The five brothers and cousins filled the room on Thursday evening with soulful vocals enriched with the traditional sound of tabla and harmonium. An added convoy of the Arabic drum dumbek, an acoustic guitar and percussions added to the experience.
Featuring Bakshi Brothers, the event, organised by the Institute for Preservation of Art and Culture (IPAC) at Kuch Khaas, aimed to celebrate the World Music Day and preserve Pakistan’s waning musical heritage.
Related to Bakshi Salamat Qawaal and folk singer Tufail Niazi, Bakshi Brothers feature Afi, Bilal, Shehryar, Yawar and Vaqas.
Their musical group is relatively new and the event was a culmination of informal jam sessions between the young men who were trained by Ustad Muhammad Azam Bakshi and the talented tabla-nawaz Ustad Muhammad Ajmal.
The event began with a track “Kaaga Re”, with vocalist Afi Bakshi explaining the audience that the song is composed in “Raag Bilawal” which comprises the same notes as Celine Dion’s “My heart will go on”.
The performance was followed by Naheed Akhtar’s popular song “Chhap Tilak”, which Afi said was their favourite.
As Yawar joined Afi on vocals, Vaqas strummed his guitar while Bilal and Shehryar mesmerised the crowd with dumbek and tabla; their love for the song was evident in the energy of their performance. As they kept playing, the audience could be seen deeply involved in the music, clapping and singing along with the tracks and laughing at improvisations.
The highlight of the evening was an instrumental dialogue between the dumbek and tabla, an impromptu performance by Shehryar and Yawar.
“This is our tribute to the tabla maestro Zakir Hussain,” said Shehryar, as he snapped his fingers at the sum of every beat that started off as ominous and Pink Pantheresque, eventually evolving into a dhol-like sequence.
The decline of music has to a large extent been attributed to the severity of media censorship during military dictator Ziaul Haq’s regime in the early 1980s, when the entertainment industry was completely wiped off national television.
“There has been a huge disconnect since that era,” commented Umair Jaffar, IPAC Chief Executive Officer. Though classical music is a rich part of Pakistan’s heritage, it has been replaced with other genres over decades, leaving little room and demand for it, he added. “Struggling classical artists hailing from renowned gharanas (families of musicians) are no longer encouraging their next generation to follow suit for fear that it is no longer a sustainable career choice.”
Though traditional music tends to draw little attention from younger listeners, the youth and energy of the Bakshi Brothers, who are between the ages of 19 and 28, is a healthy promotion for the art form.
When asked about the group’s future, Afi broke into a smile, eying the reaction of his brothers. “We’re going to touch the stars,” he said with a nervous laugh.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.