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All that jazz

Two concerts in Lahore put aside the stress on form to create improvisational sound fields that appealed to both the expert and the novice

All that jazz
Wolfgang Haffner and band performing in Lahore.

Two concerts held in Lahore, one sponsored by the Annemarie-Schimmel Haus and the other by the Austrian Embassy, had one thing in common: the desire and ability to experiment by going beyond the particularity of form.

Kusimanten, the three-member Austrian group, that performed here consisted of Tamara Lukasheva, deeLinde and Marie Theres Hartel. Their performance was a journey of sorts through the music of Central Europe, beginning from the grand classical tradition that is most valued in the west, developed largely in the territories that are currently Germany and Austria. In the brochure that was distributed before the performance, this music was called “sound fields” from classical to chamber music. But the actual performance proceeded to also give examples of jazz, folklore and even demonstrations of funk and pop. It further ventured into the musical melodies of the east; creating a kind of medley whose point was to feel the sound rather than zero in on its forms and structures.

The examples of the east were not difficult to identify, because in the latter part of the concert there was a jugalbandi between Kusimanten and our very own Ustad Nafees Khan on sitar and Muhammed Waqas on tabla. Ustad Nafees Khan has really developed as a front-rank sitar player and his understanding of music, which is not limited to just the rigorous regimen of sitar-playing, has inculcated a sensibility that makes it easier for him to interact with other musical systems.

deeLinde who specialises on the cello comes from a long line of folk musicians from Styria. She has collaborated with other bands and theatre groups to record projects around the world. Marie Theres Hartel on the viola comes from a family of musicians as well and has also grown up in Styria, working on various projects at the Craz Opera with different orchestras. She then shifted to Berlin where she became more focused on contemporary dance and improvisations. Tamara Lukasheva, the vocalist’s parents are both musicians. She studied jazz piano with the famous Rossanna Samirnova for about ten years, played with the German National Jazz Orchestra and has performed all over the world.

The other performance was a jazz concert by the Wolfgang Haffner Band from Germany. Wolfang Haffner is one of the foremost jazz drummers and has played with many of the most well-known jazz musicians. He was also accompanied in the group by Ferdinand Kirner on the guitar, Somon Oslander on the piano and Christian Diener on bass.

Wolfgang Haffner has over four hundred albums to his credit and has played in all the major jazz festivals across the world. His album ‘Kind of Cool’ has been in the top hundred pop charts. He has toured about hundred countries as well as released solo albums, received ECHO awards twice followed by Cultural Award from his hometown Nuremberg.

Other than its distinct American variety which has been its home, jazz over the years has also developed a European style which is probably even more experimental than the American. Perhaps it gave more space to European musicians who found themselves hemmed in by the highly developed and stylised form of their own classical traditions.

Ustad Nafees Khan has really developed as a front-ranking sitar player and his understanding of music, which is not limited to just the rigorous regimen of sitar-playing, has inculcated a sensibility that makes it easier for him to interact with other musical systems.

Traditional jazz bred in the ghettos and slums of the Afro-American communities was seen to be a work of pure genius. In the absence of proper training institutions and infrastructure, it evolved on the steam of its own creativity to become a major form of music during the course of the last century. The basic principle of improvisation facilitated external infusions without limiting their influence, as can happen with artistic forms which are highly rigid or stylised. Since it was easier to creatively handle jazz, it was widely used in multimedia multi-artistic forms like cinema and theatre.

It may appear that these days there is plenty of fluidity involved in understanding and appreciating the various forms of human expression. For one, the definiteness of the medium has been cast in doubt a well as the maturity that a form achieves. Both are being questioned as these as treated merely as processes that are in a state of flux, change and making. The great interaction that is taking place between cultures and the formal structures of those cultures are a point to ponder. Most of the time, the interaction does not result in anything except the desire to break down boundaries. This is happening most of the time and makes one to wonder about the purpose of the enterprise. Perhaps this is the main purpose and one should not look beyond it. It is all meaningful if the interactions and the quest are innocent or conducted in full innocence hoping for something to emerge out of it.

Sarwat Ali

The author is a culture critic based in Lahore

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