When Javed Bashir and Mekaal Hasan Band (MHB) recently performed in the FICCI auditorium in the Capital, the audiences swayed along to their soulful melodies. The Pakistan-based band and ex-band member, Bashir, had come together for a concert organised by the Indian Council for Cultural relations and NGO, Routes-2 Roots.
“The concert is an effort to bring India and Pakistan together and to spread the message of love and unity,” says Bashir, the ex-vocalist of MHB, which was formed in Lahore in 1999. Hasan, the band’s founder, composer, record producer, sound engineer and lead guitarist, says, “Our melody is totally traditional while our musical arrangement is rock and jazz.”
MHB, which is known for their albums Sampooran (2004) and Saptak (2010), loves performing in India. “I’ve been performing here since 2000, and we always get a warm welcome from the Indian audience,” says Bashir. “The Indian audience understands the language, raag and the musical tradition,” adds Hasan.
The contemporary fusion jazz musician, however, misses performing in their homeland. “In Pakistan, the government does not allow public concerts due to fear of terrorist attacks. The last open-air concert was by singer Atif Aslam, which ended on a bad note,” says Hasan. Aslam’s concert in Lahore saw a stampede that cost three girls their lives.
Question them about the music scene there, and Hasan says, “This is a new phase for Pakistan and the youth is vocal about its interest areas and passion. While the exposure isn’t so great there, in India the music activity is healthy and offers variety.” Bashir agrees, adding, “There is a huge amount of talent in Pakistan, but is waiting for the right exposure.”
Bashir and Hasan came together on stage after a gap, something that both truly enjoy. All praise for each other, they say their favourite performance is that of the track Ya Ali — also the closing act for the evening.
And what do they have to say about the Delhi crowd? “It was amazing performing for the Delhi audience,” says Bashir. “I was glad to see that they knew most of our songs, which was very encouraging,” adds Hasan.
Other songs that they performed included ‘Aj Aakhan Waris Shah Nu’ and ‘Chal Bulleya’. MHB’s next album, Aandolan, is also something to look forward to.