Feb 2, 2006

Mekaal Hasan Band

The Jethro Tull concert (previous post) was playing at the Shanmukhananda Hall in Dadar Mumbai. A year or more ago, I was in the hall, having the most intense musical experience of my life so far. Sitting in and listening to Ian Anderson brought up some of those memories.

Back then, the band playing was a Pakistani outfit called the Mekaal Hasan Band (the link is in the post title). Headed by a guitar-wielding Mekaal Hasan, the music was a revelation. Hasan takes the classical works of old masters (think dyed in the wool, ultra-respected classical singers like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and all) and rejigs them. It sounds a bit blasphemous yes, but man, he does a great job. Drawing on his jazz and pop influences, Hasan resets the background score while allowing the powerful ex-qawwali school vocalist Javed Bashir to do a smashing job on the vocals. The results are stirring, hair-on-end, emotional music that I still remember as clearly as ever.

More to the point, the CDs are hard to find. So I managed to wrangle a CD of their only album so far, Sampooran by a little hook and a lot of crook. An effort not wasted, I must say. They played a more hard-hitting version of their music live, but the CD is altogether calmer, even lounge-ish.

It sounds great. I also like the fact that it allows non-classically inclined people like me, who do have an ear for good music (does that constitute a pat on own back?) get in touch with undistorted classical music. Albeit with a full drum set keeping time in the background.

The band is made up of Hasan, Bashir, Mohd Ahsan Papu on the flute (regarded as Pakistan's foremost flautist). At the concert, the superb Fahd Khan was on the drum and very much the life of the evening at the back of the stage. Farhan and Salman Albert were on Keyboards and Rhythm Guitar.

If you like Indian classical music, or would like a easy but gripping intro, give Mekaal Hasan a spin.