KARACHI: Almost all performing arts are collaborative in nature. Music is no different. But nothing can be more enjoyable and soul-stirring than the coming together of musical cultures from ostensibly different backgrounds. It happened on Saturday evening at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi when the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) organised a concert titled Teen. The title was in reference to the number 3, because the show featured three outstanding instrumentalists: sitar player Turab Ali, flutist Ustad Akmal Qadri and French-Tunisian oud player Abderraouf Ouertani — interestingly, there was also a fourth artist, the super talented tabla player, Waqas Gulab.
But let’s begin this piece with the introduction to the oud, which is a trifle foreign to the local ear. For the uninitiated, the oud is a string instrument of Middle Eastern origin. Since it doesn’t have frets, the musician can experiment with the scales with abandon. And that’s pretty much what Ouertani did the other night.
A sitar player, flutist and oud player perform at a concert organised by APMC
The gig, however, kicked off with a brilliant jugulbandi in raga des between Ustad Akmal Qadri and Turab Ali, accompanied by Waqas. Despite the fact that the raga has a sad tinge to it, the way the two performers presented its shakl to the audience and the way they upped the tempo of the composition topping it off with swift finishing notes was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. No wonder the piece was received with a resounding applause.
Then came Ouertani on stage. He began with a nice little tune that sounded like a track inspired by life in a desert. It familiarised music lovers with the oud. For the next item, he invited Waqas on stage and magic happened. With the young tabla nawaz he played a few compositions that ranged from haunting to dreamy to groovy. Special mention must be made of the track which Ouertani said was about the concept of time. The beat cycle used in it was distinct — the type that music lovers in our part of the world don’t readily associate with the tabla. It was fun to listen to. The Tunisian artist appeared totally in sync with his Pakistani fellow musicians, which further became evident when, first, Ustad Akmal Qadri joined him for a piece followed by Turab Ali.
Earlier, Ayla Raza welcomed the guests and introduced the artists to the attendees. One of the many good things about the APMC is that it begins its shows on time.
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2022