Monday, August 06, 2007

Beyond Compare

Sunday, August 5, 2007: Gayatri Vihar, Palace Grouds, Bangalore hosts a live concert- "Beyond Boundaries" - with ghazal meastros Ustad Ghulam Ali and Padmabhushan Jagjit Singh. I was there [wooohooo!] and enjoyed a lovely evening with the two greats. One is obviously of a higher caliber than the other, as Jagjit himself admits, and in this pleasant understanding of what's what, the music flowed.

The show was supposed to kick off at 6 pm, and audience memebers were requested to dress formally. So obviously a huge chunk of Bangaloreans traipsed in well after 1845 hrs, dressed in cargos, dirty jeans, scuffed sneakers, three-fourths and other horrors.
The seating arrangements were godawful- the venue was basically a big shamiana with rows and rows of plastic chairs. For our tickets worth Rs. 600/-, we were hoping to be in a nice enough place to be able to comfortably view the performance but unfortunately we were quite ways behind and managed to NOT see any of the stage. We had to make do with the big-screen projectors. This being a ghazal concert, what was important was that the sound quality be good and thank the Lord, it was. Great audio throughout the show.
(Except when the caterers just outside the shamiana took to collectively rattling their cutlery, or when the rumbling from the nearby Freedom Jam made itself heard. At which point Ghulam Ali paused mid-song to say, "Iss aafat ko guzarne do.")

At 7 pm, Jagjit Singh took the stage and we had a lovely two hours' worth of his most popular numbers. He took us through the best of his repertoire: Mein nashe main hoon, Yeh daulat bhi le lo, Baat niklegi toh phir, Kiskaa chehraa, Kal chaudvin ki raat thi and Sarakti jaaye hai among others.
The audience was lapping it up, singing along with Baritone Jagjit in most places. He threw in a few pleasant variations on some lines but for the most part stuck to the script and the crowd had a fun time feeling full of itself thinking, "We know our ghazals so well."

Jagit Singh wound up around 9 pm and made way for the fabulous Ustad Ghulam Ali. There was a touching moment or two on stage when the dear old men started hugging each other, smiling and pulling one another's cheeks like so many 4-year-old kindergarten girls. Pleasantries done with, Ustadji took the stage.

And then........ *drumroll*

For the next two hours, we sampled the brilliance that is Ustad Ghulam Ali. He dazzled the remaining audience and how! Ghulam Ali took on each new piece as a separate work of love, slowly guiding the audience, explaining the difference between a ghazal and a nazm, giving a short, pleasant preamble to each number, giving due credit to the poets, and, when in the song itself, explaining the Urdu shaaiyiri to the crowd as needed.
The gorgeous rolling deepness of Ustad's voice, his ease with the language, his genuine love for the form were all evident during his performance. The audience were loving the poetry, of a much higher quality than Jagjit's engaging but simple lyrics. Each sher was followed by a resounding cheer after the spilt-second it took them to understand what had just passed. Unlike Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali gave us a variety of ghazals not many in the crowd had heard before. It was right up the alley for those of us with a genuine love [if not understanding] of classical music and shaayiri, a guided tour with arguably one of the best ghazal singers in the world. I had goosies for a good part of his performance, along with a silly smile and much contentment at the crowd's pleasure.

Unfortunately, all of the audience was not deserving. As with all big gatherings, there has to be an Embarrassing Group. I had had a nasty sinking feeling at the beginning of the show itself when I saw the very obviously cavalier, non-serious set of people coming in for the show. And the foreboding came true during the performance.
After Jagjit Singh finished his segment, a lot of our overfriendly, noisy, culturally-deficient Bangalorean friends left since the popular hit ghazals they were familiar with were done. Good riddance. Unfortunately a lot of annoying, brash items stayed behind, talking loudly to each other during songs, walking up and down the aisles, taking calls on their cell-phones [good grief] and other indecorous behavour.
If this wasn't bad enough,we had unbelievable audience members somewhere in the very front [and therefore the freebie/ uber-rich ticketholders] repeatedly disturbing Ghulam Ali during his performance. He actually had to stop in the middle of his songs and ask them to stop goading, taking videos, talking/whistling, clapping out of turn etc. Also, as if this was a college band performing cover versions at a cafe somewhere, some freak kept on shouting his farmaaishes to Ghulam Ali. "Oh, God, do you realise who is up on stage, you twit?" The cringe-factor went very high for me, personally. I wanted to tear those people from their places and boot them into the rain outside. What was more infuriating was that none of the organisers stepped in to take preventive action. Terrible. I can only apologise to the maestro for the (mis)behaviour of the hooligans left behind to mess up the evening.

Ustadji took in all this unpleasantness in his wonderful stride ["Yeh toh inke pyaar ki daleel bataati hain"], kept the audience entertained with jokes and anecdotes and wound up his performance with his very famous numbers Hungama hai kyun barpaa, and Chupke chupke raat din. The 11 pm axe was hanging around everyone's necks or he might have carried on for a while more. Unfortunately, things had to come to a close and they did wit a sweet farewell from Ustad saheb.
At around 11pm I made my way out, for the most part a very happy girl, but also, with slightly murderous thoughts directed towards the Embarrassments.
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