A Deranged Paki and Begging For Peace – Nice combo, eh?
The Kala Ghoda festival. I’ve known it since the past 7 years, and have been a regular visitor. But there was only one thing that interested me there. The food. Well, this year, however, the Kala Ghoda festival has opened new horizons for me.
I first came to know of the concerts way back in December, when I accidentally s****ed on to the Alms For Shanti website. Checked the tour dates, and I see that they are performing on the 6th of February at the Kala Ghoda fest. I couldn’t believe it then, that the New York band would be coming here. Well, I eventually did see my first AfS gig at Republic Rock, but it was clear that I would not be missing this once in a lifetime opportunity to see them in the great beauty of the Kala Ghoda fest.
The morning of the 6th, I checked the papers to confirm that they would be playing and was pleasantly surprised that playing along with them would be Ali Azmat. Yeah, the Junoon vocalist, who is currently on his solo spree. Well, the timings printed were 7 p.m., so I dutifully reached the venue (the Azad Maidan) at 7:30, with a couple of friends. Boy, was I excited for AfS…
Hmm… The first thing I noticed at the venue was the simplicity, and no presence of any food stalls. Damn… Well, the crowd was umm, let’s say, more of the office-going variety, with a lot of the commoners of the Maidan present too for the free show. The stage was well done up, with a lovely backdrop of the Kala Ghoda. The amplifiers were the usual Marshalls, and what surprised me was the presence of a percussion corner.
Well, we reached just in time, for as we walked in, the compere came on and introduced Ali Azmat. First impressions: Man, why is he dressed like Joe Satriani? I mean, he is bald, but with his shades, and his “attitude”, well, hope you get the point. He introduced us to his band, Social Circus and started off with “Deewana Tha”. Please note here that I’ve not heard much of his stuff, so the song titles are the words, which I feel, were most repeated in the chorus… Pretty good stuff, that first song. Better than what I’d expected. Ali’s guitar (I think it was a Les Paul), had a lovely tone. The second guitarist, however, was umm, ohk. He was using a lot of wah-wah, an effect I would begin to detest once they would leave, as you’ll come to know in a short while. They then played a track with a very “Jeremy”-ish feel. One thing to point out here. The sound system was pretty ****ed up. As in, the vocals could not be heard, and nor could Ali’s guitar. He then started off with a Junoon classic, “Dosti” and boy, was this redone well. A few bunches of people knew the lyrics, and Ali looked pleased. This song was given a very reggae feel, reminiscent of HFC’s “SSG” and showed off the keyboardist’s saxophone skills with a small solo. They went on to play the next song, “Raasta Aur Hai” which was decent, except for a lovely keyboard sound. Oh yeah, before I forget, each of the songs had the second guitar using a lot of wah-wah and flanger.
Ali then changed over to his black semi-acoustic, which again had a lovely sound. The band started off with “Keh Gasha” which was an Ohkish song, and after a small drum interlude, connected it to their next song, whose name I don’t recollect. Things to note include the very weird sounding drum interlude, which reminded me of the classic “Jahaan Teri Yeh Nazar Hai” and which turned out to be a take on “Bombay Se Aaya Mera Dost”. The next song was seriously well done, with lovely keys. They then did the most famous Ali Azmat track in India, “Garaj Baras”. This was the only song where the second guitarist used distortion. They did it pretty well, and it sounded nothing like the album version. Social Circus then ended off with “Naa Re Naa”, which again, was done pretty well. Overall, they ranged from being a college band to a really good sounding band, with Ali’s voice being easily distinguishable. The song structures were pretty simple throughout, and hey, the biggest turn off for me had to be the second guitarist’s unusual fetish for wah-wah. He practically used the same effect throughout the gig.
Alms For Shanti were then introduced to the stage. I went up to the barricades, as close as I could get. They had with them today Taufiq Qureshi, and now, the reason for setting up the percussion joint became crystal clear. They started off with “Om Namah Shivay” which has a lovely chorus. Based in Hindi, the song has real potential. BTW, AfS had their mridangam specialist Rajagopalan with them today. Jayesh was using the same guitar he’d used for Republic Rock, and accompanying them on drums was Kurt Peters. The song got the crowd totally pumped up, and they started off with the next track, “Neverlife”. Well, this song had a very “Mariachi” feel to it, right from the intro to the guitar solo. Now, obviously, Zero’s track came out much later than theirs… wondering if this was the inspiration. A lovely track, nonetheless, but this one had no Quereshi accompanying them. They then did the song, which I’m slowly beginning to love, “Looking For The Mahatma”. Again, the outro is so damn funky! Love this track Man, I sure do. Great lyrics which make you think, a nice punchy chorus and overall, probably my second favorite AfS track. They then did a track called “The End Of The World”. At this point, I was asked by a friend, “Hey, so what exactly is the difference between AfS and Indus Creed?” To this I replied, “Well, there’s not much of a difference, but the only thing that AfS did was to incorporate more Indian elements”. By the way, if you people are still clueless, Indus Creed (or Rock Machine) is the mother band for AfS.
Once the song got over, the band members left the stage. Only to be replaced by Taufeeq Qureshi, who started off with his solo percussion performance. This guy is good. Just good? Man, he’s more than that… He’s awesome! He started off with some basic beats, than began the “kulla” method, using his own mouth to get the beats, and ended off with a vocal beat-box performance. This was then followed with a small duel between him and Kurt Peters on drums, only to be joined by Rajagopalan and his mridangam. The whole percussion only set lasted for a good 20 minutes. Alms For Shanti took the stage once more, to start off with the ad-libbing “Laghoom” and followed it up with their kick-ass, funky cover of “Come Together”. This one had the crowd on their feet, begging for more. Then came yet another surprise for the evening, as the former Indus Creed guitarist, Naresh joined them on guitars. His red-tiger stripe Ibanez had a lovely tone, and they started off with “Tequila”, and “Hush”, to which the crowd sang along too. Lovely song. Now then, while the two guitarists were having a mini duel with great solos, Gandhi’s string broke, and they finished off the song. Well, not to worry. As Naresh left, Jayesh took his guitar and they played their most famous track, “Kashmakash”. This time, they used the Sarangi sample, and boy, was the track awesome! I love it; it’s probably the best AfS track till date. Well, with four minutes to go, they wanted to wrap up. So, they started off with “Superbowl”, and used the song to remind the crowd of their names, with each band member getting his own mini solo, including the bassist, Naresh, Kurt, Taufeeq, Jayesh and Rajagopalan. They ended off with a bang, and the gig came to an end.
As I went out, I caught up with a few friends, met the P-Man who reminded me of his show on the 9th. Well, talk about advertising. Hey, was extremely hungry, so I had like two glasses of Kala Khatta, and went home, with “Kashmakash” in my head and a new respect for Alms For Shanti.