Sydney goes Sufi with Avijit, Rucha, Rachna, Sadiq and Farhan

By Aradhana Bhatt

SNSR’s latest production ”˜The Sufi Lounge’ staged for a full house on Saturday, 18th November, demonstrated how the music scene of Sydney has come a long way, not only in terms of presentation but also in terms of how receptive our audience has grown to be. Any performance is a two-way bridge that connects the giver and the receiver, the artist and the audience. And when both of them communicate, the result is pure exaltation. All those who were on and off stage at The Sufi Lounge felt the reverberations of the extreme joy and harmony of Sufism and of Sufi Kalaam.

Speaker par excellence and prominent radio personality Kumud Merani opened the evening with a brief but thoughtful introduction to Sufism and took us on a journey back in time to Amir Khusro and Rumi.

Rucha Lange, is no novice to the music scene in Sydney. Born and trained in Hindustani Classical Music in Ahmedabad, she hails from a rich musical lineage which she has upheld through her continuing ”˜riaz’ in the classical style, as is evident from the ease and purity with which her notes flow. She opened the night with ”˜Dard se mera daaman bhar de yaa allah’ followed by some the masterpieces like Pt Jasraj’s ”˜Mero Allah meherbaan’. The highlight of her melodious renderings that evening was however her aalaap in Raga Miya ki Malhar followed by ”˜Ek bas tu hi nahi mujh se khafaa ho beitha’. A Sufi concert would be incomplete without classics like Amir Khusro’s mystical ”˜Chhap tilak sab chheeni’, and ”˜Dama dam mast kalandar’, duets which she sang with other singers and did equal justice to.

Medico musician Sadiq Rehmani, a gifted guitarist and a soulful singer, was totally at home with the music. He accompanied the singers on the guitar and sang from the heart and got the audience in awe with his Sindhi/Urdu rendition of the legendary Allan Fakir’s Kalaam. ”˜Bismillah’ displayed the height of Sadiq’s own spirit, his versatility as a musician. Many in the audience may have gone home with a wish he had sung more!

Avijit Sarkar and Rachana Bhatnagar need no introduction to Sydney audiences, The Sufi Lounge concert displayed a new facet of their singing prowess. Although Rachana’s vocal chords were not in the best shape that evening, her mellifluous renditions provided the evening a different shade of Sufi music. She sang ”˜Mere Maula karam ho karam’ with ease and devotion followed later in the concert by ”˜Man laago mero yaar fakiri me’ in her inimitable soothing style. Her rendition of dohas of Sant Kabir was superb reminding one of Abida Parveen.

Avijit Sarkar was at his best, with his apt and energetic harmonium interludes. With his numbers ”˜Khwaja mere khwaja’ and ”˜Sanso ki mala’ in the first half of the concert, he scaled new heights of musicality that held the audience spellbound. Music lovers of Sydney have regaled in hundreds of concerts he has held over the two and a half decades; this one added a new feather in Avijit’s cap. It was a pleasant surprise to listen to a good balance of songs, the golden favourites interspersed with a fair few lesser known, thus giving the performance an air of freshness and posing challenges along the way for the audience.

The highlight of the evening was Farhan Shah’s maiden performance in Sydney. Farhan, an Australian-Pakistani singer, composer, lyricist and a Sufi singer par excellence, captivated the audience with his energetic Qawwalis. The range and quality of his voice and his ability to pick up the pulse of the audience were evident in his performance that evening as the audience broke out in spontaneous rapturous applause and dance in his fast paced concluding ”˜Dam Damaadam Ali Ali’. Singer and a performer Farhan Shah’s vivacious voice will continue to reverberate in the memories for a long time to come.

The singers were supported by the able JAZBA band musicians. The resonance of the guitars, and their balancing with the rhythmics led by the brilliant Abhjit Dan’s tabla, teamed with the harmonium and the keyboard, produced perfectly synchronized music accompaniment. The music support played a large role in the success and ought to be applauded. When SNSR produces a show, there is bound to be all-round professionalism and this one was no exception. The Sufi Lounge has set a new standard and Sydney music audiences look forward to more such concerts in the time to come.

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