Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paco Peña and Nishat Khan

Spent a very pleasant evening last night in the company of a friend at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (affectionately known locally as 'the Phil'). We were there to see Flamenco guitar legend Paco Peña. I first saw Paco Peña in 1992 at an open air gala concert at the Kings Dock in Liverpool. He appeared with other luminaries, namely soprano Montserrat Caballe, tenor Alfredo Kraus and Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain. It was a good night and thankfully the August weather was kind.

Last night was a less grand affair but very enjoyable nonetheless. I find the subculture thing quite amusing. There is definitely a Hispanic subculture in the Merseyside region. As we sat, we noticed prominent persons with involvement in the teaching of languages in Liverpool Authority, Wirral Authority and my Spanish tutor from college. You get the impression that anything with a vaguely Spanish theme attracts an audience of Spanish teachers, ex-patriot Spanish speakers and nobody else.

What I hadn't quite grasped about this concert is that it was a double header, Paco Peña and Nishat Khan, an Indian sitar player. I'm afraid my knowledge of music doesn't extend to the sitar with the exception of knowing that Ravi Shankar was much beloved of 60s pop/rock bands going through their mystical/psychadelic phases. Well, it seems Nishat Khan is no slouch either. He has worked with such big names as B.B.King, Pat Metheny and Carlos Santana. Initially the collaboration between Khan and Peña seemed a bit of an unholy marriage. But this particular brand of east/west fusion is not as unnatural as it at first seems. Apparently, Flamenco has its roots in the music of nomadic peoples of Rajasthan some of whom, in the 15th Century, found themselves in Spain. Apparently.

It was great to see two people who clearly are very passionate about their music yet are able to share a mutual respect. This was also evident in their respective ensembles. Their percussionists were each given the opportunity to shine in a friendly duel of the tabla vs the cajon. The cajon was interesting. At first I thought the player was just sitting on a speaker tapping casually, but apparently it is an instrument and boy could he play it!

A most pleasant evening!

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