Rocking for a good cause
Mekaal Hassan Band's inexperienced frontman Asad Abbas fails to impress at a Sufi Night charity concert in Islamabad.
“Pakistan kay mayanaaz moseekar Mekaal Hasan Band ab apnay fun ka muzahira karaingay, please zordaar talion say in ka istakbaal karain"
This was the opening line to the Sufi Night organized by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in association with Pakistan National Council of Arts held at the PNCA auditorium on September 28, 2010. It was an invite only event which was held to raise funds for the flood victims.
After the khabarnama style welcome by the host, Mekaal Hasan got on the stage and explained that the performance would be unplugged and people familiar with the set list would recognize the songs and those who were seeing them play live for the first time would not (although every seat had a booklet with the names of the songs the band was going to play and their English translations too). He also announced that Haniya Aslam of Zeb And Haniya fame would be playing percussions with them along with a changed lineup.
The stage was pretty bland with flowers all around the boundary but I guess when the ministry gets involved, things start getting flowery so I wasn’t surprised.
Flutist Ahsan Pappu started the concert playing a sweet melody paired with Mekaal Hasan playing an arpeggio chord progression. They were later joined by vocalist Asad Abbas for the song 'Charkha' which is actually a composition of the late Tufail Niazi.
The musical side of things went well. The chemistry between Mekaal Hasan and the second guitar player Amir Azhar was visible with the mastodon that is Ahsan pappu on the flute. Alan Simon from Taal Karisma played percussion.
However, vocally the performance lacked that certain oomph former vocalist Javed Bashir used to bring. As an avid Mekaal Hasan Band fan who listened to their second album Saptak over and over again, I felt there was definitely something missing when they played the same songs.
The unplugged arrangement was magnificent and kudos to the band for gelling so well together but I guess the inexperienced Asad Abbas (Mekaal Hasan pointed out that he was only 19) who, even though he won the Sangeet Icon award, couldn’t really re-create the brilliance that Javed Bashir put out in the album.
Even a member of the audience like Asad Mahmood who is a fourth year MBBS student and an avid guitar player himself felt that the performance continued to go on a one dimensional plane vocally. Mahmood admitted he could feel the absence of Javed Bashir.
Having said that, the vocal talent that Asad Abbas possesses deserves no less praise because to work with seasoned musicians like Mekaal Hasan and Ahsan Pappu and re-doing the genius of Javed Bashir at his age is no mean task. Many would falter just attempting to try.
The band played 'Andholan' with a brilliant guitar solo by Amir Azhar annd a rather trippy version of their hit 'Sanwal'. Thet set list also included 'Ranjha', 'Albela', and 'Jhok Ranjhan'.
The highlight of the show was when Mekaal Hasan ended the show with a song called 'Ya Ali' after which the mayanaaz Urdu host came on stage again and blatantly announced:
“Inho nay apna set complete kar lia ab yeh aap ke farmaishain poori karaingay."
Mekaal Hasan looked like he was contemplating killing the guy. The audience proceeded to get a little rowdy while making requests for Aadat a popular song by another musician. Post-weird song suggestion period, the band played a song from their first album called Sampooran titled 'Rabba'.
During the show, the mayanaaz Urdu host came on stage and requested that the audience donate as much as they could for flood victims. After he made the announcement a guy with a box accompanied by a girl without a box moved from row to row collecting donations. People wanted to give donations but if you ask me, putting the box at the entrance where people could just put in money would have been a better idea rather than shoving the box into the faces of people who wanted to watch the show.