When the album launch event for Tarz Group began this past weekend at Karachi's Arts Council, one’s curiosity was instantly piqued.
It didn’t start with the usual introduction of the troupe members or a description of the album. Instead, Yousuf Kerai, president Tarz Group and tabla player with his master musicians chose to delve right into a rendition of the classic 'Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Na Karo'. So powerful was the performance that even thinking about it a day later brings back the soulful vibe the orchestra disseminated beautifully.
Kerai’s reason for starting the event this way was simple. By the time their first performance ended, people had fewer questions in their mind about what the troupe was about. They had witnessed their force first hand.
The Tarz Group performed four tracks of their newly released album 'The Essence of South Asia' at the event, and also teased one track from their upcoming album.
Kerai introduced his ensemble as follows: the bass guitarist was introduced as Kishwar Allah Ditta, the keyboardist as Asif Imam, the flutist as Rahat Ali and the dholak player as Aashiq Ali. The string quartet consisted of Islamudeen Mir, Syed Ahmed, Mansoor Ahmed and Saleem Sharif, while Shehroz Hussain and Sajid Hussain were on the sitar.
Kerai touched briefly upon their backgrounds, sharing how all of them had considerable training in classical music with some even being maestros in their respective fields.
Speaking about how he met the flutist Rahat Ali, Kerai shared, “The first time I heard him was at my wedding. He was performing with a wedding singer but it was the flute that I could hear clearly so I sought him out.”
What stood out and made the the troupe's live performance magical was the amazing coordination of the diverse set of musicians and instruments at play. Sometimes a musician would take centerstage as a solo act and at others, effortlessly become part of rest of the troupe.
Kerai who was in perfect control of the tabla would simultaneously send a cue to the violinists to begin their bit with just a glance. When Ustad Khurshid Ali joined the group for the third track, the troupe had both became a spectator and the performer making it a delight for everyone to watch.
Kerai dedicated the first half of the track titled 'Kirney', which depicts the melancholic moments before sunrise, to T2F’s founder Sabeen Mahmud, who was assassinated in April. Speaking fondly of how Tarz Group started, he said, “Sabeen was enamoured by an idea and as we can see, an idea is more monumental than anything else.”
Explaining the difference between Western and South Asian music, Kerai requested the duo on the sitar to play a piece. Stating that the music from South Asia played between the “in-between” notes, he said, “this is the essence of South Asia,” when the demonstration on the sitar ended to everyone’s applause.