A Weekend with BQP
Sufi music, a form of Islamic meditational singing and praise of Allah originating from Pakistan, mixed with the funky brass horns of Brooklyn-based jazz musicians, a drum kit, a cross-cultural percussion section, upright bass, groovy guitar, and of course the traditional harmonium...all of these elements come together to make the critically acclaimed musical group, The Brooklyn Qawwali Party (BQP)! And a party is exactly what BQP gives you - a few hours of celebrating music that not only moves you physically, but often times moves you emotionally as well. BQP translates the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn's music into mixed songs influenced by Latin, African, and Jazz rhythms. I was fortunate enough to dance with BQP this weekend, all members being very old friends of mine from my NYU days. It felt like a legitimate college reunion, as I hadn't seen some of these people in years! A musical party with old friends, and though that rang true to me directly, I know that some members of the audience during the weekend's performances felt the same way with these strangers they had just met.
The first show, Friday evening at Helsinki Hudson in Hudson, NY, was a night filled with red - the warm feeling that this new venue exuded was a contrast to its cement, steel and brick foundation. Originally a factory then turned schoolbus depot and now trendy music venue/restaurant, the Helsinki Hudson draws a mixed crowd of young and old. In a typical, upstate town that had been hit especially hard through not only this recession but the numerous dips in the economy from decades before, Hudson is now going through a resurgence of the arts along with an influx of young people relocating from bigger and busier cities looking for affordable and better standards of living. The Helsinki Hudson brings these two worlds of the town together in perfect harmony, making it a central hub for the rest of the city's arts to grow.
With only a handful of people dancing initially, the crowd eventually grew bigger, and by the end of the evening's performance, most of the audience was either up on their feet or clapping along to the infectious rhythms and music of BPQ. I found a new dance partner (or vice versa) and he was a very enthusiastic mover and shaker of all sorts - it was lively and energetic!
The following day was our performance at the newly renovated Proctors Theater in Schenectady, NY, as a kickoff to the Party Horns NYC series, hosted by radio show Hello Pretty City's Laura Glazer. Yet again, another city depressed in past years but
now on a revitalization, Schenectady was home to an extremely hospitable and open-minded audience. With a black-box theater setting and a bigger dance crowd (including the adorable 2-year-old Connor),the Schenectady show left everyone on such a natural high with sweat, sore muscles, and big smiles. This show had a special magic to it that could only be described as divine - we all felt it, and with people completely losing all inhibitions, including a young freshman from SUNY Binghamton who approached me during intermission, I realized how much I had grown since my first time performing with this band. I once too was that shy freshman, afraid to let my guard down, but as our 2-year-old friend Connor reminds us, with baby steps and the mindset of innocence, being free to dance in front of an unknown crowd isn't really that scary afterall. Thank you, BQP and upstate NY, for a much needed weekend of music, dance and above all, friends.
THE BARE FEET™ FIVE 1. Like what you hear? The Brooklyn Qawwali Party's debut album is available for sale on CDBaby.com. And hearing them live is even better - be sure to check out their schedule for any upcoming shows in your area! 2. The Grandfather of BQP: Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn's original versions of the songs that BQP cover are magical and enlightening - some great recordings include Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn - Sufi Qawwalis and a compilation album of the best Sufi performers, Sufi. 3. Other bands like BQP: A few notable bands with similar Indian-influenced brass bands include Red Baraat, recently featured on NPR's Fresh Air and 19-piece Bollywood brass band, What Cheer? Brigade. 4. Proctors Music Series: The Party Horns NYC music series at Proctors Theater continues with Dead Cat Bounce on Saturday, March 24th, 2012. Get your tickets now! 5. Where to eat? Located on Schenectady's historical, cobble-stoned Jay Street and only a five-minute walk to Proctors Theater, the Ambition Cafe serves up the widest range (and most delicious food combinations) of sandwiches, soups and salads. I highly recommend the Vanilla Chai - it comes served with honey and cinnamon and it is delicious!