BY RATI KUMAR
On November 25, a crowd of nearly 600 music fans gathered at the Ashok Center auditorium at the Hindu Temple of Georgia in Norcross to revel in the musical prowess of Ustad Rahet Fateh Ali Khan. Scheduled to be the first performance of his American tour, the concert at Atlanta was postponed to a Tuesday, from Friday, November 21. The obstacle of a weekday apparently did nothing to dampen the spirits of Rahet’s fans.
At 8:40 p.m. on this chilly evening, the sonorous notes of a saxophone heralded the beginning of what would gradually become a crescendo of rhythm and passion.
The performance started with an instrumental rendition of ‘Jiya Dhadak Dhadak’, eliciting a roar of approval from the crowd. The performance group included saxophone player Rashid Ali, side singer and younger brother of Ustad Rahet Fateh Ali Khan, Vajahat Ali Khan, chorus singer, Ghulam Abbas, tabla players, Ghulam Shahbaaz and Yogesh, harmonium player, Mohammad Shafiq, bass guitarist, Salman Ashraf and keyboard player Jignesh.
A few minutes later, the maestro, clad in a rich brown kurta strode across the platform with an unassuming smile and his hands folded in a gentle Namaste. The audience of Atlanta’s music connoisseurs rose to its feet and greeted him with unbridled enthusiasm.
The crowd gripped in the vocal magic of the evening swayed and tapped in accompaniment to the Qawwalis and songs which poured forth in the melodious voice of the Ustad. The performance was also peppered generously with popular Hindi movie songs like ‘Jiya Dhadak Dhadak’, ‘Lagan Lagey Tumsey Mann ki Lagan’, ‘O re Piya’ and others from movies like Namaste London, Omkara and Paap. Heads swayed, hands clapped and wah-wah’s echoed from the enthralled crowd. In a tribute to his late uncle, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, he also sang the widely loved song ‘Afreen Afreen’. Last but not the least, the popular Namaste London movie song, ‘Main Jahan Rahoon’ seemed to be the crown jewel for the sing –along crowd.
As the evening wore on, people seemed to loosen up significantly – including a couple in the VIP section which took to dancing a short jig to one of the tunes. Requests from the crowd poured in and were generously entertained by the master.
The last song was preceded by a vote of thanks for the Ustad and his group. The organizers, Mr. Ved Bhatia, Mr. Mustafa Ajmeri and Mr. Nadir Jiwani took to the stage and also thanked all sponsors including the national distributor Dish Network, TVAsia, Sur Entertainment, Eyeline Telefilms and the rest of the media outlets. They additionally acknowledged the contribution of chief decorator for the show, Vandana Mahajan of Vandana Décor, and also the national promoter Amrita Dudhani.
There were also party favors for a couple of the audience members in the form of Bluetooth headsets they won as part of a raffle contest. Shortly after, at 11 p.m., the last strands of music floated into the night, concluding this night of musical extravagance – leaving the audience in the afterglow of a memorable performance.