Vocalist Vishal Vaid and multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale marked the 10th anniversary of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s untimely passing during a sold-out performance of the master’s music at Joe's Pub in New York City. The concert began as Vaid explained the influence that Ali Khan had on the careers of those on stage that night, and reminisced of spending time with the man himself, hanging out during late hours in Vancouver over a decade ago.
The music began with Kale alternately playing tablas and acoustic guitar (which he basically used as a percussive instrument), and Vaid on vocals and harmonium. The duo was backed by cello, oud and drums, delivering a spirited acoustic performance that thrilled those in attendance.
During the concert, Vaid showed incredible vocal chops, making each Khan song his own and gesturing as if trying to convey the message to those who might be unfamiliar with the devotional nature of Qawwali music. The backing band was incredibly tight, sounding at times as if there were more musicians on stage than were actually visible.
In one of the most appreciated numbers, the band began with a funk-inspired beat that became more rock-tinged as Kale increased the energy on the tablas (seemingly instructing the drummer to do the same), motivating the audience to clap their hands and sway in their seats. Vaid took every opportunity to improvise freely over the melodies as the other musicians followed suit, enhancing each tune with each one's individuality.
The only sour note was the concert's finale—when the band finished their set, the house DJ immediately put on music by Kiran Ahluwalla (who was set to perform the following night), allowing no time for even a meditative silence. Although there was no room for an encore, most of those present were satisfied, and even moved, by what they heard.