Pathjhad mein bhi jo laaye bahaar....
Music does leave one mesmerized and inspired. Good music leaves one with countless emotions and an incredible adrenaline rush that is unimaginable. There are several others like me, music fans and lovers, with varying degree of music knowledge and background, who witnessed this live at the Shankar Ehsaan Loy concert in Oakland saturday night. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of our lives, one that each one of us wants to live and relive often through pictures, videos and yes even blog posts. How does one get over this? Well - there is really no getting over it - this is my attempt to record the happenings so I dont ever forget how incredible I felt that night.
Honestly, I started thinking about this show with much skepticism. In the past, live shows have been dissapointing - be it the sound issues, music issues, performer issues or bad organization. In short I was expecting no magic. I was wrong - it was magical.
For starters the show started on time! wohoo - go Mehta Brothers:) After a few beginning dance numbers, the MC of the show, a jovial guy named Ravi welcomed all and introduced Richa Sharma - the lady with a big, beautiful voice. Richa started her set with "Rom Rom" lines of "Sajda". She quickly moved to "Mahi Ve", followed by "Gori Ishq de Naal" (sorry dont know this song). Both were quite awesome. I was expecting her to go off key but she did not. The next song was from Kaal - Tauba Tauba Ishq mai kariyan. This one she should have skipped. Its a heavy chorus number with 4 voices - she could not pull this one through and it sounded very empty. Her Damadam Mast was less than damadam. I cant remember the song she finished with - but overall she had set the stage for some fireworks and the audience was ready for more.
Next on stage was Shafqat Amanat Ali - the pakistani singer, Mitwa fame - you know - that guy who has everyone going dizzy with his beautiful voice. I have to admit, outside the SEL songs and one Fuzon song that a friend sings, I have not heard much of him. His set included the following:
1. Tere Naina (Sajda) - not an awesome performance, part of it seemed lip synched, plus he sang on track. But I love the tune so didnt matter. He looked a bit bored singing this one and did not give it 100%.
2. Saawan Beeto Jaye (Fuzon) - He did full justice to this soulful song which is from a private album. What a performance!
3. Bin Tere (I hate Luv Story's) - I have not really heard this song, but have heard of it. He surprised me here and was quite good.
4. Dam Ali Dam - Before starting this song, he said that this song is like a prayer to him and requested the audience to join in this ibadat. He looked possessed while singing this one, blessed by all the music gods. His interpretation was quite astonishing, punctuated by some heavenly alaaps and tans, all improvised right there, right then. His band was jamming on this one as well - a folk song, sung in a rock style, with heavy classical touch - and he did not go astray. What more can one ask for. The highlight of his set for me! I know I am missing some more songs here - perhaps someone else can help me remember. He introduced his band and with a group hug, they took a bow and left the stage.
The time had come! While the SEL bandmembers geared up, Ravi introduced the trio with tons of superlatives, most of which they rightly deserve and without much delay, the three descended the stage and Shankar's voice boomed as he came on stage singing "Mangalam Bhagwan Vishnu". This is one of the many, many times that I got goose bumps. He promptly launched into the first song of the evening. I unfortunately dont remember the exact sequence of songs, but will try to do my best. I am sure others will correct this.
1. Jhoom Barabar Jhoom - With this song, the party was on. This is an incredible song and Shankar only sang it better live. He had the audience like that - dancing, singing, screaming. He did a part one and two of this song, the second one the faster version.
2. Dil Chahta Hai - Shankar is a very happy guy, always with a happy smile and never loosing a chance to crack a joke on themselves and their music. He introduced this song and this music as one of the biggest flops of their careers - funny considering DCH revolutionized HFM and created a whole new genre - the SEL genre.
3. Pretty Woman - I am not too crazy about this song, sounds very labored and boring even in the album. If it were not for SRK on screen, totally skipable if you ask me. But this gang made it quite interesting. They made all the women in the audience stand and dance. UVR pointed to me later that they probably include this song in the lineup to showcase Ehsaan's talents since this song has some nice guitar pieces. Ok fair - I was ready for the next one.
4. Dil Da Mamla - I have not seen this movie (hey baby) but Shankar said that this song was from a flop movie and happens when a guy is burying is grandmother. Raman Mahadevan (who is not Shankar's brother as I found out) supported Shankar fabulously in this awesome and such a different song. Somewhere in the middle he broke out from the song and did a sequence with his band members - the percussionists. Shankar would sing the tarana and tabla bols and the drummer, dholak, congo followed. Nothing new you will say - all performers do this sort of thing. But this folks was different! It showed Shankar's mastery of his art and solid classical music base - what he sang/said here was sheer genius - he anchored the entire act singlehandedly and had us spellbound. I wish someone has this recorded as I would love to watch this piece again and again. (time for a disclaimer - I may be mixing acts here as I have a vague recollection that the percussion bit happened in a different song - possibly Rind Posh Maal or Dil Chahta hai). Anyhoo, they delivered once again.
5. Where's the party tonite - Shankar and Raman did this song with Anusha. Not a big fan of this song, but Anusha, a new singer carried this one off well. They should have skipped this and replaced with something else - had it not been for Shankar's alaaps at the end, this was a 3 minute waste of time.
6. Rock On - We already were rocking and this one got us going even more. I LOVE this album and any song played from here can only be awesome. The entire band did a fabulous job here. But I have to admit I really, really, really missed Farhan. Even though Shankar is superb to say the least, Farhan owns this song because of his grainy, untrained rendition. Shankar was a bit too smooth and sweet.
7. Mai Hoon Don - If there is one album which SEL have not given it their whole, I would say its DON. Not one song is really upto the mark. I think they probably did this with a big RD hangover. But in live, their Mai Hoon Don was electrifying! Again, Shankar held this song and made it so much fun with awesome vocals and attitude. Loved it with a capital L!
8. Tere Naina - This is a not so much heard song from Chandni Chowk to China - a slow number which Shankar introduced as a beautiful song. Anusha supported him on this one but I really dont remember her pieces as I was completely lost in Shankar's voice. This song has two lines after every antara where the first word to second transition is beautiful - from a very low note to a very high note ex "yeh pyaar ki hai baatein,kuch ankahi mulakaatein". There is so much anticipation leading up to these two lines and Shankar executed this beautifully. Again - goose bumps the whole time and no I was not cold.
I believe he introduced Mahalaxmi as this point - a very glowing intro for sure. No secret she is their favourite female singer and they have made her sing some incredible songs. I love this lady's voice and was sure that she would be superb. Well, hmm, lets say I was a bit surprised - she only sang two songs - Chup Chupke, and Aaj Ki Raat. Hmmm..what? and was less than awesome. My guess is she was having some voice issues. I just wish she had sung more and sung it more confidently cause she does have a beautiful voice. But no worries, we were all very anxious for King Shankar to descend back to this throne and entrall us all over again.
9. Mitwa - Shankar started singing Mitwa and we were delighted. We were hoping he would sing the whole song but the big hearted guy he is, he very gracefully invited Shafkat back to the stage and they sang this as a duet, same as it is in the movie. Gosh - if there was any doubt in anyone's mind who the better singer is, this song was enough to clear that. Heaven and Earth. Shankar's alaaps, sargams and improvisations were gorgeous and even though I have heard this song like a million times, it sounded so fresh and new.
*Major Goose Bumps Alert - coming up soon"
10 Rind Posh Maal - Mission Kashmir has some awesome songs to pick from and Shankar picked this one. From start to finish, this was just incredible and I have to say that along with goose bumps I did have tears in my eyes as well. Even now I cant describe how I felt during this song - he had left us in a trance. I was not twirling like a dervish but my heart and mind were at a place of pure bliss and beauty. I love the lyrics of this song -
Sangeet mein hai aisi fuhaar
Pathjhad mein bhi jo laaye bahaar
Sangeet ko naa roke deewar
Sangeet jaaye sarhad ke paar
Sangeet maane naa dharm jaat
Sangeet se judi kaaynaat
Sangeet ki naa koi zubaan
Sangeet mein hai geeta quraan
Sangeet mein hai allah-o-raam
Sangeet mein hai duniya tamaam
Sangeet mein hai duniya tamaam
Toofanon ka bhi rukh modta hai
Sangeet toote dil ko jodtaa hai
He got a standing ovation for this. Wow - what a performance!
11. Maa - How can a SEL concert be complete without Maa. A soulful performance but did anyone feel that after the above, this was almost anti-climax?
They had all but wrapped up and started intrducing the organizers when they found out they had time for 2 more so they did "Sajda" and "Kajrare" with Richa and Anusha respectively. Both skippable IMO since they did an average job here - I had other Shankar solos in mind. But he did do "Breathless" at the end and like a friend put it - that was after almost 2 hours of singing. So that was that. They got one of the many standing ovations from the crowd which was mostly on its feet by now and walked off the stage very promptly. The notable exemptions from the above lineup for me were Sapno se Bhare Naina and Baawre.
After the show we spotted Shankar standing next to the stage chatting and taking pictures. He was the only one who came out and stood there for a long time talking to everyone. The pilgrimage was complete, we got pictures taken with the Bhagwan. I managed to ask him what their next movie is and he told us its "We are Family", a Karan Johan tear jerker. He joked and told us to bring a big box of tissue as we watch that movie. The thing about this guy - he has no airs, he is humble, he is so approachable - a really nice human being.
We somehow managed to go backstage and met Raman Mahadevan who looked tired but talked to us quite a bit. Also got several pictures with SEL who were so nice and obliged every request with sure and of course. We left the venue as they were leaving, in a daze, completely satisfied, inspired and happy. This one truly is an experience to remember.