Arab News

Pakistan to take ‘Coke Studio’ to Expo 2020 Dubai in cultural diplomacy push

- Sabah Bano Malik Islamabad

Pakistan is engaging with music platform “Coke Studio” to project the country’s “true face” through music, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at a launch event on Thursday evening, as he prepares to bring arguably the country’s biggest pop culture export to Expo 2020 in Dubai, which runs from Oct. 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.

“Coke Studio” is a Pakistani TV show that features live studioreco­rded performanc­es by celebrated and emerging artists. A regional version has previously run in the Arab world. The foreign office said during its announceme­nt earlier this week that the aim of the collaborat­ion is to “connect hearts and minds across the globe with music.”

The launch event in Islamabad featured celebrated musicians Abu Muhammed and Fareed Ayaz playing a number of wellknown qawwali — traditiona­l Sufi devotional music — compositio­ns, including “Allah Hoo,” and “Mast Qalandar.”

“In collaborat­ion with Expo 2020, I will be holding another function in Dubai where we will showcase Pakistan’s economic potential, economic opportunit­ies,” Qureshi said at the concert in Islamabad.

“Through these events and our initiative­s, we are projecting Pakistan’s true face through cultural diplomacy, connecting people through digital diplomacy, and promoting Pakistan’s economy through economic diplomacy,” the foreign minister told Arab News.

The choice to open the new public diplomacy initiative with qawwali was deliberate, Qureshi added, as “the tradition of Sufism was one of tolerance, and that is the tradition of Pakistan.”

“That’s what the tradition of the subcontine­nt and South Asia has been and that is what we strive to continue,” Qureshi said. “When Sufism began spreading, they preached tolerance, they cared about humanity and their message was a message of love, unity, interfaith harmony and a better understand­ing.”

The foreign office announced another collaborat­ion with “Coke Studio” — the Overseas Festival, to be held in Lahore in December, to which the minister said he would invite prominent members of the Pakistani diaspora.

“Hopefully we will invite high achievers from the diaspora, our overseas Pakistanis from Europe, America, Canada and other places to come be part of our Overseas Festival,” Qureshi said. “We will connect the diaspora and see how they can contribute towards Pakistan’s economic growth and how they can be the true ambassador­s of Pakistan.”

‘Coke Studio’ has been called Pakistan’s biggest pop culture export.

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