KARACHI: The All-Pakistan Music Conference’s bi-monthly Baithak was held on Saturday at the auditorium of Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, where a packed house listened to well-known playback singer Mehnaz Begum and veteran music composer and harmonium player Niaz Ahmad. Sultan Arshad conducted the proceedings.

Mehnaz started her performance with a ghazal by Ahmad Faraz, followed by one of her film songs, mera peyar tere jeewan ke sung, but received spontaneous applause from the audience when she sang the good old dadra and thumri numbers, such as, koelya mut kar pukar karejwa laage katar and humre aaye hain sanwaria.

It is, however, always baffling to see experienced and proficient singers choosing to present lighter and mundane items from their repertoire after sacrificing the more wholesome and rapturous classical and semi-classical numbers they’ve learnt from their Ustads and perfected after such hard work. There was, therefore, no point in Mehnaz presenting songs of other famous artists, such sas Noor Jehan’s chandni raaten and Iqbal Bano’s dasht-e-tanhai mein, when she has been bequeathed a treasure of semi-classical bandish by her mother, Kajjan Begum.

Besides, most of our artists perhaps do not realize that they, in fact, undo their good performance when they mistakenly find it incumbent upon themselves to sing the fast-tempo damadum must Qalandar at the end of their allotted time. The atmosphere created earlier at once evaporates.

Niaz Ahmad, winner of the Pride of Performance award, as well as 27 other awards from TV etc., is by far the best harmonium player in the country. Two other names that come to mind are Ustad Habibuddin Khan and Sadiq Pindiwalay — both no more with us. Niaz’s presentation of raag Aiman on the harmonium was mesmerizing. And what better accompaniment on the table could be possible than by the one and only Ustad Bashir Khan whose popularity is gaining momentum by the day. The raag was presented in ektala (12 beats) and teentaal (16 beats).

Niaz later sang some ghazals composed by him for Mehdi Hasan and other artists.

— S. M. Shahid

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