Sugoi Waka Raag

The auditory art form of the Indian classical music and the visual art form of the Japanese floral arrangement Ikebana were presented in a unaifying experience at the National Academy of Performing Arts.

By Mirza Mohammad Nayyar | July 2023

Consul General of Japan, Toshio Odagiri and his wife (extreme right)

I had first heard the term Waka from Shakira – the pop diva who took the world by storm with her smash hit FIFA World Cup 2010 theme song ‘Waka Waka’. Uttered twice in quick succession, Waka Waka means “Do it” in Swahili language. The venue was South Africa.

More than a decade later, Waka resounded and this time it was articulated only once. It came from the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) which was shouting it out in anticipation of an event that they were planning in collaboration with the Japanese Consulate, Karachi.

As it turned out, Waka is a genre of poetry in Japanese language. It literally means “Japanese Poetry” even though its origin is linked to Chinese literature. Based on the understanding that I developed after attending the session, Waka can be cautiously defined as a five-line poem like a Mukhammas in Urdu or a cinquain or a limerick in English. But unlike a limerick, Waka is a no-nonsense, serious expression. The structure of Waka is commonly known as 5-7-5-7-7. The numbers reflect characters in each line and must add up to 31 to complete the poem. More often than not Waka reflects a romantic venting.

Asifa Atakas’ Creation

So, what has NAPA got to do with it? The institution imparts education in performing arts, primarily in Music and Theatre. It transpired that a set of nine Waka poems which were translated by Shahzad Niaz were to be composed in different raags. NAPA was invited to produce the compositions, called Bandishes in the parlance of classical music. NAPA accepted the challenge and assigned the task to its Music Advisor, S. M. Shahid who produced nine compositions, each in a different raag. Hence, they named the event Waka Raag. The Urdu translations of Waka poems were individually sung by NAPA students namely Sarfraz, Jahangir, Parmesh and the six-year-old, Class I student of St. Joseph’s School, Eden Samuel, trained by S. M. Shahid.

The other attraction was the Ikebana demonstration – the Japanese art of arranging flowers. The presentation was made by none other than Asifa Ataka, Ikebana florist who laid out nine stunning bouquets. The ease and speed with which Asifa arranged the flowers was enthralling.

NAPA students Parmesh, Jahangir and Sarfraz are performing on the occasion

The duality of the event, however, (Ikebana flower arrangement in progress at the center stage and Waka Raags being sung by the students simultaneously) was asking for too much attention from the audience. It caused distraction for the singers and musicians.

Shahzad Niaz’s extra ordinary translation of the Wakas spoke of his command over both the languages.

Toshio Odagiri, the Consul General of Japan, honored NAPA with his presence. He expressed his appreciation to NAPA for organizing Waka Raag. The event was also graced by the President PJCA, Sadia Rashid, Javed Jabbar – Director NAPA, Junaid Zuberi – CEO NAPA and a host of staff from the Japanese Consulate led by Ataka.

PS: Sugoi means Amazing in Japanese language.