It was one of the most eagerly awaited musical events of this year and tabla wizard Fazal Qureshi and Sarod maestro Adrian McNeil delivered a superlatively stirring performance at the Gurus of Indian Classical Music concert at the Avondale College auditorium last Sunday.

Adrian started off with a slow alap in raga Bhimpalasi, exploring the nuances of the melody without rhythmic accompaniment in traditional fashion. He then quickly moved on to the gat phase inviting Fazal to join in.
The two hit it off from the word go. Considering that they had never before played together, their understanding and anticipation of each other’s moves seemed as if they had been playing together and were used to each other for years.

Knowing well the popularity of the tabla and Fazal himself, Adrian generously shone the spotlight his accompanist giving him several opportunities within his rendition of Bhimpalasi to display his remarkable virtuosity with his twin percussion instrument that has indeed taken the music world by storm in recent years. Much of the credit for that goes to this first family of tabla – patriarch, the late Alla Rakha, his elder son the internationally renowned Zakir Hussain, Fazal and younger brother Taufiq.

A picture of perfect concentration, Fazal played the teen taal, which Adrian’s composition in Bhimpalasi was set to, with the same panache with which he has regaled audiences the world over: in the faster passages, it was impossible to see his fingers, his palms mere blurs on the faces of the tabla and the baya.

Post interval, Adrian played a dadra composition in Bhairavi as a dedication to India’s greatest sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan who passed away in California earlier this year (the audience paid its tribute at the beginning of the concert with a moment’s silence). The piece was followed by Fazal’s solo performance demonstrating the versatility of the tabla as a perfect rhythmic instrument that is sought after by musicians of all stripes from around the world.

Adrian and Fazal also jammed for a fusion piece with an electric bass and came up with an impromptu, unrehearsed melody to the delight of the audience.

Music 4 Dreamz said the capacity crowd that packed the venue was well beyond what they had expected with over 650 people attending. “It was our first effort at Music 4 Dreamz and we were a little overwhelmed by the fantastic response and the sell-out crowd,” said organiser Prashant Tijore.

University of Auckland ethnomusicology academic Dr Greg Booth said, “the concert was very successful. It was good audience, with a realistic mix of Indian and non-Indian people. Fazal-bhai enjoyed the evening very much and is looking forward to more performances in New Zealand.”

Fazal honours musicologist Mohan Nadkarni

Tabla wizard Fazal Qureshi honoured musicologist Mohan Nadkarni during his Auckland concert. Mr Nadkarni, 87, is one of India’s most renowned authorities on Hindustani music and has been the music critic of the Times of India for over 50 years since 1948. He has reviewed the earliest concerts of the greatest names in Hindustani music including Ustad Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain and Fazal himself. Fazal recalled the review of his first public performance in the 1970s. Mr Nadkarni has authored several books including the best selling biography of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. Before migrating to New Zealand, he donated his entire collection of writings and musical memorabilia including thousands of rare records and tapes to the SNDT University’s music department in Pune where a library has been set up in his name. he now lives in Auckland and continues to write occasionally. (See Picture Gallery).