Grace and Flow: Mehdi Hassan

Mehdi Hassan, undoubtedly, Pakistan’s greatest ghazal singer of the modern age

Harmonium

mehdi

A little New Year’s gift for all the dear followers of Harmonium.

This album claims to capture Mehdi Hassan live in concert in New York. I find that to be a somewhat dubious statement as each track has a very ‘studio’ feel to it. Clean, sonically level and with none of the rough edges and spoken asides that accompany all live performances.

But I’m happy to be proven wrong.

Regardless of the veracity of the album’s title, the music is top quality. Mehdi’s tenor is suave and unforced. He delivers each ghazal with the panache of the supremely accomplished, hardly breaking a sweat. That doesn’t mean he is simply running through the material passion-baghair. Rather, he is at the top of his game. In the flow and full of grace.

And that seems to be a good attitude to possess as one year ends and another is soon…

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Like Father Like Son: Arif Lohar

Harmonium

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Like father like son. Arif Lohar’s music, which we share tonight, is very much in the tradition of Punjabi folk singing which his father, Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab) Alam Lohar made famous a generation ago. Rustic, rural and often rousing this is music of the country fair (mela), the village wedding and the religious festival. Though in the latter case there is very little religious content in most of the songs. Essentially, this music is theatrical both stylistically and contextually. Much of it comes directly out of the rural, travelling music/drama nautanki shows that are popular across northern India.

Rather the songs, often duets between man and woman, are flirtatious, suggestive and combative. Instrumentation is very basic: drums, chimta (blacksmith’s tongs) and these days various electronic keyboards.

Arif Lohar, who tried his luck as a Punjabi movie actor, before scurrying back to the family trade of singing, has…

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