Murad Ali Khan
Ideated on the spur of the moment, Kushboo is an Indo-French music and dance collaboration that has the fragrance of different traditions of the West and the East. The cross cultural concert will bring together acclaimed French composer and guitarist Titi Robin with his long-time collaborators, sarangi maestro Murad Ali Khan and Rajasthani folk dancer Gulabo Sapera. The medley of culture will also feature classical Kathak danseuse Mahua Shankar, vocalist Shuheb Hasan, percussionist Dino Banjara and tabla player Amaan Ali Khan.
“The idea of the project came from Murad Ali Khan and our combined experience of playing music together for the last 10 years. I have been working with Gulabo Sapera since 1992, and have travelled with the Kalbeliya dance style, Rajasthani music and my compositions. Murad Ali Khan, the musical director of the project, thought of uniting everybody on the same stage last year in December. It was the response that we received from the audience that made us take up this project,” says Robin.
“Last year, we spoke to the Alliance Française in Delhi and within one week we began this project. We named this concept, ‘the last moment concept’, as it was conceptualised within a week,” adds Khan.
To take place today, Khushboo will have seven artistes on stage, each of who will bring their individual identities in folk, classical and western art forms. They have their own fragrance or khushboo, imagination and inspiration. “There is a lot for the audience to consume. There is a classical Kathak performance by Mahua Shankar on Titi Robin’s composition titled Tumhara chand sa chehera. It is a French poem, which was translated and composed. All the compositions are by Titi Robin, except Amir Khusro’s Aaj Rang Hai. In this song, both the dancers will come together and perform,” says Khan.
Mahua Shankar has been training in Kathak since the age of five, as both her parents, Pradeep Shankar and Rekha Shankar, were senior disciples of Pt Birju Maharaj. “I was trained by my mother first. I also was trained under Shreemati Reba Vidyarthi and Shreemati Vasvati Mishra. I was a prime disciple under Pt Birju Maharaj for the next 18 years. Since 2009, I have been an independent performer. I have had a long association with Murad Ali Khan and got acquainted with Titi Robin through him,” says Shankar.
She narrates how her duet performance with Gulabo Sapera, a Kalbelia dancer who imitates the moves of a snake charmer, is entirely extempore. “It is my first performance with Gulaboji and believe it or not there was no rehearsal with both of us, because of schedule clashes. While she does Sufi kalam in folk, I do Sufi kalam through Kathak and Chhau. One needs rehearsals to coordinate with the other performer. We listen to the lyrics and try to gel our performances through our eyes,” says Shankar.
Robin has worked extensively with Rajasthani and Hindustani musicians. “I have been sharing my music with Indian musicians since a long time. The project was just logical for me as well as for the people who follow my work. It started as a one shot project, but the audiences’ reaction provoked us to share the project,” says he.
Shankar feels that art has no boundaries and Indian classical forms are very vast. “You can really do anything with Indian classical forms. If you are connected to your roots, you can enjoy each and every culture. I have also performed with several western dancers and it has always been a beautiful new experience. There is so much to learn. People say that we know everything, but there is never an end till you are alive. Everyday you are learning,” says she, adding that audience should watch the show without preconceived expectations in order to fully enjoy every performance. “In today’s world, unity has ceased to exist and hence the turmoil. Here you see how everyone can come together. At that time, we are not individuals, but we become a fragrance or khushboo. The audience should come to enjoy the essence of that khushboo,” says Shankar.