Oct 12, 2007

Rocking! : Mekaal Hasan Band thrills Mumbai

Mekaal Hasan BandMy head's still ringing with the music. And it isn't only because my iPod's playing the very notes that're running amuck gleefully in my head either. The iPod, and the tender notes on it are, for once, vastly outclassed. The passion and tenderness in the studio album cannot match the power, aggression and sheer vitality of the live performance I've just absorbed like a hungry sponge. And left wanting for more. If I could, the world would stop in this instant, and those boys from Pakistan would play live endlessly. A shuffle and repeat button on life, even.

There is nothing I could write that would describe the power and control of Javed Basheer's voice as it leaps effortlessly from note to note in fractions of a second. On the stage, in the heat of the arclights, he stands, looking slightly awkward in a formal-ish suit. And his voice, the powerful, slightly raspy, immensely authoritative voice, never fails to reach its mark, taking the superb music to another level altogether.

Then there is Mohammed Ehsan 'Pappu' whose flute is filled, it would seem, with a mixture of equal parts sugar and honey, with some sugar-free sweetener thrown in to keep the slim end of the crowd happy. From it issues a honeyed highlight in the music that is as inescapable as it is inevitable. He changes the flute now and then, reaching into his boxful of them, each one sounding nicer than the other.

In the background is Sameer, dancing, it would appear to his tune. His fingers strum the bass guitar with a feathery lightness. And what power those fat strings have. They make the two-storey tall towers of speakers in the auditorium burst into orgiastic, rhythmic deep thrums that form the foundation, as it were, on which Javed's power and Pappu's delicate notes are delivered. Gumby, the slim, ever-so-shy, and obviously popular drummer is the chap who weaves the instruments together. His drumming is effortless, crisp and not without its own, highly entertaining and skilled artistry. His blur of stabs and dabs keep the taut skins on the drums from stopping for breath and the Zildjian logo on the cymbal sets are almost never sharply in focus.

The keyboard man, Farhan Albert, who looks shy and reserved no matter what distance you see him over is there too, doing his bit, adding highlights to the solo guitar or the flute all the time, and getting to play his own solo in some songs.

Mekaal Hasan BandBut the quiet man on the right, the one with the curly hair is the mastermind. It is his name the band bears. Meet Mekaal Hasan. He plays the lead guitar as naturally as you and I comb hair or brush teeth, with far more spectacular results. He is also largely responsible for digging up old classic music, poems and similar material where his slim fingers can work their magic. He deftly suppresses the old instruments our generation (and those that follow) is losing touch with and replaced them with more familiar sounds, crafted perfectly to bring out the original beauty. To add a suitable backdrop for todays age, while retaining the ageless beauty of the twisted, tortuous notes that have held our fathers and theirs in perfect frozen ecstasy.

Much as I'd like to be hopping up and down during the songs, the tidal wave of the music keeps me pinned to the seat. Imagine a sensation where you're stuck in a chair with a gale blowing so strong that you cannot get up. Such is the power of the music. Like a giant bouncers hand in a bar, one that inevitably sets you next course of motion. Out the door with dignity, or through it without.

Such is the force of the music that I'm almost scared of having to go back to listen the studio album. After this electric performance, the album, though no less an achievement seems almost, er... sleepy. Where songs like Ya Ali or Darbari are power ballads to the nth power when they explode off the stage, they're almost soothing lullabies on the CD. Where Saanwal is a monster of a song with lots of twists and turns vocally and otherwise from the stage, it almost sounds like a normal MHB songs on the album. I love the band, and I know for a fact, that anyone who hears the album and loves it will come home to an empty house after a live performance. The difference is almost the same as someone halved the voltage and then unplugged the subwoofer. And plugged one of your ears.

Mekaal Hasan BandI am ecstatic to say that EMI will be selling MHB's sole album, Sampooran in stores shortly. If you have a deep-seated, unquenched love for Indian music (no, not Himesh), you must give it a listen. Not willing to spend Rs 195 on a risk? Download some of the live performance singles from the MHB media site (see Sajan and Raba at YouTube). I am also happy the Channel [V] and Radio City will be playing the sweet, sweet music these boys make, and more live performance are scheduled. I hear Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore are on the agenda. This is a must attend, seriously. I've seen MHB live three times now, and I will attend every performance I can.

Oh, and lest I forget, Mekaal and the boys played two numbers from their second, as-yet-unreleased album. One of them blows clean out of the water anything you think is superb on Sampooran. The other one is at least as good as anything you think highly of on the Sampooran CD. So stay tuned for more great music from these Pakistani boys.

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www.monoshock.in said...

We like it.. On your rec rearset! Awesome! Our office is boomin with the stuff now!

Sneh said...

thanks 4 recommending rearset.i have always been a great admirer of the music from the other side of the border. and these guys are new addition in the list.

--xh-- said...

after listening to MHB for teh last couple of dayz, man, all I can say is that i am clean bowled by their music. :-D thn for introducing them to me.