Pakistan, a country that has always had the greatest potential for talent, but barely anyone ever does anything about it. For years, there was no access to international talent and there were no platforms for local talent, either. Once the era of live music ended, years ago, we thought we’d not get any music festivals, anymore. Similarly, while there were art schools in Pakistan, there were only a handful of platforms. Those too, which would not take any interest in the artist, themselves, and merely provide the walls to hang their art on.
Along came a man who changed the way art and music was and is perceived in Pakistan: Imtisal Zafar. You might have heard of him with regards to electronic music festivals or his efforts to promoting art in Pakistan, or maybe one of the many large-scale events he has put together.
We reached out to Imtisal to talk about his journey, thus far, and his plans for the future.
Q. Where did you begin your journey from?
A. My journey began back in A’levels while I was studying in LGS Johar Town and I was tasked to organize a charity concert of the school, bringing arch rivals of the time EP & Noori on to the stage together for the first time. The concert was sold out and a huge success and that’s when I decided that this is something I would love to pursue professionally. It then led me to work with a popular event management company for two years while I was at LUMS, where I gained the required experience and developed a small network of clients and alliances. In November 2007, when I left the company, I decided that it was time to start my own baby and Verve Events was born
We really wanted to know what Imtisal was like, before he emerged onto the scene.
Q. What were you like, as a student? Were you always taking part in extra curriculars?
A. I was always an A grade student from a young age, exceling in all subjects. Dabbling in various extracurricular activities like debates and declamation, school theatre, even music (I play the keyboards and used to sing). LUMS was harder for me not only because I was running a company on the side but also because I was a pre-med student and shifting gears to a business mindset was hard but I pulled through
Q. What was that one moment of inspiration that put you on track?
A. I have had various real life role models in life over the years. And looking up to them, what they had achieved and their professional trajectory really motivated me. One of them has been HSY, who took me under his wings at the start of my career and since then has guided me in various directions in life
Having had a career like Imtisal’s, at such a young age, there would have to have been a lot of moments that make life seem worth it all, but we wanted to know about that one moment that outshone all the others!
Q. What’s been the highlight of your career, so far?
A. The absolute career milestone that Verve Events achieved was the closing ceremony of PSL in 2017 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. The event marked the return of cricket on home territory after over a decade and was a feather in the cap for Verve Events. We catered to 35000 people that day at the sell-out event at the stadium. Verve is also the head of committee the Special Olympics Pakistan ball in Islamabad and we organize annual charity fundraiser event for them in the capital city. In addition, Verve is known for its themed private parties, grand movie premieres and premium corporate events.
You’ve changed the entire scene of house and electronic music, in Pakistan, with the emergence of WIRED.
Q. Did you think it was a risk, when you started off?
A. Wired from its inception has always had a unique identity. The kind of music it boasts is a genre of house music called, Circuit House and is characterized by happy, familiar vocals, high energy drums and just a general dancey vibe. It was definitely risky to start a brand of underground electronic music that ‘dared’ to be so different from the mainstream sound in Pakistan. It attracted a strong negative reaction from a lot of the local DJs but also started building a cult like following of people who absolutely LOVE the sound of wired. In fact so much so that people often call it ‘Wired wala music’. The brand has a unique identity and a steadfast following now.
Q. How did the concept of WIRED come about?
A. I have always been into music from a young age. On my travels I always collect music and add it to my library. Around 2014 I got introduced to Circuit music by chance in London and brought some of it back with me and played it at house parties to my friends. That is where the whole concept of Wired started from. The house parties became bigger and bigger, until we had our first organized event in 2015. In 2017, after visiting Brazil, I brought the first international DJ to play at the event and the rest as they say is history.
Every time we think of WIRED, we think of it going international. Because that’s what it has done for us, brought international artists to the Pakistani audience. And we really want to see local artists collaborating with international ones and showcasing their talent on global platforms. We asked Imtisal about his plans of taking WIRED international.
Q. When is WIRED going international?
A. Before the pandemic hit, we had plans of organizing a new year eve event outside Pakistan as our first event. Now that the vaccine is out and events are opening up we aim to do our first international event this year
VERVE has progressively been one of the biggest Marketing and PR companies, working out of Pakistan, with both local and international clients.
Q. How did COVID change your plans for the expansion of your projects?
A. Covid really put a complete halt to the live entertainment and events industry around the world. Therefore, most of Verve’s events and activities were affected. PR is also a last expense that clients want to spend on, so that was also the first to go. Fortunately, the world is adapting to a Covid infested reality and adjusting activities accordingly.
With Pakistan Art Forum, we see a new hope for aspiring artists, from all over the country. PAF is the place to display your work, for an artist, and you haven’t let them down, one bit. You’ve provided artists, who need to be seen, a platform to showcase their talent and a voice.
Q. How did the idea surface?
A. Pakistan Art Forum sprang solely from my love of art. The aim was to unite all the artworld on one platform and develop an important resource for artists, galleriests, curators and art collectors.
With the whole world going digital, we really want to know whether PAF is planning on getting into NFTs.
Q. Are you planning on expanding into NFTs?
A. NFTs seem to be the next big thing and I need to properly study them. Open to expanding the horizons of PAF via NFTs as well
We have always believed that Pakistan has a huge huge reserve of talent, but also jst as much resistance to that talent. In a country like Pakistan, is it difficult to set up art-based platforms? What are the challenges that you faced, during the whole process?
Pakistan has a young but thriving art scene. There is some amazing work being produced all over the country and with increasing exposure more people are beginning to appreciate and collect art. One of the more challenging aspects of stepping foot into the art world is being an outsider. Since I didn’t go to art college or have any formal training, I am aware of the resistive attitudes in the art world. Slowly, however, that impression and attitude is changing towards the forum as it has proven to be a very useful platform for everyone around the country.
We also spoke to him about personal growth and how his life has been impacted by the crazy insane journey that he has had.
Q. In the last 10 years, how do you think you’ve changed as a person?
A. Ten years is a long time for any individual and I, too, have changed a lot. Professionally, I’ve made many strides and achieved several milestones locally and internationally. All of which, were goals for me on a personal level. I teach a course at my alma matter, LUMS, on event planning and public relations. That and my profession has taught me to be extremely patient. My ability to work under pressure and face difficult situations has improved a lot. I’ve taken many risks in the last ten years and that has taught me a lot. I’ve learnt to be grateful for what I have, appreciate and be happy for others’ achievements and always be open to learning and improving myself.
We weren’t gonna let him go without knowing where he is going and planning on going, in the coming future.
Q. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
A. In 5 years, I hope to be running a successful art gallery for Pakistan Art Forum and have an international music festival with Wired that hopefully would have done a handful of international events.
We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Imtisal and what Imtisal has in store for us!