Mellifluous confluence of poetry and music
KARACHI: What do the names of Hafiz, Rumi, Faiz and Farough Farrokhzad bring to mind? Pure, unadulterated poetry. Imagine their poems being set to music by four musicians of exceptional talent — musicians who are known to play jazz at that. Isn’t it beautifully unique! It happened on Thursday evening at the Arts Council when the German quartet Cyminology entertained an enthusiastic audience that had packed the council’s auditorium like musically-inclined sardines.
The band has the following members: Cymin Samawatie (vocals), Benedikt Jahnel (piano), Ralph Schwarz (double bass) and Ketan Bhatti (drums). As the names of the individuals suggest, they come from varied cultural backgrounds, which enriches their creativity no end. This was evident from the very first piece which was a composition of the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz’s poem. It wasn’t the fact that the language that Cymin was singing in was somewhat familiar that made the audience instantly take note of the track, but the remarkable musicianship, beginning with the brilliant sound of the drums that commensurate with the mood of the philosophical drift of the lyrics, that brought music lovers to the edge of their seats. It didn’t take long for the piano, bass and then the voice of Cymin (who is of Iranian descent) to join in with the kind of harmony that only creative soulmates can have.
Familiar territory in terms of poetry was entered in the second act when the band played some famous lines from Rumi’s Masnavi: ‘Beshno az ney chon hikayat mi kunad’ (Listen to the grievance of the reed). The music did full justice to the grief-stricken atmosphere that the lines were suffused with, especially Jahnel’s piano, which at one point, when the artist was going through a bit of a solo performance, sounded like the wailing of the reed. No less impressive was Cymin who sang the piece with vocal control, not experimenting too much with the high notes.
Then came the pleasant surprise, so to speak (although the audience had been informed about it prior to the gig). The band played Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Aaj ki raat’ in its distinct style. One doesn’t know how the purists would react to the jazzy, for want of a better word, version of the poem, but Cymin’s effort proved the long-held belief: great art is timeless and can be adapted to any artistic genre.
After that the singer introduced the Iranian poetess Farough Farrokhzad to the audience (there were few in the hall who already knew about her). She said that the poem that the quartet had chosen to do on Thursday was about Farough’s son who was taken away from her because of her divorce from her husband. It was a heart-wrenching composition rendered with the kind of empathy that was required on the musicians’ part.
Earlier, director Goethe Institut Stefan Winkler welcomed the guests, and told them that the band, before their Karachi concert, had performed in Lahore and Islamabad.