No tablas of stone for this music; Asian Song Contest Symphony Hall.Byline: Terry Grimley
Held in a variety of Birmingham venues between 1975 and 1989, the Asian Song Contest was a significant force in shaping the emerging British Asian The term British Asian is used to denote a person of South Asian ancestry or origin, who was born in or was an immigrant to the United Kingdom. Britain has a large Southern Asian population due to British India once being the most populous portion of the former British Empire. music scene, helping to launch a number of international careers.
Now revived after a 12 year absence, it seems to have found its proper home. As well as playing to a large live audience, Sunday's event was transmitted live on the BBC's Asian radio network, satellite television and the internet. As the giant on-stage monitors demonstrated, it will look terrific on the videos.
For those more attuned to European-style concert going, the event contained some strange features, not least the way an apparently disastrously small audience at the advertised starting time Noun 1. starting time - the time at which something is supposed to begin; "they got an early start"; "she knew from the get-go that he was the man for her"
commencement, get-go, offset, outset, showtime, start, kickoff, beginning, first mysteriously turned into a near full house by the interval. Despite its evident enthusiasm, the audience remained in something of a state of flux Noun 1. state of flux - a state of uncertainty about what should be done (usually following some important event) preceding the establishment of a new direction of action; "the flux following the death of the emperor"
But a very mixed crowd showed itself to have wide musical sympathies. The eight contestants ranged stylistically from the funky Hindi-pop of Coventry band Revive to the traditional folk singing of Safdar Abbas Ali from Ilford, accompanied only by harmonium harmonium: see reed organ.
or reed organ
Free-reed keyboard instrument in which wind from a foot-operated bellows causes metal reeds to vibrate. Pitch is determined by the size of the reed; there are no pipes. and tabla.
This seemed to give the international panel of judges an unenviable task and yet the two award-winners stood out even to my inexpert ears. The runners-up were the group Charnak from Southampton - not a city you would think of as a hotbed of Asian pop but, fronted by a singing, dancing vet, they had an unmistakeable air of professional purpose.
The winner was Birmingham's own Ansar Khalid whose Aja Va Dohina inclined to the more traditional end of the spectrum (like several other contestants he performed, cross-legged, to his own harmonium accompaniment), but featured a bass guitar in its interestingly hybrid instrumentation. His soaring voice provided the most arresting purely vocal performance of the evening.
The contest over, the decks were cleared for stirring guest performances by Pakistani superstar Abrar Ul Haq, the remarkable leather-clad Gunjan (a kind of American Asian Olivia Newton-John) and Brummie bhangra bhangra (bhängˑ·r),
n Latin name:
Eclipta alba; heroes Balwinder Safri and and Malkit Singh.
Expertly compered by Najmar Akhtar and Kamlesh Prohit, the evening's slick organisation foundered only upon the insistence on including public presentations to everyone concerned, which led to some logistical embarrassments.
Still, it would be disappointing if there was nothing to improve on next year, because this really should be a fixture in the Symphony Hall calendar.