ISLAMABAD: A fusion concert attracted a massive audience of both locals and foreigners at Kuch Khaas on Saturday evening.
The Pakistani-Danish band Rocqawali performed a blend of eastern and western tunes, merging the traditional sound of qawali with that of rock n roll from the 70s.
The concert kicked off with the soulful qawali ‘Subhanallah’, picking up rhythms with ease and creating a harmony of eclectic sound.
Steadily progressing into the more high-pitched ‘Ali Maula Ali’ and alternating between the soft ‘Oh piya’, they went on to perform the powerful ‘Paway tu jaan na jaan’, to a head-banging, whistling and dancing audience. They reached a crescendo with the pulsating ‘Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’, displaying coordination and command over their craft.
Ejaz Sher Ali, the vocalist, and his band members perform at Kuch Khaas. PHOTOS: HUMA CHOUDHARY/EXPRESS
Ejaz Sher Ali, descendant of the legendary qawals Meher Ali and Sher Ali, is the vocalist of the band. His musical gharana (school of music) is considered a torch-bearer of the late qawali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Ali, who also plays harmonium, was joined by his Danish band members Stephen Grabowski on drums and percussion, Jonas Stampe and Tin Soheili on guitars and Tomas Nesborg on bass.
“This genre explores the unchartered territory between the traditional eastern qawali, trance music and the classical western rock n roll sound,” said Ali, adding that all the lyrics are written and sung in Urdu and Punjabi, but western listeners can derive auditory pleasure from it too.
Stampe, who is a student of Ali’s father, has been visiting the country to learn music and has also taken the qawals to perform in Denmark. But the formation of the band has been a slow process. “All of us white guys in the band have been listening to qawalis all our lives,” he said, adding that they are a modern Pakistani rock band which took traditional music and played it like any rock band would do in Denmark.
“If you see it from our perspective, we’re just a rock band and our singer is just coincidentally a Pakistani qawal but his band members don’t play tabla, they play guitars and drums,” he further said.
Meanwhile, Soheili, who comes from an Iranian origin, finds it natural to acquaint himself with the spiritual genre of music. “It was a natural thing and we did not fall into any other bands because pop music is not for us,” he said.
Maheen Khan, an audience member, said the music reminded her of a live concert of Nusrat Fateh Ali that she had attended at a wedding many years ago. “These guys were excellent! They have improvised quite a bit though,” she added.
Earlier in the day, the band performed to a crowd of over 600 people including Pakistanis and foreigners at the Danish embassy. The band will also be performing for underprivileged children and will teach them music.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.