Unrehearsed jam sessions have their distinct charm. They allow the musicians to use their creativity without a preset mind or without any inhibition of going by the book, and at the same time enable the audience not just to hear, but see the creative process unfold before their eyes.
It happened on Friday evening at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) when the academy’s faculty and students, the band Sounds of Kolachi and two wonderful Italian musicians Frida Neri (vocalist) and Elisabetta Del Ferro (viola da gamba) got together on stage for a, what was advertised as, “musical conversations between three music genres”. For sure, it was a kind of a conversation, melodious and peppered with lovely rhythm patterns.
The two ladies represented Italian folk music. It was an interesting part of the ensemble, if you will, because most compositions performed on Friday were led off with Italian folk. The reason for that was that this kind of music isn’t known for its strong rhythms; it’s their melodies that carry the tunes through. This was evident from the first track that the group played. It began with the pensively beautiful long notes of viola da gamba, followed by vocals and then a gentle sitar played by the academy’s head of music department Nafees Ahmad. By the time harmonies kicked in, all the artists sounded totally in sync with each other’s musical flow.
Introducing the second number, Neri said it was a prayer penned in Portuguese. Like the previous one, it started off on a soft note, gradually gaining momentum, with some remarkable percussion playing by Napa’s students. Another noteworthy thing that was incorporated into the melody was the harmonies with a local flavour. But it was the interplay of tabla and sitar, complying with the mood set by the Italian vocalist, which made the composition all the more enjoyable. The fact that it was being done for the first time without any preparation was something that the audience was cognizant of, and therefore appreciated the effort wholeheartedly.
Then Sounds of Kolachi’s Ahsan Bari played a nice little piece on his guitar for the third track of the evening. The good thing about it was that he immediately gestured towards the young and talented sarangi player, Gul, to follow his lead. The sarangi-nawaz used the opportunity with both hands (by the way, he also took a selfie on stage with the band at the end of one of the performances) and played some heart-warming melodies.
One could argue that the concert on occasions sounded a bit rough around the edges; well, it was supposed to sound like that. The unpretentious conversation between the instruments and vocals was a delight to listen to.
Originally published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2018