A fascinating mix of genres on French Music Day
Karachi: It was a happy, nostalgic reminder of the decades gone by. It was just like being catapulted back in time with hits from the 50s all the way up to the 80s. The group of highly promising youngsters, the Karachi Vocal Ensemble, opened the World Music Day Programme at the Alliance Francais, with the most sentimental of hits. They presented ten of them all, excellently rendered. However, some of them stood out among the rest.
One of these was, “Something stupid”, dating to the late 50s, a Frank Sinatra-Nancy Sinatra duet. It must have brought back so many sweet memories and flashbacks among those of us old enough to remember the decade. The number was meticulously rendered with perfect tonal harmony among the members of the ensemble. Aisha Tariq, the pianist, did a meticulous job and her deft finger work, further enlivened the ensemble’s presentation. Tariq is a graduate of the Tashkent Conservatoire.
Then there was the theme song from the mid-70s Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. The number was ,”Raindrops keep falling on my head”.
There was the vivacious, toe-tapping Hello Dolly, rendered by Momin Zafar, Jonah David, Michael Menezes, and Nadeem Sheikh.
And then—something a wee bit more recent but something that carried an air of nostalgia, of the era when music was really music. This was Chiquitita, the hit by the Swedish quartet, Abba, which took the world by storm in 1980.
Well Done, Karachi Vocal Ensemble. You really deserve a real hearty pat on the back!
Next was the Tehzib Trio with Mumtaz Ali Sabzal on the Banjo, Ustad Bashir Khan on the Tabla, and Karam Abbas Khan as the vocalist. Both the instrumentalists displayed total mastery over their instruments to further enrich vocalist Karam Abbas’s deft rendition of Raag Darbari (Nain Se Nain Mila Le). Apart from other classical pieces, they also presented two of the late Mehdi Hassan’s Ghazals, “Duniya Kitni Piyari Hai”, and “Gullon Mein Rang Bhare”. They aroused all the more sentiment among the audience given the recent demise of the King of Ghazal.
Then, perhaps came the most interesting part of the programme. It was a performance by the French vocalist Abaji. Even though it was music, it was genre so very diverse from music as it is known in the conventional sense. It was a genre that was so very rare. The musician of Greek, Armenian, and Turkish descent displayed an array of musical instruments some of which he said, he had devised. His vocalism was so very different from what we know it to be .The melody he rendered could well be considered the call of the wild, something that would evoke memories of the Tarzan movies of the mid-20th century and the sounds Tarzan had mastered to cater to various situations. No doubt his range was really vast and he transited from the highest note to the most base one with perfect ease. At some junctures one would have thought that he was trying to mimic or attract some animal, to the beat of the peculiar musical instrument, of course. He presented a number to the strumming on the Buzooki, a Greek instrument, a totally Mediterranean beat. Another instrument he displayed was the Rudkon, an Armenian instrument which sounded so much like what would be a snake charmer’s “been” in our part of the world. This formed the accompaniment to his vocal rendition which saw him dance, being simply entranced by his melody. He presented a number which, he said, was actually a verse of the late Parveen Shakir’s.
Considering that the programme was held to mark the world music day, there were no classics, despite the fact that Karachi is teeming with young concert pianists, even if it were not possible to get any from overseas. There were no American, European, or Pakistani folk music ensembles.
Later, Abaji presented a piece on the bamboo clarinet, accompanied by Ustad Bashir Khan on the Tablas, which, for a change could easily be recognized as music, as compared with Abaji’s solo renditions. The programme was still going on while this piece was going to the Press.