Kailash Kher kicks up a storm in New York
April Perkins, a college student in Florida who had flown into New York just to listen to Kailash Kher live, swears she will remember the performance for the rest of her life. Perkins, who fell in love with everything Indian when she began studying Mahatma Gandhi at college, has also plan to learn Hindi.
Much of what Kher sang at his concert on Saturday was off-limit to her. But it did not really bother her, Perkins who has many Indian friends, said. "His singing is so hypnotic," she said, "you fall for it even if you don't understand a single word."
She has been listening to Kher's songs for over five years. During the concert which might have drawn over 3,000 people mostly non-South Asians, Kher himself said that he suspected most of the listeners did not understand the words. And yet to see them enjoy the performance was a great joy, he added.
His music, he declared, was the celebration of "pure love," and that is all they had to remember most. Perkins was also "awed" by the way, Kher could connect with the audiences.
"He is spontaneous and he really touches you because of that," she said. "Besides, he is not flashy like many of the entertainers. Here is a superb singer who looks so ordinary but the exuberance of his music is just awesome."
The performance was part of the Celebrate Brooklyn 2009 concert series organised annually by the New York City Parks Department. The announcements about the concert ran on key radio stations, and the listings of The New York Times and other key publications. Kher and his band Kailasa will be performing in at least six American cities.
In between his foot-tapping songs including Tauba, Tauba and several songs from his forthcoming album, Kher took a minute to address the fans. The weather forecast predicted a thunderstorm, he said , looking at the still luminous sky. There may not be a thunderstorm or rains, he continued, chuckling. But the audience had created their own thunderstorm, he added, complimenting them for the tumultuous reception. Watching them dance with abandonment, he joked in India so many people could not have danced at a concert without security personnel around them.
The songs Kher sang were either his own, composed with band members Paresh and Naresh, or the ones from his popular films. He also sang his own version of the famous Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan number, Jaania....Tere Bina Dil . Some in the audiences could recognise it.
"I wonder if Nusrat could have sounded as sweet as Kailash when he was in his 30s," an American, who said he had attended several Nusrat converts, wondered. "If this man has discipline and passion, he would last much longer than many singers of his age."
Kher performed for over an hour . At one point, he asked the audiences to stand up and dance, inviting them to turn Prospect Park into Prospect dance club. Kher and his band got prolonged applause at the end of dozen songs they performed. It was amazing to see the swelling audiences though Kher and his band performed n the second half of a double-billed program.
It was about 9.30 when he began performing; there was a small break between the first group of performances and Kailash's acts. The audiences also got excited over a bhangra demonstration and performances (about five minutes) that preceded Kailash and his band. The band produced its own electrifying excitement. But some in the audience could have wondered what would have happened if there was no band.
"I think his voice and the tunes are enough to cut across the audiences and keep them happy for hours," a woman who said she fell in love with his music after listening to his album Kailasa said. "Even if he were to sing in the middle of the screeching Manhattan traffic, we surely can love his music."
The performance was free but there was a nominal $3 donation to enter the seated area. But listen to what a teenager was telling her parents. "Next time, he could be singing at Carnegie Hall," she said loudly. "Even if costs $100, I want to listen to him. He deserves to be there."
Video: Paresh Gandhi
Image: Kailash Kher