Had an excellent time last evening at the Qutub Minar complex; the annual music festival is on and yesterday’s crowd-magnet was a very pleasing concert by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. They performed most of their big hits, including from Dil Chahta Hai, Bunty aur Babli, Kal Ho Na Ho and, of course, “Never Say Goodbye”. There was a nice unplugged medley section and they finished on an expectedly high note by playing “Where’s the Party Tonight”, “Rock and Roll Soniye” and “Kajara Re” in quick succession. (As you might imagine, the beleaguered organisers never did get the crowd to “stay seated so the people at the back have a proper view”.)
Shankar Mahadevan (who opened the show with his star-making “Breathless”) was in superb form, though he could perhaps have avoided mouthing the lines “Don ko pakadhna mushkil hee nahin, namumkin hai” when he sang the title track of the new Don – because Mahadevan is a very roly-poly little cootchie-coo and he was wearing leather pants and such pronouncements in such circumstances can only cause mirth (unless the idea was to make us think kindly of Shah Rukh in the role). Also in fine form: playback singer Mahalaxmi Iyer, who showed a considerable range and stage presence, and a new chap named Raman whom I hadn’t heard before – very decent renditions of the “Dil Se” title track and “Main Aisa Kyun Hoon” from Lakshya.
Much less well attended than the SEL show was the qawali by the Nizami Brothers earlier in the evening. That was lovely too (and more to my taste in terms of being a sit-and-listen show), except for a minor problem with the sound equipment. Since I know hardly anything about the form I won’t shoot my mouth off except to note that two of the little children who were onstage with the rest of the Nizami family seemed very bored. This family’s tradition in music goes back around 700 years and the pressures faced by each new generation to carry the legacy forward must be immense. I mean, what if some of them are tone deaf and just want to become astronauts?
Annie neatly encapsulates the charm of the Qutub fest in this post. Speaking for myself, I always get a little thrill from watching good contemporary music being played out in the vicinity of old monuments or ruins. When the performance reaches a point of great intensity, you can almost feel one era calling out to the other over the centuries; there’s the briefest hint of a connection between two epochs that would otherwise have nothing to say to one another. (What would the 12th-century denizens of this region have thought if they’d suddenly come across a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy concert?) Reaching home late at night, the first thing I did was to watch a few minutes of my Pink Floyd at Pompeii DVD.