In times of great calamity, with social distancing being a key component of controlling the plague of our times, COVID-19, people must follow the protocol and stay home.
“These are dark times…”
As people are adjusting to this new reality, several members of the music industry are trying to do their bit. In these strange times, at least three virtual gigs have been held so far. Among them is a Salt Arts effort featuring Hamza Akram Qawwal; a virtual gig by singer-songwriter Ali Sethi and one by Ali Hamza.
Having missed Hamza Akram Qawwal and Ali Sethi live, unfortunately, I was made aware of the Ali Hamza concert by Nafisa Ali Hamza (Hamza’s wife) who was spearheading the effort. Word of the gig was also spread online via teasers of jam sessions, as well as posters announcing the gig digitally.
The gig, held at Ali Hamza’s house, on 10 pm on a weekend, was more than a mere jam-at-home. With Ali Hamza on vocals and guitar, he was joined by the outstanding Rakae Jamil and Kami Paul on sitar and percussions, respectively; it was a creative effort since the latter two are also members of the super-group Mughal-e-Funk (more on them later).
A teaser of the jam session, prepping for the gig, was also released to engage as well as create awareness for the gig. As Nafisa told Instep, “In these testing times, Hamza and I thought why not do an online gig?” Their collective mission was to engage people as they continue to self-isolate while creating awareness about the infection and bringing smiles to people’s faces while doing so. This also included Hamza talking to the online audience, between songs, including speaking on the subject of COVID-19 and its precautionary measures as well as commenting on Fayyaz ul Hassan, who called children with disabilities a “punishment” for parents. In his mild-mannered tone, Ali Hamza quoted his friend, the photographer Mobeen Ansari, who had said on the matter that everybody has challenges; Hamza spoke of his own wonderful experience with Karachi Down Syndrome Program (KDSP) and also sang the KDSP song, ‘Aao Hamaray Saath Chalo’ for which acclaimed writer Zehra Nigah had penned the lyrics.
Going live on social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram, this very high profile trio came together to sings songs that were both known and brand new.
Ali Hamza officially announced that he is working on a solo album with Rakae Jamil and Kami Paul (calling him strong enough to have producer qualities). Hamza further noted that the album will be far removed from anything else he’s done (meaning the three Noori studio albums) and would include new material.
Hamza also sang a set-list that included ‘Aik Alif’, ‘Meray Log’, ‘Mare Kakiya’, ‘Paar Chanaa De’, ‘Jindjaani’, ‘Aaja Re Moray Saiyaan’, ‘Hor Vi Neevan Ho’, ‘Barsaat’ among others.
According to Ali Hamza, the version of ‘Jindjaani’, first performed on Coke Studio was according to the need of the platform, but will be different in his album version. ‘Barsaat’, a lullaby known to his parents when they were children, was also converted into a song but whether it makes to the solo album remains to be seen. Should it, it will be a hit with both children and adults, given Ali Hamza’s spin of the poetry with the music.
Hamza also played requests such as ‘Aik Alif’ and ‘Meray Log’ twice as those who had logged on a little later had missed it and wanted to hear it. Overall, Ali Hamza lived up to his reputation of truly having an open heart. With the hashtag, #ClosedDoorsOpenHearts, he gave people an Ali Hamza show they had never witnessed before and if this is a sign, his upcoming solo album, will be something to rejoice.