Concert remembering tabla maestro Ustad Allarakha on his 98th birth anniversary.
Ustad Allarakha, the great Indian classical tabla player was born on 29th April 1919 and this weekend, was a tribute concert to the late maestro. This weekend was also my mother’s birthday, 29th April is her day too and another fact, my nana (maternal grandfather) was born in 1919… but any ways, that’s just a personal cool fact.
Back to Saturday, 29th April 2017. Firstly, I have to admit, this was going to be the first concert in which I would hear some pure classical Indian music along with some fusion and jugalbandi going on – I was looking forward to it, plus this was going to be quite a change for both mum and I (and a chance to dress Indian too!).
Performing artists were Ustad Fazal Qureshi (Ustad Allarakaha’s son on the tabla), Purbayan Chatterjee (sitar), Samantha Edwards (vocalist), Sanjay Divecha (guitarist), Sridar Parthasarathy (mridangam), Gino Banks (drums), Sheldon D’Silva (bass guitar), Faizan Hussain (djambe & darbuka) and guest artist Louis Banks. Quite a line up there and lucky for me, artists I had not heard live before so I had no clue what to expect.
St. Andrews auditorium, Bandra (W), Mumbai was the venue – I had actually been there once before for Vir Das’ History of India – now if he ever does that show again, I will be eager to go! It was bloody brilliant, and no surprise, I’m recommending you alllll to go. Do not miss out. Speaking of history, in the history of St Andrews there had never been a power surge that caused the sound system to go, but today happened to be the day. The concert was meant to begin at 7pm but it started after 8pm, now more than this creating frustrations of any kind, it only built anticipation.
The concert began, Ustad Fazal Qureshi shared the stage with Purbayan Chatterjee. Chatterjee led the way with the sitar and frankly, I’m not, well I wasn’t a sitar person – it sounds nice, but I was secretly hoping to hear the tabla first. But I was wrong – I was so wrong. My horizons broadened, I learnt to appreciate this beautiful instrument, the dedication it must take to master it and the genius of Purbayan Chatterjee – I was mesmerised. Ustad Fazal Qureshi’s fingers on the tabla were crisp, clean, beautifully sounding and made me fall in love with the tabla all over again. I’m no one to comment on skill, I have no such authority, but as a listener, I was enchanted by a jugalbandi between two instruments and two artists who were in love with their music.
Joining them on stage were more artists who kept me engrossed – Sanjay Divecha, Sridar Parthasarathy, Gino Banks, Sheldon D’Silva, Faizan Hussain. They all came together and performed two musical pieces together – it seemed like it was child’s play for them. They were enjoying themselves on stage and we as an audience were privileged to be witness to it. Just to be fair to me, and fair to this experience, we only managed to sit through the first two hours of the concert – my mother wasn’t feeling well, so we did leave. So although I heard all the performing artists, I only got to hear solo pieces from Sridar Parthasarathy on the mridangam and Sheldon D’Silva on the bass guitar. I have make a special mention here – D’Silva’s performance was magic – his fingers, hand, arm played tricks on the guitar strings, it’s a sight to see and hear. I was totally hypnotised and felt a tad disappointed when his piece ended – I’ll have to hunt him down to figure out his next performance… in fact, the same goes for Ustad Fazal Qureshi, Purbayan Chatterjee and Faizan Hussain – I left wanting more.
Three days on since that night, the music still plays in my ear and I’m sure that should be a fair indicator of a great experience and a lovely end to my mum’s birthday.