A recent concert in New Delhi celebrated the culture of musical patronage once given by the zamindars

It is said that when the people of France shunned the musical drama The Rite of Spring about a century ago, they committed a grave mistake. Well, if a parallel can be drawn in faraway New Delhi, those assembled at the city’s Kamani Auditorium a few humid evenings ago to watch a concert, knew better. They knew what they just saw before their eyes was extraordinary in its scale and style, and the way it was presented.

The concert titled “Haveli” was impressive for it was a grand collaboration of Manganiars, Jazz and Indian Classical musicians to recreate the atmosphere of a haveli. As Michel M’Bo put final touches to his dazzling bass work and the last notes stirred out of Rafiq and Shafiq Khan’s sitar, the audience knew that the mission was accomplished. Had it not been for the auditorium and chairs, one would have felt truly in the house of the last remaining zamindars of the early 20th Century with live music playing in the verandah, and dancers in its rhythm. While the havelis and zamindars are characterised by gross social injustice and inequality, that evening, they were characterised by the rich music which they helped flourish.

The set started with a soul stirring piece called “Roshni”, which involved Ustad Faiyaz Khan on the sarangi and ghenwar and dare khankamiacha. The second piece “Aasma” had sitar, Pandit Arvind Kumar Azad’s tabla and Santosh Mulekar’s grand piano, making it a perfect blend of philharmonic and Indian Classical music.

Their next set “Afrin” was a treat not just to the ears but also for the discerning eye, as the musicians were joined by talented Odissi dancer Arushi Mudgal amid cheers from the audience. While “Guzaarish” saw Sridhar Sagar and Jeoraj Stanley George on saxophone and drums respectively, “Jashn” saw the arrival of violinist (as well as the designer of the whole performance) Deepak Pandit on the stage.

“Zalzala”, their longest piece running into 18 minutes, featured all instruments. But people may remember this piece specially because of Michel M’Bo’s lightning bass work, for which he particularly left his seat and stood up, only to sit again and continue to quietly build a formidable foundation over which the other artistes could comfortably float. “Sehra” was remarkable in its own right, it involved repeated conversations between the violin, piano, bass, drums and Deu Khan’s khartal.

As the evening was headed for an end, the group presented “Mehafil”, which was essentially centred on violin work. The last piece “Ishq” was extensive and the musicians were again joined by Arushi as Faiyaz Khan lent his vocals to lyrics describing the festival of Holi.

The concert was unfortunately marred by many power and sound system failures, which even interrupted “Zalzala”. Despite the disappointments on the technical front, the artistes had put up a remarkable job, much to the audience’s contentment.