Review by Yasser Latif Hamdani
The earliest proponents of the East-West blend was none other than George Harrison who had joined forces with the maestro Ravi Shankar in the 1970s to do exactly that. Some years ago our Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan teamed up Eddie Vader to record the soundtrack of the Hollywood movie ‘Dead man walking’. That in many ways was a defining moment for Pakistani music, and since then set the tone for Pakistani music. Yet dictates of commercialism have ensured that what is churned out is usually low quality Nusrat rip off. Not so with the Mekaal Hassan band. Their’s is a total commitment to good music, with no illusions of the substandard popular tastes. Hence what you get from them and their indifference to ‘popular’ demand is the kind of music that can be genuinely termed as a work of art.
The MHB concert at Alhamra Open Air theatre was a testament to the band’s sheer talent, commitment and calculated professionalism. The concert had no apparent glitches, nor was there any problem with the acoustics. Obviously the band had done its homework. The crowd was in for a musical treat the likes of which at least I hadn’t seen live in Concert.
Jawad Bashir, the newly inducted lead singer in the band, has phenomenal command over the raags. He enthralled the crowd with his superb ‘Ya Ali’ following it with a masterly performance of ‘sawal’. Some of the other great songs were Rabba, Samparoon, and Chali ray, all sung with a passion and a fervor of sorts. Kudos to MH for finding such a great singer!
On the Bass guitar was Sameer, who I have the pleasure of knowing since my college days. He seemed to have a lot of female support in the crowd, which kept chanting ‘sameer sameer’ hysterically through out. Did Sameer pull a Sinatra, and pay all those young women to chant his name is something we will never know, but we do know that Sameer has a lot of talent.
Jimmy on the rhythm, Waqar of EP (and Salman for two songs I think) on drums, and Farhan on keyboards also were amazing, and who can not help but mention the man who is the genius behind the whole thing? Mr. Mekaal Hassan himself. Not only on guitar, but over all as a composer, he has proved his mettle time and again. Sunday was no different.
All in all it was an excellent glitch-free performance. Nestle and Hangten made an excellent choice sponsoring the MHB.