To start the weekend listening to world music can be a refreshing and therapeutic experience. Perhaps this is why a concert by an ensemble of musicians from diverse cultures hit a chord at Kuch Khaas on Friday evening.
For the second year in a row, Sneaky Pete, bass player and songwriter from the Australian eight-piece band PlanB performed at the venue. Once again, he has collaborated with Pakistan expressionist, vocalist and rapper Waleed, the tabla and harmonium-playing duo Shairi and Yawar Bakshi, and Muchi Habibi. They were joined by the Macedonian vocalist Anna Simonovska as part of the “Khaas Collaboration.”
The band combines traditional Pakistani instruments and language with songs from PlanB’s recently-released album “Too Late The Hero” to create a fusion of sorts. Influenced by both modern and traditional elements of style, the melodies lend an auditory pleasure, which is melancholic or soulful one moment, and pulsating with contagious energy the next.
Punctuating the rhythms with his snippets of Punjabi, Urdu and English rap, Waleed picked up the momentum of the slow-moving pieces. However, he did not overpower the rest of the musicians at any point, breaking the abrasive stereotype that is associated with the genre. He kept on improvising the lyrics to uplift the rhythm.
Simonovska and Pete surprised the audience with their fluent Urdu vocals in some of the renditions, garnering applause from the audience. Simonovska’s effortless yet versatile vocals added depth to the music.
With his subtle humour, the animated Pete kept the audience entertained, beckoning them to break into a dance at the front of the stage. During more reflective moments, he recalled being inspired in solitude in a hotel room in Dubai and writing songs such as “Falling in love for the first time” and “She don’t do crazy.” Other songs on the playlist comprised “Call me,” “Mere loge,” “Give me the mist but don’t give me the rain,” “False Impression” an all-encompassing medley “Meri Jaan” followed by the final piece “Jugni” which had the audience clapping and swaying to the beat.
The Bakshi brothers, who are carrying forth the legacy of their father and acclaimed tabla player Muhammad Ajmal, were in sync, infusing a traditional feel to the performances. The Coffee Beans duo Iman Shahid and Saif Ali opened the show with some acoustic renditions.
Amir, an audience member, commended the musicality for its rare feel and pleasing rhythm. “It is good to explore such genres once in a while,” he said at the end of the concert.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2014.