Abaji playing a tune on the bouzouki on World Music Day at the Alliance Francaise Karachi.–Photo by White Star

KARACHI: It was dubbed French Music Day (Fete de la musique) as part of World Music Day celebrations, but the kind of rhythms and melodies that music lovers got to hear at the Alliance Francaise on Wednesday was delightfully eclectic.

Ranging from the local variety of classical and semi-classical form to the rather spiritually uplifting mélange of sounds created by that gifted French-Lebanese artist Abaji, the concert had it all.

The multi-talented Abaji mesmerised music lovers, who had come in a big number much to the surprise of the organisers, with his remarkable first performance by playing a beautiful tune on the duduk (an Armenian woodwind instrument) and creating the beat with his feet that had anklets on them. He began playing the instrument in a Buddha-like posture and then changed the tempo with his loud vocals that oscillated between shrilly and baritone sounds.

Before introducing the second instrument, the bouzouki, he told the audience that he was born in Beirut and though his parents were born in Turkey, they were not Turkish. He said he had 400 instruments in his Paris home and all of them were his friends. Then he informed the music buffs that the bouzouki was a Greek string instrument and rendered a beautiful composition titled Anatolia, playing the bouzouki with great ambidexterity, strumming it hard when it required. He also whistled along some notes of the tune. Next up was the number called Black Sea Blues, which was a bit different in sound but had tremendous vitality to it.

After that Abaji played a small, strange-looking Turkish violin. He again impressed everyone with the way he immersed himself in the song, making the audience realise the power of music. This was followed by an instrument that he claimed he had invented. He said it was the missing link between the guitar and the Oriental lute. The track he played had Arabic lyrics and spoke volumes for the artist’s true cosmopolitanism.

Abaji also performed a French translation of a poem by Urdu poet Parveen Shakir and said it was given to him by a gentleman who he had met only in the afternoon. Finally, Abaji invited tabla nawaz Ustad Bashir Khan and banjo player Mumtaz Sabzal on stage to accompany him for one improvised act. The result was brilliant as even Abaji couldn’t control himself and danced to the gentle beat of the track.

Earlier, the event kicked off in a hall with decent performances by pianist Ali Raza Jaffery and sarangi nawaz Gul Mohammad, and then by the Karachi Vocal Ensemble.

The second part of the concert was held on the lawn of the Alliance Francaise. The Tahzeeb Trio, comprising Karam Abbas (vocalist), Mumtaz Ali Sabzal (banjo) and Ustad Bashir Khan (tabla), presented a variety of items, starting off with a thumri, following it up with a bandish in raga darbari, Amir Khusrau’s famous Chhap tilak and rounding their stint off with the Faiz Ahmed Faiz ghazal ‘Gulon mein rung bhare’ made famous by the legendary Mehdi Hassan. While the thumri and the folk number proved that Karam Abbas was a much improved singer (and should be thoroughly encouraged), whoever gave him the go-ahead for singing ‘Gulon mein rung bhare’ didn’t do justice either to the audience or to its original version. The vocalist totally missed the nuanced rendition of the ghazal and stressed and paused at the wrong places.

The final act of the evening on the list was that of the Egyptian singer Abozekry with the HeeJaz Quartet.

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