No, I didn't mean it literally of course. I didn't shake hands with him or pecked him on the cheek! Instead, I attended his transcendental concert at the Shanmukhananda Hall, Sion last evening. If connecting to the soul of art is the same as knowing the artiste, I have come to know Kailash Kher yesterday - Kailash Kher, the man who has God behind his voice!
The evening started badly. After negotiating the legendary Mumbai traffic from Goregoan West to Sion and finding that parking near the Hall was a luxury we had to forego, Mamata and I entered the concert hall 45 minutes late. Going late to somewhere always pisses me off, even though I never seem to be able to control that. Incredibly, the concert hadn't even started by the time we got seated proving that the 'Indian Standard Time' is a concept here to stay for some more time. Apparently, the culprit is the faux-celebrity, Anurag Pandey aka Picture Pandey of Fever 104.0 FM. Pfoof!
To add insult to the injury, our seats were horribly wrong. I could barely see the head of Kailash Kher bobbing up over the balcony wall and I hate to see live concerts on the big projection screens. It just doesn't feel 'live' when you can't see the artiste except on a telecast. By the time the opening nonsense about the generosity of sponsors and some ego-serving by Fever 104.0 FM was served, I was simmering deep down to my core like a piece of anthracite in a Tandoor . I prepared for the horrors of the evening to unfold.
How wrong I was! All it needed was Kailash Kher to start singing and the evening suddenly turned magical. A product of hard earth and limited means, he is as unsophisticated as his voice. He denies that though. He 'speaks English now, you know' he declared to the audience proudly. Making small talk with the audience throughout the evening, he dissed the bureaucrats who claim 'long-standing' friendship with him, journalists who ask dumb questions, VIPs who can't smile, Anurag Pandey and some other who come late. And the stories about his humble origins, the recent death of his mother, the story of rock-dudes in his Band - Paresh-Naresh, Kailasa's origin and its global success.... The evening had suddenly come alive for me!
Some audience left disappointed though. And some others were unruly as mobs usually are. They all came for the Nusrat Fateh Ali's songs. Kailash Kher meant nothing to them. I would assume the fault is at Fever's end. They promoted it excessively as 'Nusrat night' instead of 'Kailash Night'. Fans of Nusrat flocked in hundreds, only to hear modernized renditions of Rang deeni, Kinna Sona and some other classics. 'Oh, it was all so loud!' declared an exasperated lady on the way out. But of course it is, Aunty! It was Kailash Kher all the way. Didn't you know?
Kailsa's multi-talented band members and particularly Paresh-Naresh duo complemented their lead singer's vocals perfectly. Rang Deeni's modern make-over was pure genius. But the crown jewel was always going to be 'Saiyaa'. I tell you, there is God in this man's voice! That Kailash Kher is sincere is a known fact. Did you also know that the breathless singing that Saiyaa demands isn't a product of some clever studio wizardry? I realised that yesterday. He can really sing the long stretches without breaking. And when his breath gives away and the lungs refuse to go further, he squeezes his stomach in with his free hand to bring out the sound like it should! I never saw a singer more humble and sincere.
But you always had to have someone to spoil the party. Anurag Pandey, a nice man I'm sure, was a misfit for the presenter's role. He apparently has an ego of his own which he couldn't let go. When he was on stage, it was as much about himself as Kailasa and in spite of the subtle digs Kailash Kher was taking at the Picture Pandey, he had to do what he does. Biggest surprise was when they presented the star RJs of Fever on stage. Karan Singh, the bhabhi-magnet who presents the classical and Ghazal fare in the evening, turned out to be a westernised, gum-chewing, disinterested bloke with a facial expression that can only be termed 'arrogant'. May be he was going for 'non-chalant', but who cares! Amidst all this buffoonery, Kailash Kher's humilty stood out like a pristine lotus in a mud pond.
The crowd kept clamouring for Nusrat's numbers inspite of Kher reminding them that he isn't an FM Radio program which plays listener's choices at whim. The crowd kept at it in spite of that, to the extreme annoyance of Mamata and Kher himself. In the end, he obliged and closed the evening with one last Nusrat number to silence the cacophony.
When the stage lights went away and the band started packing up, the front benchers moved forward to click a picture of the singer. He didn't sniff his nose in a nonchalant way and rush back to the green room. Instead, Kailash Kher moved forward to meet his admirers, bent forward and folded his hands, posing for the photographs. The lucky ones captured the moment in their cell phones. I was so moved, and so far away from the stage, I decided to capture the moment in my own way - I decided write a blog after nearly six months and treasure the moment in my memory, forever!