Qawwali Flamenco: Powerful musical fusion provides a unique live experience
Pakistani maestro Faiz Ali Faiz teamed up with great flamenco guitarist Chicuelo and his ensemble, with superb singers Melchora Ortega and Tomas de Perrate
LATE great maestro Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan connected qawwali music to contemporary audiences in a way no artist had done before and took it across new horizons. Like much of the pathbreaking work he did, this unique collaboration has done just that since it first premiered and returned to London for more of the same at Barbican theatre.
It was fitting that the qawwali element was provided by Pakistani maestro Faiz Ali Faiz, who has the most similar vocal tone to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and a willingness to experiment with a genre that is rooted in centuries of history.
He teamed up for the show with great flamenco guitarist Chicuelo and his ensemble, with superb singers Melchora Ortega and Tomas de Perrate. By finding the common ground between the two popular genres, the talented musicians and singers delivered a seamless set with songs merging into each other, to provide a unique percussion-driven live experience.
The Flamenco singers, qawwali maestro and world-class musicians created a great atmosphere, in a show that was performed without an interval and gained momentum as it progressed. Songs that got the greatest reaction were renditions of all-time classics, Piya Re and Allah Hoo.
Musically, Chicuelo showed off his incredible guitar skills and acted as a connecting point between singers from separate musical worlds performing in different languages. Qawwali Flamenco ended with the singers doing a prayer like chant together at the front of the stage.
What prevented the show from being perfect was the song structures not allowing Faiz Ali Faiz to go deeper into the qawwali lyrics and largely sticking to the chorus. There was also definite scope to add more popular qawwalis like Mast Qalandar into the set. The 90-minute show could also have been longer, with an enthralled audience clearly wanting more. That didn’t take away from this being one of the year’s best live concerts at a great venue known for doing things differently.