Every year in February, tabla exponent Ustad Alla Rakha Khan’s musical legacy is commemorated by his eldest son, Zakir Hussain as part of the barsi concerts. Tonight, sibling Fazal Qureshi is putting together a musical extravaganza on the occasion of the maestro’s 92nd birth anniversary. “It’s more a celebration than a homage,” says the talented percussionist.
In its second edition, The Journey Continues concert series will feature a variety of drums exploding on stage. “The show is called Mega Drums. The idea is to celebrate abba’s achievements, life and philosophy. I wanted to bring in different types of drums from the dholki to the mridangam,” says Qureshi, adding that the concert will feature over 18 musicians from different parts of the country. Holding true to his father’s axiom, he says, “What unites us is the rhythm. The beat somehow seems to bind us all together.”
Ask him what took him so long to put this belated celebration on the cultural calendar, and he replies, “April is usually a very busy month for musicians. We are touring the West. But Zakir bhai and I have dedicated shows to abba on multiple occasions in the US, wherever we were performing around the same time.” Their sister, Khurshid, too organises a similar concert to celebrate their abba’s birth anniversary every year in London. “So I decided no matter what, I’ll organise a concert in Mumbai every year,” he adds.
And while brother Zakir brought a wedding band at the tribute concert held earlier this year, tonight Fazal’s dexterity with the tabla will share the spotlight with musicians and dancers performing Pung cholam (drum dance) from Manipur, ripping electric guitars and even a demonstration of Kerala’s famous Kalarippayattu form of martial arts.
“It’ll be wholesome entertainment for all those who come to see it,” promises Fazal, adding that another highlight of the show is the Sting improvisation. “I approached jazz genius Joe Alvarez and together we improvised some of Strings’ tracks, adding the tabla rhythms to it,” he says.
The two-hour show will celebrate the early and prolific career of the Ustad. “The earliest memory I have of my father is that of a jovial, young man. As a child, I’d watch him practice daily and he would exude this infectious energy, which was such a joy to watch. We are celebrating his youth, even at 92. In fact, even the backdrop at the concert will feature a blown-up poster of abba in his youth, unlike what we are used to seeing now.”