Soulful, sublime and surreal | india | Hindustan Times
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Soulful, sublime and surreal

WHAT DO you call an Israeli who yearned for salvation and God through music, hung his rocker?s boots for it, came all the way to India ? the land of mysticism ? became a disciple of Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia, learnt the qawwali in Ajmer, formed a group that performs all over, and is now finally, happy? Shye Ben-Tzur! With these antecedents, was it any wonder that his performance slated to take place at the Genesis Club on Saturday night was a much-looked-forward-to affair?

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 00:48 IST

WHAT DO you call an Israeli who yearned for salvation and God through music, hung his rocker’s boots for it, came all the way to India — the land of mysticism — became a disciple of Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia, learnt the qawwali in Ajmer, formed a group that performs all over, and is now finally, happy? Shye Ben-Tzur!
With these antecedents, was it any wonder that his performance slated to take place at the Genesis Club on Saturday night was a much-looked-forward-to affair?

Talking about Saturdays, He doesn’t make them any more salubrious in springtime. It was in the fitness of things then that the programme was titled ‘Bahar-e-Sarmadi (the eternal springtime).’ In sharp contrast to the hot mornings and afternoons, the evening carried that little nip in the breeze, making it perfect for the genre of music that the audience had long settled down with their glasses of whisky, rum and vodka for.

But the wait was a really long one. Slated to begin at 8.30 pm, it wasn’t until 9.15 pm that the artistes walked in, led by Ben-Tzur. Thereafter, the Master of Ceremonies caught hold of the mike and spoke a lot and sang some too. But was anybody listening? Later, the artistes took the stage to a round of applause from the audience. Then, there was a lot of tuning of instruments making the audience more restive. Finally, at 9.45 pm precisely, the performance proper got underway.

That music is a universal language, was proved by Ben-Tzur and his troupe of (mostly) Indians, singing Lebanese lyrics to the accompaniment of Indian instruments and in the qawwali style. So there was the nal and tabla keeping tempo, the sarangi and thesarod giving melody and Ben-Tzur himself clapping along, in true qawwali style, his golden locks flying with each nod and sway of the head. And it was not just the music-conscious who applauded the effort. All who came swayed to the beat and lilt of the compositions.

Much of what they sang, was from their debut album ‘Heeyam’ (Arabic) and meaning ‘the state of supreme love.’ The one Hindustani number they sang, received what seemed like an extra round of applause. And that Ben-Tzur had not wasted his time in India was proved when he joined the vocals with the same gusto and elan.

Not to take anything away from the performance, somewhere along the line, the audience reaction lost its zeal. Was it the bar working overtime? Or had the audience come prepared for something more in the genre of a DJ Night? We’ll never know but what we can safely say is Ben-Tzur’s experiment with music deserves another listening.