wish you the best of luck in bringing back a better and safer experience to show the world the true spirit of Pakistan — generous, hospitable, kind. Maybe one day we will be able to integrate every aspect of our society in a peaceful manner.

[a]https://tribune.com.pk/story/2099544/4-super-excited-pakistan-first-performance-clean-bandit/

[b]https://tribune.com.pk/story/2099544/4-super-excited-pakistan-first-performance-clean-bandit/

[c]https://www.pnca.org.pk/

[d]https://www.samaa.tv/entertainment/2020/02/islamabad-solis-festival-in-trouble-as-fir-being-registered/

[e]https://www.samaa.tv/entertainment/2020/02/islamabad-solis-festival-in-trouble-as-fir-being-registered/

[f]https://www.samaa.tv/entertainment/2020/02/islamabad-solis-festival-in-trouble-as-fir-being-registered/

[g]https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51527039

[h]https://www.instagram.com/p/B8n7Xz-nZVM/

[i]https://twitter.com/ayesha_m_omar/status/1229380264071135233?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1229380264071135233&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.divaonline.com.pk%2Fmismanagement-and-harassment-at-solis-islamabad-police-registers-fir-celebrities-stand-in-solidarity-with-victims%2F

[j]https://www.instagram.com/p/B8n7Xz-nZVM/

[k]https://twitter.com/itstheazeez/status/1228761872465305600?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1229109084961505281&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.divaonline.com.pk%2Fmismanagement-and-harassment-at-solis-islamabad-police-registers-fir-celebrities-stand-in-solidarity-with-victims%2F

[l]https://twitter.com/sumaira_rajput/status/1228981756059148288?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1228981756059148288&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.divaonline.com.pk%2Fmismanagement-and-harassment-at-solis-islamabad-police-registers-fir-celebrities-stand-in-solidarity-with-victims%2F

[m]https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/solis-festival-assault-women-music-cancelled-stage-collapse-a9338851.html

[n]https://twitter.com/dcislamabad/status/1229079565290610688?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1229079565290610688&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Ftribune.com.pk%2Fstory%2F2158534%2F4-fir-registered-solis-festival-inquiry-process-dc-islamabad%2F

[o]https://www.instagram.com/p/B8oJ-voh1FD/?utm_source=ig_embed

[p]https://www.instagram.com/p/B8mUKAthvjY/

[q]https://twitter.com/hamnazubair/status/1229066401136201728

[r]https://www.instagram.com/p/B8n7Xz-nZVM/

[s]https://twitter.com/hamnazubair/status/1229066401136201728

[t]https://www.instagram.com/p/B8oJ-voh1FD/

[u]https://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/45068/as-a-man-i-stand-by-karachi-eat-festivals-no-stags-policy/

[v]https://images.dawn.com/news/1182425

[w]https://www.hipinpakistan.com/news/1151648

[x]https://images.dawn.com/news/1182425

[y]https://images.dawn.com/news/1182425

[z]https://ticketwala.pk/blog/behind-the-scenes-at-solis-festival-with-turhan-james/?fbclid=IwAR1_Ea143B98plN1Ri58-1X24_sJrM7aPchzDDNGu6dBRg6HgmPk-QXgK-c

[aa]https://tribune.com.pk/story/2099544/4-super-excited-pakistan-first-performance-clean-bandit/

[ab]https://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/45068/as-a-man-i-stand-by-karachi-eat-festivals-no-stags-policy/

[ac]https://www.parhlo.com/karachi-eat-festival-remained-unbiased-by-not-allowing-this-german-to-enter-alone/

[ad]https://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/45068/as-a-man-i-stand-by-karachi-eat-festivals-no-stags-policy/

[ae]https://twitter.com/FriehaAltaf/status/1229445993168547840?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1229445993168547840&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.divaonline.com.pk%2Fmismanagement-and-harassment-at-solis-islamabad-police-registers-fir-celebrities-stand-in-solidarity-with-victims%2F

[af]https://www.instagram.com/p/B8oJ-voh1FD/

[ag]https://metoomvmt.org/about/

[ah]https://dailytimes.com.pk/491672/influence-of-three-major-waves-of-feminist-movements-in-pakistan/

[ai]https://herald.dawn.com/news/1398878

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This is an interview question, which is best when it looks different from the answer, doesn’t it?

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Qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum?

Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

-Dave Getz, Mastermix Magazine

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