East meets West

French cosmo-pop band Markus, qawwal Shahzad Santoo Khan perform at Alliance Francaise

Our Correspondent April 08, 2016
The concert saw an unusual yet pleasant blend of French pop and qawwali. PHOTO: EXPRESS


Friday night at Alliance Francaise in the city proved that fusion music is certainly not losing currency anytime soon. The institute put together a unique concert of French cosmo-pop band Markus and Lahore-based qawwal Shahzad Santoo Khan.

As part of their French course, nine students performed their pieces, sung or read in a slam, prior to the concert. The rehearsal just before the start of the evening seemed like a foretaste to the slam: unsteady and a bit off note. However, it may not be fair to blame the performing students as it was their first time on a stage in front of an audience.

There were a few more hiccups here and there to follow; for instance, the organiser’s commencement speech was interrupted by a total blackout. The first group recited a text about love in a timid manner, their voices accompanied by the subtle sound of the oud. Subsequent groups sang their lyrics with a musical background. Audience took opportunity of the long pauses in between to get up, walk around and chat, making the atmosphere rather uneasy.

After approximately 30 minutes, the main performance kicked off. Markus featured oud player Marc Cormier, drummer Régis Martel, Xavier Pourcher on keys and Guillaume Barré as the sound engineer. The first song was a beautiful synergy of all present components. Khan’s voice was on point and resonated perfectly with the environment. His gestures accentuated the power of his voice in a pleasant modality. The next song Tumba, a powerful number, conjured smiles, forcing a few kids to get on their feet and start dancing.

The qawwal exited the stage for the third and fourth songs as they were played only by the French band. These songs however, lacked a musical climax that the qawwali element would have added. Khan returned to perform the last couple of songs with the band, and the applause that these numbers met bore evidence to the fact that the songs were of the same outstanding quality as the ones played in the beginning.

While the fusion concert itself may have been entertaining, the environment was off-putting, to say the very least. For those who came for the sole purpose of witnessing the amalgamation of two unique genres, the constant noise and disturbance from the crowd was a source of nuisance. Performances that were supposed to be enjoyed in rapt attention and silence were disrupted by people strolling about and constantly chatting away. Half of the audience attending the event consisted of students performing their French texts.

Markus and Khan had connected through Facebook a couple of years back and decided to perform together. They performed their first concert in France last summer and the concert at Alliance was the first in Pakistan. Another one is expected to follow in the summer, once again in France.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th,  2016.

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