Sufi jazz from across the border

Jan 06, 2013, 08:22 IST | Sanjiv Nair

Pakistan's Mekaal Hasan Band, known for giving eastern classical vocals and instruments like the flute and guitar a western Jazz twist, returns to Mumbai

Consider the adulation Pakistani musicians receive in India and you’ll know there’s no bitterness. Blue Frog will play host to one of the popular proponents and beneficiaries of this cultural osmosis, Mekaal Hasan Band (MHB).

Known for their avant-garde brand of jazz and sufi fusion, MHB has been around for more than a decade.The band, which was formed in 2001 in Lahore, released their first album Sampooran in 2004. The album was a departure from the usual simple and catchy tunes that typified Pakistani pop music of the era. However, it was the single Chal Bulleya from their 2009 album Saptak that made them popular on both sides of the border.

Today the band consists of four members — Hasan, Mohammad Ahsan Papu, Javed Bashir, and Amir Azhar.  Hasan, was exposed to a wide variety of music while studying at Berkeley. Talking about the band’s unusual sound Hasan says, “We wanted to use the best of both worlds — traditional music and contemporary harmony. I suppose you can find that sense of balance in just about all that we do, from our artwork to the way the music is arranged, Ultimately, too many bands lean towards rock, and that’s something I wanted to avoid. Why confine yourself to one generic soundscape when you can incorporate so much more colour?”

However, with the proof of the pudding being in the eating and all that what can a fan expect from their gig? “I think they will be shocked and thrilled and we will be making quite a few new fans this tour,” laughs Hasan. “There’s a variety of material in the set so there will be something for everyone I hope.”

Apart from great music there are a few very special guests that might grace the event. Hasan reveals, “I am really looking forward to catching up with some of my friends like Vishal Dadlani and Mahesh Tinaiker, and getting down to making music with these guys. There’s a special guest appearance planned with Ranjit Barot at the Blue Frog gig, so I hope that turns out to be something special for us all.”

Hasan was also gracious enough to reveal another one of the band’s destinations during their trip — “I do plan on doing the ultra touristy foodie thing of paying Mahesh Lunch Home a visit.”

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