Just like magic is all about the presentation of a trick, classical music is all about decorum; the collective etiquette of the listener and presenter is what makes the gathering worthwhile.
Rituals like greeting ustads by touching their feet in veneration and taking permission from the senior most artist in the audience are a few cultural nuances that define the mood and tone of an evening dedicated to classical music.
One such event was Tehzeeb Festival, which took place on June 27 and 28 at the Marriott Hotel, was an interesting mix of awards and performances, dotted with spiritual and timeless raags and harmonies connected deeply to the history of music. Unfortunately, the decorum at the event was compromised because of the presence of young members of the audience who did not seem to have the patience to sit down and pay attention to the performances. After every 10 minutes or so, somebody from the audience would get up and move around, causing a persistent disturbance.
A blunder made by the organisers, when the arrival of Baloch musican Ustad Mumtaz Sabzal on stage was accompanied with the intro “please notice the kind of respect we give to the people of Lyari”, left a bad taste. While the announcement may have been well-intended, it delivered a condescending message.
The tradition of classical music in Pakistan can be personified as a dying man breathing his last — it lacks soul today. It is ventures by proactive organisations like the Tehzeeb Foundation that manage to excavate gems from different nooks and corners of Pakistan. Not only should the foundation be applauded for uniting such artists on one stage for an enriching experience, but also for recording and documenting all these maestros, some of whom may not be able to perform on the Tehzeeb stage again.
Will all its mismanagement and problems, the Tehzeeb Festival, for its immaculate services for the preservation of classical music in Pakistan, is definitely being noted in the chronicles of the history of Pakistani music.
The awards at the festival were given in the categories of fine arts, literature, classical music, folk music and literature. The Syed Abul Khair Kashfi Award for Urdu language and literature was given to Dr Aslam Farrukhi and Raza Ali Abidi while, Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui and Akbar Masoom were given the Shabnam Shakeel Award for poetry. Anwar Maqsood and Naiza Khan were given the award for fine arts whereas Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, Altaf Hussain alias Ustad Tafoo Khan and Ustad Mumtaz Ali Sabzal received the awards for classical and folk music.
Music sessions — Day 1 and Day 2
The music sessions on day one kick started with a smooth tabla performance by Haroon Samuel, an upcoming Tabla player who not only gave a promising performance on the first day, but was equally dynamic on the second day when he joined Ustad Sabzal on stage.
Omar Surozi, a Sarinda player from Balochistan was one of the untapped talents of the evening, who played a number of melodies of his soil and gave goosebumps to the audience with every note. The first night ended with a rather experimental and remarkable performance by a gypsy jazz French quartet by the name Caravan. The group was so consumed by its performance, that it was almost like they were opening their hearts instead of instruments.
The last night belonged to the maestros, as Ustad Sabzal once again kick-started the evening with the banjo. What followed was simply unexplainable, as Ustaad Saami took the audience on a mystic voyage, led by his classical singing. Next came Ustaad Rais Khan sahib accompanied by his son Farhan Rais. Khan sahib’s wit and humour doubled the effect of his sheer musical brilliance. The only thing that can be said about him is that every time he strums the sitar, a universe is created and destroyed.
The evening ended with tabla wizard Ustad Tafoo Khan, who brought the crowd to its feet and touched so many musical dimensions in a contemporary fashion that it left the young and old members of the audience equally enthralled.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2013.
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Correction: In an earlier headline of this article, the year was mistakenly mentioned as 2103. The typo has been fixed.
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