Following on from At First Light’s set, Celtic Connections creates a typically incongruous match with Jaadu.
Jaadu is a collaboration between French guitarist Thierry Robin and Pakistani Qawwali singer Faiz Ali Faiz. Robin’s musical career has been heavily influenced by Gypsy and Arabic music, while Faiz Ali Faiz’s background in Indian Classical music and as a close friend of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have earned him a reputation as the great man’s spiritual successor. Robin and Faiz have worked collaboratively since 2006, exploring the links between European and Asian musical traditions.
The stage at Glasgow’s City Halls was looking more than a little crowded by the time Jaadu, with a full company of eleven musicians and singers had taken their places. Faiz Ali Faiz and his Qawwali party brought to the work three vocalists, two vocalist / harmonium players and a tabla player; while Titi Robin’s ensemble inject varied influences by means of Jazz fusionist Loy Ehrlich on his hybrid of various African bass instruments, accordionist Francis Varis and Ze Luis Nascimento on percussion.
For such a heavily populated stage, the opening sound was sparse, but soothing. Titi Robin’s bouzouki set a gentle middle eastern tone and before long Faiz Ali Faiz brought his vocals into the mix, and with the gradual addition of the full company the sound expanded into something wonderful. Most of the evening’s offering followed a typical, if slightly scaled-down, Qawwali structure of gentle opening, improvisation, vocal preamble then the main song, complete with hand-clapping and tabla. The structure may be familiar but Jaadu deliver the sound in a style all their own. Instrumental breaks involve improvisations from each musician, including inspired accordion explorations from Francis Varis and some memorable ‘duels’ between Brazilian percussionist Ze Luis Nascimento and Titi Robin or tabla player Rizwan Ali. Ze Luis Nascimento is a joy to watch, and listen to; a man as lifted by and devoted to his art as the most accomplished devotional singer.
There was no attempt from the stage to commentate on the influences and origins of the music presented, other than a brief explanation towards the end about using contemporary music as a setting for traditional Sufi poetry. It may sound cliched – but no explanation was needed. The music was there to enjoy, and spoke for itself very eloquently.
Not simply Qawwali with some new flavours mixed in, and far more than European roots merged with Sufi spiritualism; Jaadu is a meeting of great musical minds that has resulted in a unique experience and an unforgettable performance.
Video of past perfomances
Les Suds à Arles 2010