Jazzing up Indo-Pak classical music

March 19,2018

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Karachi’s famous National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) was once again host to a very unconventional yet soul-stirring form of music Saturday evening with the visiting American sitar maestro Paul Livingstone in concert, with Nigel Bobby’s deft guitar accompaniment. The whole ninety-minute performance was based on the same raag, Raag Madhuvanti, in five movements.

The first movement, with the two instrumentalists, with Ustad Basheer Khan on the tabla, presented a slow, lilting movement. It was really melodious, the melody that flows from melancholy, lilting music. There was perfect coordination between the sitarist and the guitarist. What further made it all the more melodious was the deft tabla accompaniment by Ustad Basheer Khan.

Livingstone indeed is an accomplished sitarist. It was a beautiful soporific rendition. Then came the second movement which was a somewhat jazzed up version of the raag. It was quite different from the conventional form of Indian classical music. It exhibited features of western pop but remotely.

The third movement was jazzed up too but at many-a-juncture it became a wee bit noisy. The fourth movement was a ghazal, a variation of Raag Madhuvanti, rendered most deftly by Nigel Bobby. It was a really profound rendition.

The fifth and final movement was a really lively affair. What was most significant about it was the most adept, most deft vocal rendition by young Ali Akbar from Lahore. He is a really accomplished classical vocalist. The way he transited from the lowest notes into the highest ones with perfect ease was remarkable indeed. He sang for a long duration but that didn’t seem to have affected his vocal chords as his voice was fresh throughout.

The ghazal was, ‘Kia Karoon Sajni, Aye Na Baalam’. The ghazal had its interlude, a vocal chorus and four guitars. It was a really lively rendition. All the stars put in a really commendable effort.

Many among the vocal chorus were students of Napa. They sang in perfect harmony with Paul Livingstone and Nigel Bobby. Napa, indeed, is doing yeoman’s service to the orientation of the collective psyche of society in favour of reorienting values in a healthy direction.


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