Of Kashmiri strains and French baritones

How many times have you heard a song in Kashmiri in a contemporary space such as a pub in Delhi or Mumbai? Possibly, never. Mumbaiites will now get to actually hear renditions in Kashmiri and Urdu, by Bangalore-based band Parvaaz who will make their debut at a gig in the city.

Parvaaz came into existence in March 2012 and features Kashif Iqbal, Khalid Ahmed and Neil Simon (who left the band) and were later joined by Fidel D’Souza and Sachin Banandur. They dabble in several genres including Classic Rock, 1960’s Psychedelic and Progressive Rock, but what sets the group apart is the inclusion of Kashmiri lyrics in their repertoire.

Members of Bangalore-based band Parvaaz

“Kashif and Khalid are from Kashmir and are responsible for the Kashmiri lyrics in the album. It comes naturally to them and therefore gives more freedom, creatively,” shares Fidel, the band’s bassist. “We believe that sound comes before the lyrics. There are people who don’t understand the language but despite this we have fans who are willing to listen. It is the groove of the music that lures them; we feel in time, they will be singing along even if they don’t understand the words,” he adds.

At their Mumbai gig, the band will release their first EP Behosh, which apart from other songs will consist of Lolmatlai, which is completely in Kashmiri, while tracks like Behosh and Marika are a mix of Urdu and Kashmiri.

About their EP, Fidel explains, “Behosh has five tracks that we hand-picked from our live sets. The recording began in February this year and we launched it on July 13 in Bangalore. Efforts from the band and a few friends made this record possible.”

“The songs on the EP are set to have a Bluesy-Rock feel and lyrically, each carry a common theme of disillusionment in today’s world. People can expect Rock ‘n’ Roll with Soul and musical interludes that will take them places,” he adds.

The band members, who are looking forward to release a full-length studio album by January next year, welcome the fact that things are looking up on the independent music scene: “It’s taken time but everything is falling into place, slowly. Mindsets are changing across the board. Our music will always have a select audience though our aim is to build this into a massive one,” the bassist believes.

French bass-baritone Laurent Naouri is on his maiden tour to India. The multi-talented baritone’s professional career began in 1992 with his title role performance in Milhaud’s Christopher Columbus; there’s been no looking back since then. Now, with a vast repertoire of over 40 roles, that transcend 400 years of music — from early Baroque to contemporary music behind him, the baritone has set his eyes on the city and will be presenting a show here on August 2.

French baritone Laurent Naouri 

“I shall be singing songs from three different countries, composed between 1840 and 1920. Most of this repertoire constitutes pieces I’m familiar with, love and have performed many times, with the exception maybe of Reynaldo Hahn songs, which were a request from the NCPA,” says Naouri. The baritone is grateful to them for that, as it gave him the opportunity to discover a composer he didn’t know much about. This time period — late 1900s to early 20th century, is associated with Romanticism. And so naturally, “Romance will be the leading theme of the evening,” adds Naouri. The 48-year-old, who “regrets” that he will get to spend little time in Mumbai, is glad for the opportunity to visit India. “Maciej Pikulski, the pianist I’m working with, had performed in Mumbai already; he suggested my name to the NCPA. I am glad that they invited me,” he shares. Two of Naouri’s most highly praised roles are that of the four villains from Tales of Hoffmann and Golaud from Pelleas et Melisande.

French baritone Laurent Naouri during a performance

Although, he is a known baritone, Naouri was unsure of taking up music as a profession, initially: “I was lucky to meet a wonderful music teacher in High School and this encounter triggered my ambition to try my luck in the musical world. Yet, I had no idea of how to take it forward. She stated plainly that I wasn’t good enough at the keyboard, that I wasn’t attracted to either conducting or composing, but that I had an interesting voice and that I should develop that gift. I followed her advice,” reveals Naouri.

However, having a career as a baritone is no cakewalk. Several aspects need to be taken care of. For example, Nauori is keeping away from Indian food until the show ends: “One needs to take care of the voice, obviously, but it’s not too demanding. Good sleep and reasonable eating is key. I love hot and spicy food, but sometimes, it may be a bit tough for me to digest; likewise, I’ll have to wait for my show at NCPA to be done with, before tasting the real deal about wonderful Indian cuisine. I’ll play it safe and eat ‘like a tourist’; it will be hard to resist the temptation,” rues the artist, before heading back to rehearsals.

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