Concert: The Journey Continues…
Musicians: Fazal Qureshi, Rahul Sharma, Andres Hagberg, Ahmad Al-Khatib, Sabir Khan, Sanjay Divecha, Sridhar Parthasarathy, Varun Sunil
Date and venue: May 13, St Andrew’s Auditorium
AROUND 7.35 pm on Wednesday evening, the melodic notes of Rahul Sharma’s santoor mingled with the sounds of Ahmad Al-Khatib’s elegant Middle Eastern string instrument oud. The alaap, jod and jhala portions of raag Basantmukhari met the equivalent scale of the Arabic musical system. Over the next three hours, one heard different combinations in which eight musicians fused Indian classical, Arabian music and European folk-jazz.
The occasion was the concert ‘The Journey Continues’, held at Bandra’s St Andrew’s Auditorium to mark the 96th birth anniversary of tabla legend Ustad Allarakha, which actually took place a fortnight ago on April 29. After shows in New Delhi and Pune, the last leg in Mumbai also featured tabla exponent Fazal Qureshi, Swedish flautist-saxophonist Andres Hagberg, sarangi player Sabir Khan, guitarist Sanjay Divecha, mridangam player Sridhar Parthasarathy and percussionist Varun Sunil.
The mix of musical styles went well with the concert’s theme of ‘Connecting 3 Worlds’. The evening began with the recitation of spoken percussion syllables by students of the Ustad Allarakha Institute of Music. The host Darshan Jariwalla then introduced the evening’s concert, after which Rahul Sharma and Ahmad Al-Khatib got together.
The latter temporarily left the stage after raag Basantmukhari, and Rahul continued with raag Charukeshi, played in two compositions set to rupak and teen taal. Here, Fazal played wonderful portions, and he remained in great form for the rest of the show, showing mastery in both the traditional and experimental styles.
Rahul’s performance was followed by the appearance of Andres, who began by introducing two rare flutes – a contemporary silver flute coated with platinum, and an old-style plastic flute without fingerholes on the main surface. His command on the flute, and on the soprano saxophone in the latter half, was simply amazing.
Post-intermission, Fazal, Ahmad and Andres were joined by Sabir Khan and Varun Sunil, with Sanjay Divecha and Sridhar Parthasarathy coming towards the end. A Sufiana piece fronted by Sabir on vocals was followed by Ahmad’s composition ‘The dance of Salma’, an effervescent tune he had written for his young daughter. Sabir again showed his vocal prowess on ‘Panihaari’, based on a Rajasthani folk tune. The tune had some smooth sarangi and soprano saxophone passages.
One of the evening’s highlights was Ahmad’s composition ‘Two rivers’, which had a marvelous lilt. Andres’s Swedish folk lullaby took the audience into another world, and ‘Creation’ meandered effortlessly, with Varun Sunil excelling on the percussion instrument cajon, and having an interactive session with the crowd. The final piece was an untitled jazz fusion piece composed by Rahul. Sadly, because of time limitations, the piece – and the show – ended rather abruptly.
The evening, presented by LIC and co-sponsored by Dena Bank, had many highs in terms of musical quality and innovative compositions. However, one wished Sanjay Divecha and Sridhar had been given a few more pieces, with the former appearing on only two. In that sense, the time could have been managed better, with maybe a shorter speech by the compere.
That flaw apart, the show was well-received, with Fazal putting it succinctly by announcing towards the end: “We’re running out of time, but thankfully not running out of audience.” The fact that most people stayed till the end gave an indication of how much they were enjoying.