March Issue 2012

By | Arts & Culture | Music | Society | Published 12 years ago

An evening of subcontinental classical music, with the gentle lure of the sitar and the uplifting beat of the tabla, was a soulful respite from the humdrum of daily life. Young mathematician and teacher Yusuf Kerai and his orchestra of classical musicians presented ‘Tarz’, a musical collage, at a fundraiser of supporters of Karwan-e-Hayat, the institute for better mental health, arranged elegantly, with white lights and flowers dotting the gardens of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture last month.

Kerai is a musical innovator and has created a western-style orchestra that comprises tablas, sitars, a harmonium, sarangi, violin, flute and dhol, and in one special sequence the maestro Ustad Khurshid Hussain gave a stunning performance with the pakhawaj, the ancient predecessor to the tabla. Kerai is also an orchestra conductor and an eloquent master of ceremonies providing illuminating commentary in English for each orchestral arrangement and the patterns of the saaz and taals for sequences. Samandar ki Lehrein set to Raag Aimen, Raag Taal ki Maala set to a bouquet of ragas and punctuated with the art of jugalbandi and Bol Chaal, a rhythmic dialogue between the pakhawaj and tabla, were compositions par excellence. This fusion of instruments, with the western violin joining subcontinental classics with the accompaniment of intense tabla beats, was dramatic. Kerai’s orchestra of extremely young talent on the tabla, sarangi and sitar, playing in tandem with their maestros, was specifically inspiring. The final sitar solo with Ustad Sajid Hussain and his son, Shehroze, was a befitting reminder of the richness of our musical heritage.

Kudos to Karwan-e-Hayat for presenting to the public two sidetracked issues — our threatened musical heritage and mental health. Karwan maintains a team of psychiatrists and therapists at their rehabilitation centre in Keamari, an outpatients clinic on Khayaban-e-Jami and a community psychiatry centre in Korangi to provide treatment to all strata of society, always gratis to the underprivileged.

This article was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Newsline under the headline “Fantastic Fusion.”

The writer is a former assistant editor at Newsline