ISLAMABAD: Austrian Ambassador Andrea Wicke and Venzislav Wicke-Dermendjiev hosted a delightful evening of Austrian jazz at their home on Monday.
A Viennese ensemble comprising Daniel Schober and Esad Halilovic, who were in Pakistan to participate in the second International Jazz Festival, performed along with Pakistani musicians.
Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Wicke said: “I welcome you all to this evening which we owe to the wonderful jazz festivals that are happening in Pakistan every year and which have provided many of our countries the opportunity to bring our musicians to this country and relate in the most easiest way that people can – music. Musicians always understand each other, they celebrate together and they can enjoy each other. Today we have some Austrian musicians and some Pakistani musicians supporting them initially and then we will have a spontaneous improvisation.”
Alena Baich introduced the artists and the programme, saying, “I live in Vienna and I have only spent a few days in Pakistan; in Lahore first where we had the fantastic second edition of the Jazz Festival at the Lahore Jazz Club. What I appreciated a lot was that it was not just a festival where musicians from abroad would present but they would meld together with fantastic local musicians and play together.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity to present not a whole jazz festival but to invite some of the Austrian and Pakistani musicians. The ensemble consists of Esad Halilovic, who is a jazz musician, a drummer and a composer, and happens to be my husband, and Daniel Schober, who plays the double bass, a fantastic Austrian musician who has done many projects,” she said, adding that they would be joined by Zeejah Fazlee, the director of FACE and a master guitar player.
“They will be joined by two amazing Pakistani instrumentalists, Kamran Rahi, who plays the tabla, and Sannan Mahboob, who plays the rubab,” Ms Baich said.
The performance began with the ensemble and Zeejah Fazlee, followed by brilliant improvisation by the Austrians, Kamran and Sannan. The ensemble aims to revive the jazz music of yesteryear melded beautifully with the mellifluous tones of the rubab with the tabla creating a wonderful counterpoint to the drums.
As Kamran Rahi re-tuned his tabla for a different key, Ambassador Wicke explained, “The tabla has a certain tune, a certain sound, a tonality that has to be adjusted and this is an art in itself. I wanted to explain this especially to the Westerners who underestimate this instrument. I know this because my sons learnt this instrument while we were in Malaysia and I was amazed at how complicated it is.”
Yasser Noman said: “Pakistani Rubab player Sannan Mahboob is a student of renowned Afghan Rubab player Humayun Sakhi. Kamran Rahi is a student of Ustad Taari Khan.”
As a surprise treat, Arieb Azhar joined Esad Halilovic, Daniel Schober, Kamran Rahi and Sannan Mahboob to do a final closing piece.
Speaking at the event, Arieb Azhar said: “This is one of the most popular songs in Pakistan – a folk song, most folk concerts finish with this song. It is in praise of the Sufi saint Shahbaz Qalandar.”
Many Pakistanis in the audience joined in to sing the verses, while the diverse audience thoroughly enjoyed the garden concert, weather and buffet that followed.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2023