We almost didn’t make it.
Tickets for an Asha Bhosle with the Kronos Quartet concert last night were sold out. I spent the whole day checking the Barbican website to see if any seats would show up as free. Mr R and I made many calls to the box office to be told that one seat was available. By lunch time or so, I had given up and was mentally prepared to spend the evening doing something else.
4.30 pm : Logged on for a lark (just in case) and voilà! two prime seats were suddenly showing as available. Quickly called the box office and booked them before anybody else found out! They were expensive, but never mind. Considering that this was probably a once in a lifetime chance to see Asha live in London, it was possibly worth the price.
A quick call to Mr R at work to inform him and I set about getting dressed. Now we all know that it’s not possible for a girl to get dressed in 20 minutes. And especially since I was sure that the evening had other things in store besides a trip to London, I had not kept my clothes ready. Anyway, all that drama and I rushed to the station to be greeted with long queues at the ticket counter with people taking an average of 10 minutes each asking for directions and round about routes. Rush, Rush, Rush.
Managed to reach the Barbican just in time before the show and collected my ticket and left Mr.R’s ticket at the box office for him to collect when he got there after work. Gave him a call to let him know that I reached and he was just around the corner! Glad he got there in time.
We took our seats along with the (almost) Indian audience. We were all here to see Asha sing RD Burman songs and give this Kronos Quartet a patient hearing. The Quartet came on stage and “played” a few tunes. The funny part was that it was not just the four instruments being played. They had a soundtrack that ran in the background and provided the rest of the music. It was very annoying and sounded ‘off’. I don’t know how these guys won a Grammy once (yeah). They’ve lost their touch since, I guess.
8.15 pm : Still no sign of Asha. I could see the audience getting restless in their seats. This was a noisy audience- they cough a lot, shift in their seats, whisper to each other in the dark – none of which would be acceptable behavior in a western classical performance, even in the same auditorium – our cultural attitudes to a performance are so different.
8.35 : Interval. The audience saunters out to the café and comes back in with drinks. Mr.R comments that this would never have been allowed in any other performance. You eat and drink in the lounge and come back in when you are done. Maybe it just got too much for the ushers to stop.
9 pm : Second half begins and the Quartet returns, fortunately with Asha along this time. She dazzles in her uniform of sequined sarees, a glittering white one to start with. She apologizes for her bad English and makes fun of the Quartet. She tells of how she wondered what playing with the Quartet would be like, especially since she was used to playing with 100 musician orchestras and found to her amusement that this one would have only four musicians.
Her performance is peppered with witty one-liners and comments. We look forward to the end of each song just to hear her speak. And her voice! Her voice is still young, strong and full of pizazz. She asks the audience to guess her age and receives a round of applause when she reveals that she is 73.
She starts with ‘Chura Liya’ and the audience loves it. She goes on to sing other favorites, doing a little acting now and then, breaking into a little jig in a dance number. She is fabulous and it was worth sitting through the Quartet’s dismal performance just to watch her.
My favorite song of the evening was ‘Mera Kucch Samaan’ from the movie Ijaazat (arguably one of Gulzar’s finest films) starring Rekha, Nasseer and Anuradha Patel. The lyrics (by Gulzar) are full of yearning and gave me a lump in the throat by the time Asha had finished singing it. Her rendition was full of poignancy and she sang it with feeling. The song is about loss. It is about wanting our lives back, of wanting to reclaim all those minutes, years, memories that we spend thinking about the past and wishing it were all different. It is about dealing with the baggage that we carry and in this case a little underhanded blackmail as it ends with a subtle threat (my analysis!)
It is a fabulous song, nevertheless and for this one alone, I was glad I made the trip into the City.
The night ended with a spirited encore with Asha (in a pink sari now) singing ‘Piya Tu’ . She got a standing ovation at the end.
Asha is truly evergreen and may she sing for many, many more years to come.
The new Asha Bhosle and Kronos Quartet CD is out now. It’s called ‘You’ve stolen my heart’ (Chura Liya!!).
Stop Press : Just heard of an earthquake in Pakistan and North India. Watching pictures of buildings falling on Star News and new of Army personnel deaths …