APMA shares a mesmerising katha

Friday, February 7th, 2014 7:34:30 by


To commemorate the ninth death anniversary of its founding member Hayat Ahmad Khan, the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) struck the right note by hosting a musical night.

The conference, which is one of the few spaces that has provided a lifeline to classical music in the country, has time and again made its mark with gripping performances.

Khan and Nahid Siddiqui are among the pioneers of the kathak (form of classical dance) in Pakistan. Both Khan and Siddiqui were students of Maharaj Ghulam Hassan Kathak, who single-handedly sustained the dance form in the country.

Kathak dance, which has over the years become rare in Pakistan, is interesting because it is derived from the word katha, which means to tell a story through the movement of dance, musicians at the event explained.

It is in multiple ways an essential component of classical dance due to its ability to give form to music and, more importantly, its liaison with musical instruments that hail from the subcontinent.

Watching Nighat Chaudhry’s kathak three-taal (rhythm) performance alongside Faheem Mazhar at the APMC event was liberating, to say the least. It was interesting to see Mazhar, who is among the most respected classical singers, to collaborate with the enthralling Nighat Chaudhry.

It takes up immense hard work and concentration of the musicians and dancer to strike the perfect balance between music and kathak dance, which the performers laudably achieved. PHOTO: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS

“This performance is a [spiritual amalgam] because in the beginning, it pays a tribute to Maula Ali (AS) and his spirit in a classical way, and then, there was thumri that has many bol (rhythmic patterns), which even if done without kathak, people really enjoy listening to,” says Basharat Ali, the harmonium player who was excited by the live performances.

It was concluded by a performance comprising sections of the three taal, something that Basharat says the average music listener is not accustomed to, but at the APMC, most listeners connect with and sway to.

“This music is hard to understand for the average listener, but the public that is sitting here understands classical music and how it’s made because of the conference,” adds Basharat.

Chaudhry’s performance was electric as she performed in unison with the music — utilising her body, hands and feet as a way to connect with the rhythm.

The unison was demonstrated by the tabla solos, which followed her lead. Tabla maestro Sajid Ali, who is a member of Siddiqui’s troupe and has performed around four times before with Chaudhry, describes the combination of tabla and dance.

“It’s very difficult to play tabla for kathak dance because you have to follow the dancer. So, you have to practice a lot with the dancer before it is perfected,” says Sajid.

The audience gave great reviews of the performance. Ali Shahbaz Jafri, a clothing designer, has been following the classical music scene for some time. He said that Mazhar was an experienced singer and has been the student of several imminent singers. He added that the audience’s applause was testament to the success of the performance.

“In terms of the story, the combination of tabla and kathak dictates the story of the thirsty crow; there is a crow that is in search of water and when [he finds a jug of water, the neck of which is narrow] he finds pebbles, which he throws into [the jug] to make the water level rise, so that he can drink it,” says Jafri.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2014.

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