Blurring boundaries through music

Published October 9, 2015
Artists perform at the Daniel Pearl World Music Day Concert on Thursday.—White Star
Artists perform at the Daniel Pearl World Music Day Concert on Thursday.—White Star

KARACHI: The breezy Thursday evening was an antidote to the gruelling weather the city had suffered over the past week, and to complement the soothing weather, a musical evening was held to commemorate the contributions of journalist and musician Daniel Pearl.

Held at the consul general’s old residence, the audience at the Daniel Pearl World Music Day was enthralled by both Pakistani and American musicians, who performed together to forward the cause of peace and harmony.

Lee Redfield, scholar and renowned saxophone player, has been part of the music scene in Karachi since he started a three-year university partnership between the University of Austin and the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa). He has been a regular at different musical collaborations throughout the city and is now a crowd favourite.

Joining Lee were several Napa students, who exhibited powerful vocals. The popular Pakistan band Raahi was also part of the line-up which includes the biggest names in the Pakistani music industry — drummer Louis J. Pinto, popularly known as Gumby, powerhouse vocalist Ahsan Bari, guitarist Omran Shafique and bassist Sameer Ahmed.

Of the many highlights of the evening was Lee’s cover of legendary jazz artist John Coltrane’s song Naima. Originally written for his wife, the piece was John’s ode to his undying love. Covered by dozens of musicians around the world, Lee’s rendition also assimilated the tabla and guitar.

Jazz was centre stage throughout Lee’s performances, and his emphasis was on the ability of jazz to transcend and transform the performer as well as the audience. According to him, many have referred to this musical journey as a means of achieving a higher state of being, and he tried his best to demonstrate this feeling through his many performances.

However, it was his rendition of the popular jazz composition Take Five by the American jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond that was truly exceptional. Popularly categorised under the genre of cool jazz, which is a more modern style that arose following the World War II, the relaxed tempo with the tabla in the backdrop made it a memorable performance.

Raahi’s much awaited entrance saw them perform several original songs, From Dil ka Raahi to Aasman ki Orr. The free-spirited lyrics propagated the necessity of following one’s dream, which is an apt message considering how the band came into being. An informal jam session ended up becoming a formal collaboration between some of the brightest musical talents in the country.

Raahi’s inception had music lovers in the country excited and their journey so far has not disappointed. Their performance had an interesting fusion element with Lee stepping in to play his saxophone in synch.

US consul general Brian Heath, who was the chief guest, paid homage to Pearl in a befitting way. “Daniel Pearl worked to promote cross-cultural understanding with simply a pen and a fiddle,” he said.

Mr Heath also acknowledged the great personal risks in the field of journalism, and paid tribute to journalists killed while on assignment in the field.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2015

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