At the Rafi Peer Theatre, a jovial crowd of jazz and classical music fans were given the opportunity to see the cultural and music collaboration called Fusion in the Evening. Hosted by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad, it was part of a five day tour across Pakistan to encourage cultural exchanges.
Artists from Norway with specialties in classical jazz and Indian music arrived in Islamabad as part of an initiative to encourage a fusion of East and West, to further strengthen and promote musical tradition from different regions of the world.
Renowned saxophonist Trygve Seim and bass clarinettist Havard Lund from Norway were given the difficult task of collaborating between different musical styles in a harmonious fashion, while the Indian brother-sister duo consisting of Rohini Sahajapal on the sitar and Jai Shankar on tabla helped add an Indian touch to the musical set.
From Pakistan, legendary flutist Ajmal Qadri played scintillating riffs and Chaand and Suraj Khan, sons of the legendary classical vocalist Hussain Buksh Gallo, showed versatile vocal talents.
The difficulties in creating a coordinated musical effort were evident as the Norwegian musicians had met and practised with their Pakistani counterparts for only a couple of days before conducting their first performance on Wednesday at the Lok Virsa in Islamabad. Despite this, the show proved to be interesting as the audience was seen enjoying the rare sight of a live performance.
“Initiatives such as these help culture and arts grow,” said host Anjum Rahman. “It’s so unique that these artists had met earlier in the week and now they will be providing such a complicated expression of fusion in the night.”
Rahman said that this would help bridge the differences between East and West and provide exciting prospects for the two cultures to meet.
The evening slowly gained energy as the group performed a famous lullaby from Rahm, Norway, while transitioning into a raag. The music sounded almost surreal as the musicians started with a sort of delicate exhale through classical jazz solo’s, only for the audience to suddenly be surprised by the overpowering flute which was complemented by a finely tuned saxophone. Then the slow introduction of the tabla and sitar were followed by vocals of the raag, at which point the fusion was complete, the sound reminiscent of some eerie anthem that may play as someone walks down the gallows.
This was followed by the Arabic song “Una Ma Salah” and the other classic ghazal renditions of Nazir Kazmi.
Lund said that Pakistan was a lot different from. He said that the most interesting part about the performances was the inherent receptiveness of Pakistan audiences and the overall “niceness” of Pakistanis. He added that the food was good also.
One listener, Saba Khan said that the initiative had provided a great experience for music lovers. She said that it was difficult for artists to adapt and perform a variety of music due to the natural technical differences.
“I loved the sound it had, a sort of a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan feel to it, the kind that makes you want to think about things,” said Khan. “It makes you wonder about possibilities if you work together and collaborate.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.
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