Najma Akhtar In Concert At The Cockpit on 11th November was my first time at The Cockpit. With a little bit of luck, it will also have been my last time, unless the comfort of the seating and the amount of leg room are improved very considerably.
And while we are 'bitching and moaning,' I should also mention the equally appalling lighting. The stage - and the rest of the auditorium - were, for most of the time, bathed entirely in the most unpleasant red, which was extremely distracting and uncomfortable. Another disincentive for visiting this venue.
However, in spite of the physical discomfort, a fairly magical evening ensued last Sunday with Najma Akhtar In Concert At The Cockpit. But then, any Najma Akhtar event has magic about it, the magic of Ms. Akhtar's heavenly voice that is possessed of a spellbinding charm that even the sirens would envy. This particular event was billed as 'An evening of celebrated Ghazals, semi-classical, some old film songs, sufi...' rather than Akhtar's now more familiar fusion work. A rare occasion that was not to be missed, indeed. Evidently, I was not alone in this judgement as the venue was extremely crowded.
Thankfully, in view of the extreme discomfort caused by the seating and lighting as noted before, Najma Akhtar In Concert At The Cockpit consisted of two sets, with a chance to stretch one's legs and catch a little fresh air.
Ms. Akhtar's performance was as magically enchanting as ever, and one found it hard to believe the years that had passed since her debut. However, she seemed to be suffering from a cold and its effects on her voice, and she also seemed to have some difficulty hitting the top notes, but it was easy to forget and forgive these slight impediments. The magic was there, all the same.
Of greatest appeal to myself were of course the ghazals, sufi and semi-classical material, never having been a particular connoisseur of 'Bollywood.' However, Akhtar handled it all with equal panache and made even 'Bollywood' sound appealing.
Tabla player Sirish Kumar Manji proved nothing less than excellent throughout, if sometimes perhaps a touch too showy. The violin of Nawazish Ali Khan tended to veer a bit from the superb to the grating, as well as occasionally perhaps surplus to requirements. Technically proficient though he was, keyboards player Hinal Pattani sadly seemed entirely surplus, and the particular samples selected often wholly unsuitable.
However, all in all Najma Akhtar In Concert At The Cockpit was a magical, enchanting evening. And the audience certainly agreed with a standing ovation and a couple of encores demanded and received.
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