The sun had set, and so was the stage to bring to the TD Mosiac Festival audience.
Two star performers, Paul DesLauriers, an accomplished renowned Guitarist, singler and composer from Canada’s Blue elite, and Anwar Khurshid ,a renowned Sitar player who has contributed to the music of an Oscar winning film, The Life of Pi, with their mesmerizing communion of the Blues and the Indian Classical Music.
The stage was scintillating as the virtuosos adorned in beautiful Jamdani kurtas positioned themselves with their instruments—Paul DesLauriers on Guitar, Anwar Khurshid on Sitar, Sam Harrison on Drums and Greg Morency on Bass.
I could sense a pin drop silence in the audience, which was just a moment ago, abuzz with noise. The environ for a sensual musical performance was set. I noticed a few enthusiasts come close to sit on the grass, right in front of the stage. I too came as close as I could.
They were to perform from their Album called Enter the Gate.
Though a music lover, but semiliterate in musical linguistics, I was surprised how, right from the start, I could sense a deep understanding between Paul’s Guitar and Anwar’s Sitar, as if there was a love conversation going on between them. A similar quiet conversation could be visible between the eyes of Paul and Anwar, as their Guitar and Sitar conversed. And as if the accompanying Drum and Bass, were joining the conversation to applaud their love.
The visuals and the acoustics were mesmerising.
It felt as if I was transcending a step further each time they moved on from one composition to the other, getting more sense of their musical conversation. They played from Enter the Gate, to Midnight on Dorion, upto Silk Route, to a total of six compositions.
Short of words to describe the journey, I found the most appropriate explanation on Paul’s website: “…it takes the listener on a sensual and exhilarating journey from Delhi to the Mississippi Delta.”
The time flew by swiftly, as they ended with the exhilarating Silk Route. I thought this wasn’t just enough, but then no amount of such therapeutic music is enough.
I was glad I had chosen to speak to them after the sensual experience. Now I was keen to discover how intense would be their feelings as creators, when it was overwhelming to me as a mere listener.
Speaking to them was yet another journey into tranquility.
There’s a Paul Coelho quote: “We have to stop by and be humble enough to understand that there is something called mystery.”
It was touching to learn how humble these hearts were, who had created this mesmerizing communion of East and West. I was floored by their simplicity and humility of all four of them, as we sat around a round table to dig out the details.
Paul explained how 8 years ago, he came to learn Sitar from Anwar, which began with a mutual respect, then turned into a stronger friendship and trust, after which coming together of their musics was the only way forward.
I mentioned to them about my experience of how still being a semiliterate in music I could sense a perfect harmony between the two.
Paul smiled,: “You do not need to e a scholar of music to feel the harmony. It is the heart which senses it.”
They all recalled, how many people in the audience from different ethnic backgrounds actually get emotionally moved by it.
“Sam was crying, the first time we played in a concert.” reollects Paul.
I could not hold back my complements to their colorful sequined Kurtas , digressing from the traditional western formal black and white
“It’s so liberating.” Paul was spontaneous.
“The communion of East and West music is not as straightforward fusion as it seems. Of Blues Band playing with Sitar or Sitar playing with Blues Band etc. It is much deeper. It is a spontaneous flow of notes in response like….” Paul explained.
“It is a symbiosis”, Sam prompted the right word.
( Symbiosis literally means a relationship of mutual benefit ).
Anwar explained how in an Indian Classical Music which has stringent boundaries and limits, which are a taboo to cross. And moving from one’s own classical music to a fusion with others is like walking on a double edged sword, ”Having crossed your own boundaries, and now trespassing into someone else’s territory. But once you leave your comfort zone, the contentment you get from crossing the boundaries gives a sense of spiritual release.”
“The pleasure is not just in playing with each other, but also listening to each other play.” Said Paul.
Anwar interjected with naughty look: “Yes, you feel as if your music is gone, just gone, as he plays my notes, and steals them.”
“It’s more of a borrowing and absorbing brother.”Paul smiled.
Do you guys feel possessive about your respective styles of music? I couldn’t help asking this question.
“Music is not about being possessive, it is devoid of ego, it is transcending to a level that is the demand of spirituality.”
“The feeling is to lose the self, and let the music take over.”
Greg explained how while making this album, it was live recorded, without any hundreds of retakes.
“We had no road map, we had no rule, we just sat in a friend’s basement to record it. The only rule was to play together. What is recorded on the CD is the first draft. And eachtime we perform, it is spontaneous in itself.” Greg and Sam elaborated.
Anwar explained how the Taans in Kirana Gharana, or Raag Bhopali are similar to the Blues music.
To the query of Canadian Pluralism and mutual respect for differences, Paul responds, “It’s not just the respect, it is the unconditional love and reverence for each other’s music, as ultimately there is a universality of music, like there is of humanity, despite being different ethnically.”
Do they feel, any difference in their lives after this experience?
“Almost everything has changed.” Said Paul
“It is extremely rewarding and most humbling.” Added Sam.
Anwar considered Canada his home, and these three as most trusted friends. “I love them so much that I will eat anything they offer me without question.”( referring to some of the culturally taboo foods for him).
Paul responds, “He is the kindest gentleman I have seen in the world, not just a Pakistani”
We ended the chat realizing how it just takes one good person to break the stereotype against the whole community.
As I left the conversation, I felt that I had transcended at a higher plane, realising how it is not just their music, but their souls that play in harmony with each other.
I know now I will relive this tranquilizing experience in my car, each time I will play the CD they gifted, in my car.
It was not for no reason, they had named the Album, “Enter the Gate”
A sample of their mesmerising music here :