The 11th Tehzeeb Festival, held online for the first time because of the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, and streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, ended on Sunday evening.
Although it was a day packed with powerful displays of talent, one also realised the tiny but resolvable problems that can accompany events organised with the help of technology. What matters is allowing the audiences to feel the spirit of art, and that’s abundantly possible.
It all began with Ustad Raza Ali Khan, who joined from India and is the grandson of the legendary Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, singing raga Mian ki malhar. There was a reason for it: it was raining in Kolkata where he is located these days. Unfortunately the audio reception from his location was slightly poor.
To compensate for it, the host Sharif Awan invited composer Arshad Mahmud for a chat on Bade Ghulam Ali. Mr Mahmud said Khan Sahib’s impact can be felt on classical singers to date.
The second artist of the evening was Nadim Malik who presented raga Kaushakdhani. After that, Ustad Raza Ali Khan returned to centre stage with better audio arrangement and sang a thumri.
Things picked up from there on as Ustad Shahbaz Husain from the UK gave a heart-warming tabla solo recital. He chose to play jhaptaal and performed with such alacrity, exhibiting a couple of variations that his seniors used in the beat cycle, that one didn’t want it to finish.
Another fantastic act followed the tabla segment: the group called Dhrupad Dost led by Arman Dehlvi (who has performed alongside the likes of A.R. Rahman) brought youthful exuberance from Delhi into the mix.
Sadly, the reception in their bit too was not perfect and their cameraman’s attempt to keep the visuals modern didn’t help either, but they were so impressive that these glitches were gladly overlooked. If one heard Arman correctly, they presented two interesting ragas — Kambohji and Shankara.
The last artist of the evening, rather festival, was Ustad Faheem Mazhar from Lahore. Over the years, the ustad has grown in stature because there’s a cerebral element to his singing — he is a thinking artist. His rendition of raga Baageshri reinforced that on Sunday.
The successful arrangement of the festival surely must’ve encouraged a lot of other cultural groups in the country to not lose heart in these challenging times and opt for the available options to reach art lovers.
Originally published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020