KARACHI : Good music is something unparalleled. When, amidst the endless lists of noises we consider music, there is something magical when you find something that really touches you. Having just finished watching Mozart in the Jungle, one thing that I now know how to describe is when I see a musician perform with all his heart and soul.
In the comedy series, the New York Symphony maestro Rodrigo De Souza is on the constant hunt for a musician ‘who plays with blood’. And I could listen to the metaphorical ‘blood’ in Ustad Nafees Ahmed’s sitar. The head of the music department at Napa was one of the performers at the contemporary music night on March 29 as part of the ongoing International Theatre and Music Festival.
Ahmed, along with tabla player Ustad Bashir Khan, guitarists Sohaib Lari and Arsalan Pervaiz, drummer Joshua Fernandes and Fuzon band member Imran Momina (aka Emu), make up the band South Karachi. Performing a fusion of eastern and western music at the festival, the band mesmerised the audience with melodious notes of sitar and piano as well as the soulful rhythm of Khan’s tabla.
The show began with a Sindhi Kafi by Khan and Ahmed, setting the mood for the next near two-hours of performances. After the two warmed up the audience, the band paid a tribute to another legendary tabla player Ustad Ghulam Abbas Khan. The projection behind the performers played a collection of photographs of the great Ustad. One word that stuck with me long after the performance was over was the French word ‘Sillage’ meaning the fragrance that lingers in the air. It beautifully summed up the emotions of the institute and their respect for the tabla player’s contributions.
The following track was dedicated to Karachi. “Despite everything the city has gone through and the problems we have faced in the past 20 years, we haven’t stopped making music. We haven’t stopped going to the sea. So, I dedicate this piece to the people of Karachi,” said Nafees ahead of the performance.
As the show progressed, South Karachi played Raag Kalawati and a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life. While each member shined in their parts, with only a few mishaps in the performance overall, it was Fernandes’ drums that added a much-needed oomph to the night. Of course, it would be redundant to name Khan and Ahmed as the show-stealers as they were there to be the crutch to the younger talent. One sequence that particularly shone spotlight to the young drummer was the brilliant jugalbandi between tabla player Khan and him. As the two musicians fired away rhythm beats at each other, it appeared like Sex Bob-omb vs Katayanagi Twins in a friendly music battle in Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
South Karachi played one of their original compositions too. Titled Newfound Love, the song was sweet and melodious and, as Emu said before playing, one felt the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling of newfound love while listening to it. The show, which ended with a rendition of Take Five by Dave Brubeck, gave the audience plenty of musical moments to remember.
Napa’s International Theatre and Music Festival runs till April 2.
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