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Soundcheck: A day for music

June 30, 2012

The Alliance Francaise came alive with the sound of Eastern and Western music beats on World Music Day last week as the cool breeze added to the evening in which classical and folk music, jugalbandi and fusion was presented by local and French performers.

World Music Day originated in France and through the years it has spread to more than 110 countries which celebrate it every year with amateurs and professionals presenting their music together.

The evening began with the performance of the Karachi Vocal Ensemble, a young group who sang English vintage songs from the ’50s to the ’80s, accompanied by pianist Aisha Tariq who is a graduate from the Tashkent Conservatoire.

The Tehzeeb Trio introduced by Malahat Awan featured classical performer Karam Abbas, vocalist Mumtaz Sabzal on the banjo and Ustad Bashir Khan on tabla.

Karam Abbas who belongs to the Gawalior Gharana, sang classical songs in Raag Rageshri and Darbari along with folk songs that featured Amir Khusrau’s kalam and Mehdi Hassan’s Duniya Kisi Ke Pyar Mein.

“In the 30 minutes I had, I had to sing five songs. I could have done much better if I had more time. But the response from the audience remained positive and I thank the Tehzeeb Foundation for giving artists like me the opportunity to perform at such venues. They are doing a lot for classical music,” he said.

Karam Abbas is currently taking out his album which features duets with Mehnaz. “My debut album was Fiza-i-Ghazal followed by another titled Mehfil-i-Ghazal. My new album has fusion music, rock and Sufi sounds. I will be releasing a music video on Youtube very soon as well,” he said while speaking to Images on Sunday.

The performance of Mumtaz Sabzal who plays the banjo which has been modified from the Japanese instrument taishogoto by his forefathers, was impressive and the jugalbandi between Ustad Bashir on tabla and Sabzal’s banjo delighted the crowd, young and old, with their expert playing. Ustad Bashir Khan, a maestro tabla player belonging to the Punjab Gharana, and who has also received the Pride of Performance award, performs regularly outside Pakistan collaborating in fusion music with foreign musicians.

The evening’s star performer was Abaji, a multi-talented musician and an accomplished vocalist and instrumentalist who uses his native as well as other instruments with equal proficiency. He began the performance with an Armenian instrument similar to a flute known as duduk which emanated soft, beautiful notes accompanied by beats from anklets tied to his lower leg. He mesmerised the crowd with his range and control of voice while singing in his unusual high and low pitched style, explaining in between that the music was soft like the Armenian people. Having introduced himself in a dramatic style he asked Ustad Bashir Khan and Mumtaz Sabzal for a fusion session and was so moved by it that he started dancing to the improvised music.

Taking out another instrument called bouzuki he said he had 400 instruments which he called his family. He dedicated the song to his Armenian father who belonged to a minority group of musicians who roam from place to place performing concerts. The music had a Spanish touch to it with the lyrics in Arabic. His next song was on a Turkish violin, and an oudh similar to a guitar, which he explained was the link between the guitar and a lute.

The interesting side to the performance was when Abaji announced that he would present Parveen Shakir’s poem translated in French for him specially, which he played on the banjo and sang with feeling. His shrill notes did appear a bit heavy on the ears sometimes so lost and moved was he by his music, but nevertheless one couldn’t help acknowledging the range of his voice.

Last but not least was a performance by the French group Abozekry and Heejaz Quartet. Mohammad Abozekry on the oud, Hogan on the guitar and Anne-Laure on percussions which included the daf and tabla. She played all the percussion instruments remarkably well as if she was born to them, specially the tabla. The performance of the group was a mixture of Arab, Spanish and African music consisting of soft, fast or haunting melodies. The song Colours especially featured beautiful and soulful music. There was complete harmony and synchronisation of the instruments and the fusion between the musicians was perfect. It was an evening well spent for the large crowd that stayed till the end.