Turning Tables: Mekaal’s ‘Rivayat’ series is a remarkable service to tradition and quality music

Mekaal Hassan’s latest is a unique musical series presenting a range of traditional talent from various corners of Pakistan

But it is also in essence an effort to preserve the old order and revive tradition

While there is no hard and fast rule to revive or renew, Mekaal’s is a legacy decked with blends that don’t mock the sanctity of liturgical and learned music that has been passed down from generations

In his puritanical approach, you see eastern classical, jazz and hard rock, all coming together in one place

From redefining South Asian music with albums like Sampooran and Saptak to introducing newer blends with Andholan, Mekaal has allowed young minds to soak in the kafis, qawwalis and thumris with his Mekaal Hassan Band

Now, he is doing it again with a series titled Rivayat

Keeping the ‘rivayat’ going The artist, who has a knack for discovering new talent and collaborating with generational performers, rose from the ashes after his Digital Fidelity Studio burnt to the ground to host mehfils that have been recorded in a single take in his flagship studio

Presenting completely new faces and zero gimmicks, the venture, unlike most branded outings, is made with love and it shows

On the face of it, preserving and renewing regional music in its traditional form seems easy

Especially with the recording spaces and performing studios at our disposal

But commercial interests have often exploited the need to preserve, which is why it is refreshing to sit down and really listen to Mekaal’s new-found whizzes

While growing connectivity may have detached us from our musical past, Mekaal has used the technology at his disposal to put up a show that brands did not come on board with, possibly because it hosts a swarm of unknown performers that may deserve recognition but don’t guarantee viewership

These artists, albeit, are making Mekaal’s Rivayat series their own

As opposed to the rehashed hybrids available on various streaming platforms, ghazals and qawwalis being performed for the series are riveting

From ‘Chamba’ to ‘Ghunghat’ – a win, win From the songs that have been posted so far, Mekaal Hassan Band elements are a rare find, so to speak

But there is ample nostalgia and opulent poetry, distinguishing voices and steady hands

Something as simple as the traditional Himachali folk song, Chamba Kitni Dur, performed by the Manwa Sisters is trailblazing

With delicate tablas and subtle dholaks, a flute and cajon paired with the bass and acoustic guitar – a recurring theme for the whole series – the song offers quality and texture

There is so much variation yet, everything falls into place

The Manwa Sisters, especially, sing in perfect harmony, keeping the knots of the song intact and all eyes on them

There is also an iteration of the renowned Bulleh Shah kafi, Ranjha Ranjha Kardi

Led by Shujat Ali Khan with guest artists Anton Davidyants and Gwen Lafitte on bass and guitars respectively, the live performance is moving and composed

It offers a distinctive sound that many Ranjha renditions prior to it struggled to bear

Shujat has an impressive throw and his voice stays with you long after the song has ended

Everyone’s favourite qawwali, Tobah, is also on the list

Composed and performed by Shahzad Ali Khan, this one is aggressive with heavy instrumentation – as it should be

It sees Shez Raja on the bass and Gwen on guitars

Getting straight to point, it lets every emotion loose, transitioning to a point of breaking

Its quick pace is a deviation from regular qawwalis

But it is perfect for the modern listeners, who have little time and even less patience

There is a rendition of Bulleh Shah’s Ghunghat Olay, too, which Mekaal has previously performed with Javed Bashir and Sharmistha Chatterjee

While that version is beyond compare, the Rivayat offering is quite pleasant as well

Not as hardcore, though, it evokes a sense of sadness and despair

Performed by Fiza and Hasnain Haider featuring Shez and Gwen, its charm lies in the time it takes to convey emotions

The simmered-down display of affection will not instantly attract listeners but it will grow on them

Point to ponder Mekaal’s attempt may come off as frivolous to some but it is of great directorial and documentative value

There is an art to curating culture and it takes a cultured man to curate art the way Mekaal has so effortlessly done

The fine line between adaptation and appropriation has not been crossed and there are notes to be taken from the way percussive instrumentation and eastern classical sound is overpowering western elements – with the latter only adding colour to an existing piece

There is no sure shot way to success and Mekaal understands that, hence, no one formula has been applied to all the songs but there is an ethos that binds them together

It also reminds one of what Coke Studio used to be back in its maiden days, as opposed to the upbeat, electronic turn it has recently taken

While that is commendable too, considering it is wooing a completely new audience around the globe, Mekaal’s series simply reminds us of the simplicity of yore that cannot be abandoned for grand displays

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Date:28-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link