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April 16, 2018

City takes a nostalgic trip back in time with Azad Iqbal


April 16, 2018

The past, as they say, is a beautiful country. And that was proved more than amply on Sunday evening, when music fans in town were taken on a voyage back into the late 50s and the 60s in a most innovatively and imaginatively planned programme at a hotel.

What made the evening all the more memorable was the fact that the star performer of the evening was none other than Azad Iqbal, grandson of the poet-philosopher of the East, Allama Iqbal.

He sang songs from another vintage, when music was really music and not the vulgar din it is today. His opening performance was the 1898 Neapolitan song, a trademark of Italy, ‘‘O sole mio’.

Among others, it has been sung by Mario Lanza and Luciano Pavarotti. Iqbal’s rendition was a perfect replication of Pavarotti’s tenor. It was amazing to see how he transited from the lowest to the highest note with fluent ease.

Later, he sang the famous Elvis Presley hit, ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, from the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. It was a beautifully nostalgic reminder for many among the audience who must have been schoolchildren or teenagers at the time Presley rendered it.

Iqbal really carried the audience back into the past with his lustrous, resonating voice. His next rendition was ‘Con te partirò’ (Time to say goodbye), again in Italian. An immaculate rendition indeed.

His rendition of ‘Somewhere, My Love’, the theme tune from the 1965 film Doctor Zhivago, must have brought a tear to many an eye. So powerful was the rendition, with equally effective visuals prepared by Darayus Gazder, showing the suave Omar Sharif and his speaking facial expressions.

Among the many numbers he performed, his final rendition was another Presley favourite, ‘Love Me Tender’, from the 1956 film of the same name. What, of course, made Iqbal’s renditions so very hauntingly nostalgic was the deft piano accompaniment by Rashna Gazder and the portable keyboard accompaniment by Terence Joseph.

Rashna’s adroit accompaniment made Iqbal’s renditions so very beautifully profound. However, it would be unjust not to mention the other performers who made the evening a resounding success.

Among them were Rashna’s piano pupils, and among whom was Marium Merchant, whose recital of the entire Johann Strauss waltz, ‘The Blue Danube’, was perfect. It really transported one to the banks of the Danube and the forests lining the river. It was a beautiful trip to Strauss’ Vienna.

Then there was the young Alizeh Sonia Fatimi and her rendition of Beethoven’s piano sonata, ‘Für Elise’. She seemed to have magic in her fingers. Then, of course, there was the budding mezzo-soprano Janelle Dias and her soul-lifting rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’, the hymn by the Reverend John Newton that has provided comfort and succour to the grieving over time. She was accompanied on the piano by Ria Martins.

The evening also embodied history in the form of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’, an exhortation made by Eva Perón, wife of the then Argentine President Juan Perón. What leant a really merry air to the evening was Janelle’s rendition of the old Doris Day hit, ‘Que Sera, Sera’, dating back to the 1950s. The packed auditorium joined in the full-throated singing with rhythmic clapping. It was so nice to see people still remembering the words.

Of course, here again it was the deft piano accompaniment by Rashna and the keyboard accompaniment by Joseph that made the performance come alive. Young Kekobad Marker, an eighth grader from the Karachi Grammar School, gave a really masterly performance of excerpts from Beethoven’s ‘Fifth Symphony’. Equally impressive was Zehra Zonash with her rendition of Mozart’s ‘Turkish March’.

While Iqbal was certainly the star of the evening, one could not underestimate the other performers, especially Janelle with her highly seasoned voice and Rashna’s piano pupils, such as Raizan Mavalwala, Astadh Sidhwa, Arshan Irani, Fatima Gardezi and Russell Martins. The last mentioned presented a really nice, toe-tapping tune on the piano, ‘The Entertainer’.

Talking to The News, Iqbal, a bar-at-law from the Lincoln’s Inn, London, said that while he did not know Italian, he had memorised the words of all the numbers that he rendered in the language.

He said that while he was in Jeddah, some of his Italian friends provided him the inspiration to memorise the Italian words. He regretted the fact that music in Pakistan was not being given the importance that such a sublime pursuit deserved. However, he fully agreed that there was tremendous musical talent in Pakistan and that it must be exploited. Apart from Iqbal’s impeccable English, his interludes were marked by a sharp humour and witticisms.

The gala concert was held as a fundraiser for the benefit of the hearing-impaired children of the ABSA School & College for the Deaf. The programme opened with the students of the school singing Pakistan’s national anthem in sign language as well as Allama Iqbal’s ‘Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua’ with piano accompaniment by Rashna.

It must be mentioned here that all concerts arranged by Rashna are meant to benefit the victims of physical setbacks. Her previous concerts have been for the benefit of, among others, the Indus Hospital and the Layton Rahmatullah Benevolent Trust.

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