Often with religion and spirituality, the first meeting decides who becomes a believer and who becomes a cynic. I experienced something quite similar with my first concert yesterday.
MTV Unplugged has been doing great justice to the Indian Rock Music and has brought out some great artists in the recent times both through its TV concerts as well as its Big City gigs. Hard Rock Café through its own method has been the unspoken beacon for Indian Rock in cities as well (Folks of Bengaluru may differ in this) So it wasnt surprising when the two great ambassadors came together to arrange what I felt was a great evening on 7th, January featuring Rabbi Shergilll , the rising folk-rock musician provided for a wonderful evening of Sufi-Punjabi-Rock Fusion.
Me and a few friends reached at the place at around 8:30 for the Gig that was scheduled to start at 9:00 but while patient as most hyderabadis are, the delay in the start of the performance ( 9:45 by my old rusty watch) might have tested a few . I was indeed surprised by the sizeable crowd in a very southern metropolis considering the performance was for a Punjabi Rock Musician ( Theres hardly a Bhangra song in the radio let alone blaring out of cars on the roads in Hyderabad).But most of the listeners were either Punjabi at origin or seemed north Indian.
MTV seemed all set to make this an interesting concert when its VJ showed up in a very strange motif of an sleek elegant black top and a very weird commando bottoms (Seemed like she was going in for a special operation in the middle of the Jungles of Africa to attend an evening cocktail party) then again I am no expert at Fashion.
Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, a bunch of guys (10 of them by my count) got up on a the long bar table by the side of the main stage to do their own rendition of YMCA by the Village people, racy raunchy and almost instilling very weird feelings in the most straight of men, the 10 boys seemed almost unabashed at their dance moves. In my mind offcourse was the old tape of the Horror.. the horror on continuous loop as the little performance thankfully stopped at just the 1 song.
Enter the man of the hour, Rabbi Shergill, sporting a sauve look and an acoustic guitar on hand accompanied by 4 other wonderful musicians. Rabbi seemed to draw a great deal of confidence in the crowd of semi Punjabis and northies and was indeed relieved that the evening of Punjabi Rock wouldnt be in front of sparse crowds. He strummed away some of his more popular and well known numbers interspersed with the lesser known or newer numbers at regular intervals. The gathering mouthed out words as I looked in dumb confusion, a Punjabi isnt my language especially when the audio is so poor
terrible acoustic is a bane for a newcomer, trying to figure out lyrics and tone. Starting off with his famous Folk song , Jugni which was a real delight with the generous use of the Punjabi Dhol and the Drums the mood was set for a Bhangra evening, with a lot of lads standing out front getting into an impromptu dance right then, taking you back to countless delirous baraatis .
Jugni was soon followed up with a few Song numbers like Ajj Nachna, a song from the movie Delhi heights and then moved onto some of his lesser known compositions such as Gill te Guitar, a tribute to his friends who are now in distant lands living the corporate drawl and Karachi valiye, a song about a man who meets a girl in Karachi and falls in love with her. But it seemed hyderabad was all but interested in only one song, the one that made Rabbi famous almost a cult figure in some circles of Hyderabad, Bulla Ki jaan seemed to be on the lips of everyone in the crowd. Rabbi was not just playing the rockstar but at times the preacher appeasing an anxious crowd. The concert went down a swinging path, enthralling audiences with some very popular numbers and at times taking them to terrains never explored, newer songs that have only been heard by a few, His new number Ganga seemed truly worth a listen for those coming out of the concert, about the new generation and the need for a revolution.
Rabbi ended the evening with a Big Bang playing his most popular singles, Tere Bin from the movie Delhi Heights and Bulla ki Jaan ( although me thinks the average hyderabadi has different reasons to like the song ). Repeated Encores and solo performances made sure that the fans got they came for, a nice wonderful evening up close with a promising musician ( dare I say on his path to become legendary?)
The crowd were ecstatic often deafening ( especially the girls behind me who seemed to derive a strange pleasure testing the limits of my feeble eardrum) and clearly delirious with Confluence of rock, Sufi and Punjabi folk , with several people getting into impromptu Bhangra Jigs and the Hop routine.
All in all, save for the irritating wait in the beginning and a few weird antics by the HRC boys, a wonderful evening, worth its money and worth the wait. Punjabi Music may have made a grand entrance in Hyderabad with this gig. This humble Burrper wishes for more of Rabbi and Punjabi music in the future and Yes... Im a Believer!!!