Nomads and the bazm

April 28, 2014

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Alexandre Deschamps, Samuel Galliene and Guillauine Barre of the French Studio Nomade gypsy group perform at the Alliance Francaise Karachi on Saturday evening.—White Star
Alexandre Deschamps, Samuel Galliene and Guillauine Barre of the French Studio Nomade gypsy group perform at the Alliance Francaise Karachi on Saturday evening.—White Star

How often does one hear that music transcends linguistic and cultural boundaries? It was practically witnessed on Saturday evening at the Alliance Francaise Karachi when a French gypsy jazz group Studio Nomade and a band of young musicians from Gilgit, Hunza and Chitral called Bazm-i-Liqa presented two diametrically opposed types of music but both impressed music lovers in their distinct, unique ways.

Studio Nomade were the first one to perform. Alexandre Deschamps (vocals, guitar), Samuel Galliene (guitar) and Guillauine Barre (percussions) engaged the audience from the get-go. They commenced the gig with a couple of French numbers, which were very well received. Then they changed gears and sang two English tracks. The first one was Sting’s famous song ‘Englishman in New York’ and the second Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Love’. Deschamps did absolute justice to the vocal range of Sting’s celebrated number, and in fact added a bit of his own touch to it. He did not stretch the notes, as is the case with the original version, and at the same never moved away from the basic melody of the track. The attempt at the Isaak song wasn’t bad either.

Studio Nomade followed that up with six or seven French songs, of which ‘Zig-Zag’ stood out, and ended their stint by achieving an extraordinary feat. All the three musicians held onto just one instrument, Deschamps’ guitar, and played it or on it. There were twenty fingers strumming the guitar, playing the rhythm as well as the riffs, while the percussionist struck the body of the guitar with his brushes to create the beat. The result was pretty interesting. Yes, there were a few instances when the guitarists’ missed a note or two; still, it was no small achievement.

The concert was elevated to a different domain when Bazm-i-Liqa made their appearance on stage. The first three performances by Nasreen,

Farzand and Nazia set the tone for the devotional music, with lyrics by Allama Naseer Hunzai, which was to come. Then almost all the members of the bazm came on stage, led by the very talented vocalist Mehrangez Mir and the rubab player and vocalist Ambreen. They began with an Urdu kalam by

Allama Naseer ‘Dil mein jab main ne sanam ko dekha’ and performed it with utmost devotion. The next piece was in the Burushaski language, but the audience had no problem in identifying with its spiritual content. Both girls, Mehrangez and Ambreen have great voices and the latter plays the rubab quite beautifully.

In one of the final songs which had a happy feel to it, some men from the same region the band belongs to started dancing to the composition. It added more colour to the bazm’s heartfelt performance.