Legends Hariharan, Bickram Ghosh, and Ustad Rashid Khan
Legends Hariharan, Bickram Ghosh, and Ustad Rashid Khan Image Credit: Supplied

Variety will be the spice of this show, promises legendary Indian singer Hariharan as he gets ready to perform with the iconic percussionist and composer Bickram Ghosh and Hindustani classical legend Ustad Rashid Khan.

“Expect a range of music being performed — khayal, thumri, ghazal, tabla, sitar, vocal fusion, and Bollywood songs. Our biggest challenge is to choose the right proportion of various styles. You will have three concerts rolled into one in ‘Surtaal 2’,” said Hariharan in an exclusive email interview with Gulf News.

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Singer Hariharan

The concert, conceptualised by Gem Enterprises on March 20 in Dubai’s Sheikh Rashid Auditorium, will be blend of soulful ghazals, Bollywood hits, fusion rhythms, and melodies by this prolific trio.

“Music has a place of primacy in Indian culture and in traditional aesthetic. Our music is often allegorised as ‘the food of the soul’. At the close end of the pandemic we take this opportunity to present before you, the three musical maestros in live performance ... Our focus is on those music enthusiasts who look forward to such live performances and that is the objective of ‘Surtaal 2’,” said organiser Sudip Saha in statement.

The three maestros also share his sentiment.

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Bickram Ghosh Image Credit: Supplied

“The best part of touring together is making melodies and there’s no worst part to it. These memories are priceless because the richer the life you have, the better you get at your music,” said Ghosh over email.

As they prepare for their first concert after the global pandemic, singer Hariharan and percussionist Ghosh talk about making melodies and memories of a lifetime together:

MEET THE MAESTROS

Who: Singer Hariharan

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His take on returning to the live concert scene after the pandemic:

“It’s like a bad dream that I tend to forget. It was a different kind of life and was good in giving us time to introspect. I have come out stronger in my live shows now. The pandemic also made you realise how little you need to live your life and about family became the most important factor in our lives. I really enjoyed being with them.”

Ensuring harmony on stage when three maestros perform:

“Music rules, not us! The music we perform is in absolute to rhythm and harmony.”

His identity as a musician:

“I sing all genres of music. I am a singer who enjoys all styles of music and tries to perform each genre to its perfection.”

His most memorable concert:

“To name one concert is difficult, but my NH4 Concert in Pune [Soul India] was highly enjoyable. And there’s a galore of ghazal concerts that I find memorable.”

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Hariharan Image Credit: IANS

His take on UAE audiences:

“The UAE audience go to shows to enjoy them thoroughly and that’s half the battle won. They are very receptive to all forms of music. ‘Surtaal 2’ will have all the magic in it.”

His biggest strength and weakness:

“I have done different kinds of music — ghazals, fusion (Colonial Cousins), thumris, play back singing in Bollywood, Hollywood, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam languages. My strength is the diversity in my repertoire. I get challenged with the quantum of work I have done to bring it live.”

Your thoughts on Ustad Rashid Khan and Bickram Ghosh:

“They are two maestros on stage and with them I bring my brand of music. Our conversation is in the language of music. Rashid bhai is one of the most amazing singers I have known. He’s traditional in his khayal renderings. At the same time, he loves modernity and infuses them into his work. Bickramji is a rock star. He’s a traditional and a funky artist. He composes beautiful melodies and I loved working with him in ‘Ishq Songs Of Love’ album.”

The musical moment in India:

“Youngsters are into classical music. A new raft of musicians and vocalists have surfaced and you can hear them on YouTube and Instagram and I am very happy about this.”

His future work:

“I am working on a ghazal album and the poet is Farhad Shehzad. The recording has started and the ghazals have already been composed. The next one on my list is an album with my son Akshay Hariharn and we will do a lot of live shows.”

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Hariharan

Who: Percussionist and composer Bickram Ghosh

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Bickram Ghosh

About Surtaal 2 in Dubai:

“Expect a unique collaboration between Hariharan and I where we will play on his content which includes his ghazals and his film songs. We will also play tracks from our collaboration Rythmscape. We will also perform to our mutual content from our new album ‘Ishq — Song Of Love’ and that makes it a special evening. And the finale will see Rashid Khan, Hariharanji and myself come together for a number that we have all collaborated on.

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Ustad Rashid Khan at an earlier concert with Bickram Ghosh in Dubai

About the pandemic that brought the live show scene to a halt:

“Every artist was affected, because live shows were not happening. But I channelised all that energy into our album ‘Ishq’ with Hariji and it became very successful. We had a wonderful time making that album shot by the famous Bengali director Arindim Sil. Currently, things have opened up and hopefully they will remain that way. We are now back to doing live shows. And ‘Surtaal 2’ is one of the biggest early bird shows after the pandemic and everybody is looking forward to it.”

His take on attaining rhythm and harmony:

“Absolute rhythm and harmony exists where there is love and friendship between three artists. Rashid Khan and I got back 35 years and we grew up together. We are both a similar age and we have been close friends for years. We have done so many concerts together … With Hariji, we have this huge history between the two of us and I have a humongous respect for him. He’s a great artist and is one of the most wonderful human beings I have met. We have performed live on stage and our album ‘Ishq’ brought us together. He’s a great artist and is one of the most wonderful human beings I’ve ever met. We share a wonderful camaraderie between us as people.”

On Bollywood dominating and eclipsing the Indian music scene:

“It’s not frustrating at all. I have done work for Bollywood and I have scored music for over 12 films. Last year, I did the music for Sanjay Dutt’s ‘Torbaaz’ and ‘Jal’ with director Girish Malik which got Sonu Nigam and me an Oscar contention. I travel easily between different worlds — the world of fusion, classical music, Bollywood, and world of Bengali films. I am creatively satisfied because I feel blessed to be able to co-exist in all these different spaces simultaneously.”

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Bickram Ghosh Image Credit: Supplied

His idea of a memorable concert:

“Musically, when artists are on the same level there’s a feeling of shared camaraderie which allows us to experiment with the forms we are performing. When there’s mutual respect there’s perfect ‘Surtaal’ to concerts. One of my most memorable concerts was when I played with my father Shankar Ghosh, my guru, in 1997, and when I played with Pandit Ravi Shankar, my guru, in 1993 in Belgium. Another memorable concert was my first fusion show with my own band Rhythmscape in 2001 … These concerts were landmark moments in my life and shaped my future by giving me huge validation.”

His biggest strengths and weaknesses:

“My biggest strengths is the sincerity and passion that I bring to the stage with my music. And if there is any weakness, I don’t want to talk about it as it’s my life’s work to overcome it. Any artist gradually becomes an expert at hiding their weaknesses. Nobody is born as a perfect musician, our job is to play around the weaknesses.”

His future projects: 

“I am working on a bunch of films in Hindi including ‘Band of Maharajas’ with director Girish Malik and I have about eight Bengali films. I am working on a new Rhythmscape album and I am hoping that Hariji and I can start work on it. There’s another album waiting for release with has Rashid and Hariji on it and many other wonderful artists.”

Who: Classical musician Ustad Rashid Khan

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Ustad Rashid Khan

What he learned from the pandemic:

“I learned not to look back on the darker days and greet the present with a bright smile. The pandemic has opened up new vistas by bringing me close to my audience around the world virtually. But stage is where I belong.”

His most memorable concert:

“Perfection in sur and taal is what makes a concert perfect. I cannot single out a particular concert as my most significant one, but my gig with MTV Unplugged and Coke Studio was hugely memorable. My concerts with Bombay Jayshree, Salim Suleiman, Vishal Bharadwaj were also memorable. The list is actually endless.”

His thoughts on Hariharan and Bickram Ghosh:

“I have been in sync with Hariji since I was five years old and I share a bro code with Bickram since we were teenagers.”

His future projects:

“I am working together with my son Armaan and the performers of my music academy. In the next two years, you will see a splurge of young musicians from my Academy trotting the globe taking on amazing projects.”

Don't Miss It
When: March 20
Where: Sheikh Rashid Auditorium, Oud Mehta, Indian High School, Dubai
Time: 7.30pm (Gates open 7pm)
Tickets: Dh75, Dh100, Dh125, Dh200, Dh500
Available at: Platinumlist.net and Bookmyshow.com