Music has always, always, always been an extremely integral part of my life – tied to moments of immense joy and intense sorrow – and everything else in between, so it comes as no real surprise that my first actual sharing would be about something musical…
I find great pleasure in almost all kinds of music, particularly music from the Indian Sub-Continent, in particular “Bollywood” music, (a term I despise as I think they could have coined a unique term, rather than adopt a variation of “Hollywood”), a little bit of Rock, underground trance, classical music, Qawalli, and the oldies! Some of my all-time faves are A.R.Rahman (My all-time fave concert was his!!!), Mohamed Rafi, Santana, Sarah Brightman, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Savage Garden, Lifehouse, Tchaikovsky, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Hans Zimmer, Adele, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Alanis Morissette, Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal, Maroon 5, Kailash Kher, Simply Red, Evanescence, Atif Aslam – and my current absolute obsession – ARIJIT Singh!!! There are millions more but they’ll make their appearances over time…
So this post is about the Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan concert I attended 2 evenings ago, and since it’s all everyone’s been talking about since then, it seemed kind of apt to start with it!
Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is the nephew of one of my fave faves, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, both known globally for the grandeur of their vocal ability in the genres of Qawalli, Folk music and filmy music, so it would have decayed me to no end if I didn’t attend the concert…
He was beyond phenomenal, like BEYOND phenomenal, sang one hit immediately after the other, for a total of almost 3 and a half hours – with just a 15 minute intermission! The filmy music was a treat to hear him rendering in person, as one could have sat with closed eyes and just absorbed the “feel” of this man’s liquid voice as it immersed every musical soul in the hall into a utopic world of harmonious, euphoric melody! His voice was like warm silk, as he easily moved from one track to the next, never skipping a beat… but I must admit, I saw him more engrossed in the Qawallis than the movie music, probably since that was his intro into the music world, through his uncle, with whom he performed for many years, such a great moment to witness – an artist lost in his own artistry!
He opened with Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Allah Hoo”, which ignited the crowd, and then followed with a mixture of both genres, including other Nusrat classics and filmy sons like “Mast Nazron Se” (Ustad Nusrat’s version blasting in my ears as I write this!), “Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor”, “Main Jahan Rahoon” “Ali Da Malang”, “Aafreen” (which contains my name and my nick J !), “Teri Ore”, “Dil Ka Mizaaj Ishqiya”, “O Rey Piya”, “Surili Akhiyon wale”, “Teri Meri”, “Tere Mast Mast Do Nain”, “Sajda”, “Tumhein Dillagi Bhool jani Padegi” and so many other gems, and his voice washing over every cell of my body as he did what he does best, will forever be stored in my mind as a MOMENT! As a person, he seemed really humble and very passionate about his profession, but there was a very mischievous smile that kept creeping through, a tell-tale sign of his personal connection to his music – a true Artist in every sense! And a total crowd-pleaser, allowing the audience to request what they wanted to hear!
But…as awesomely satiating as his concert was, by virtue of HIS vocal command, stage personality and likeability, I think that the promoters were in over their heads and didn’t know what hit them – a sentiment shared with everyone who attended the concert and whom I have come into contact with since then. The venue was a disaster – an old church I think, totally and utterly inappropriate for an artist of his calibre, the sound was pathetic (!!!!!!!!), the refreshments were accessible only after a trek along a very dodgy-looking and badly lit passage-way into what seemed to be a parking area, the air-conditioning wasn’t working (and it was HOT!), our screens weren’t working for the majority of the concert, the lights kept being switched on and off for no apparent reason, an audio-visual contractor (I assume) was literally running to and fro with a laptop trying to co-ordinate everything (should these checks not have been done before the concert commenced?) …and the cherry on top – someone was sitting on our seats when we arrived, and if that wasn’t enough of an aggravation, their excuse was that they had no choice because their seats were occupied by other people, and the ushers were hopeless…they had no lights to check ticket numbers and the usher who tried helping us, asked if she could keep my phone with her for the duration of the concert so she could use it as a flashlight to check ticket numbers! The parking was an even bigger disaster, conspicuous by its absence, with organisers expecting everyone to park on the road, at a school at the eennnnnddddddddd of the road, and had guards standing at designated spots prohibiting anyone from parking there, which meant many elderly people had to undertake a tedious, slow stroll from wherever their cars were parked to the entrance of the building – it was a total disaster!! And since food and beverages were allowed into the venue, and people have lost a sense of accountability, the state that the venue was left in, with litter strewn far and wide, was a putrid reflection of its audience – and perhaps the organisers should not have allowed any consumables into the venue, or have a cleaning crew brought in immediately at the end of the concert, nowhere to be seen for half an hour after the concert ended, but I’m hoping it was remedied before anyone else used it.
I think that they knew that Capetonians would endure almost anything to hear this legendary icon enthral them with his astounding musical gifts, that they took blatant advantage of their potential audience. Frankly, I’m offended on behalf of the artist, as I’m certain he is accustomed to much greater receptions, having performed at many venues in the UK, Toronto, Australia, Dubai, America and everywhere else! Practically everyone I know categorically stated that they wouldn’t support any other endeavour attempted by this trio of sponsors/promoters or organisers – and I am inclined to agree! They’ll have to bring SALMAN KHAN here to change my mind! A small mercy is that the organiser for the rest of the South African tours, in Johannesburg and Durban, Blu Blood, secured Emperors Palace and the ICC, respectively – and yet Cape Town also has many stunning, functional options, so not sure what the Cape Town organisers were struggling with!
With the exception of “Mann ki Lagan” and “Aas Paas Khuda”, which were the only two tracks I was looking forward to, and weren’t rendered, I totally revelled in the wonder of Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and for now I will choose to focus on this, and not the awful planning behind the event!
Winding down with “Tu Mera Dil Tu Meri Jaan”, the Rahat version of Ustad Nusrat’s collaboration with Michael Brook on “Night Song”, recorded at a live performance as a tribute to the late, Great Giant of Musicality, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and while the original will always hold a very strong corner of my heart, this version is much softer, more intimate and perfectly Rahat!
Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan – Truly a Voice From Heaven – You Rock!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂