“Vatsala Mehra storms Kennedy Center in encore melodious performance” – Chitra Apte
March 8th, 2011, Kennedy Center Washington D.C.- Music Enthusiasts of all ages wait with bated breath in Eisenhower Theater packed to full capacity. Excitement ripples through the crowd as the “Ghazal Queen” Vatsala Mehra is welcomed to perform on stage. Ms. Mehra is the only lady artiste to perform in the vocal category as of maximum INDIA, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, who led the United States into the modern era of global participation.
According to Anju Malhotra, a Mclean resident, “The highlight of the beautiful celebration of Indian arts and culture at the prestigious Kennedy Center was the mesmerizing performance of our very own Mrs. Vatsala Mehra! She commanded her audience’s attention by the sheer power and intensity of her glorious bass voice, especially her Sufi music. “The diversity of the song selection was a testament to the range of your voice”, says Pam Sharma. The rich timbre and the ethereal quality of her voice breathes life into her ghazals. This time she came back with soulful Sufi and Thumri infused with Jazz .The bass infused Thumri pulled on one’s heartstrings and many in the audience were misty-eyed. Ghalib’s “Dil-E-Nadan” in Raag Yaman was one of the highlights of the evening and Vatsala’s dynamic rendition of this all time favorite in her gloriously bass voice makes it an all time hit with her fans. The classical gayaki, the rhythm, and the fire in her voice while singing the Sufi Qalam “Chhap Tilak” created a Godly atmosphere and elevated the artiste herself and the audience to a Spiritual world. When asked as to what is her favorite genre of music, Ms. Mehra shared that Sufi is the closest to her heart. The pleasant surprise of the evening was “Aiyee Meherbaan” where she reached the 3rd octave, displaying the versatility, sensuality and range in her voice. Vatsala was accompanied by Pandit Mishra on Sarangi; Bashir Khan on Bulbul Tarang; Debu Nayak on Tabla, and Sunny Jain on drums.
“What a dazzling performance! It was scintillating and an almost out of body experience. Your poignant Sufi and other genres were beyond a shred of doubt infused with energetic excellence. The audience came alive with your proclivity of dynamic gesticulation. Your astounding array of emotion evoked all age groups equally. All in all, a night etched in our memory for a long time”, said Rohini Khera.
“Ms. Mehra’s beautiful husky, melodious voice echoed through the packed Eisenhower Theater, mesmerizing her audience with her command of the classical gayaki. This was her fourth solo performance at The Kenendy Center and she had her audience completely captivated. Her soulful Sufi renditions “Maula” and “Teri Surat Nigahon Mein Phirti Rahe” touched my heart. “Hai O Rabba” and “Dama Dam Mast Kalandar” had the audiences, tapping their feet and clapping with the rhythm. It was a stellar performance with Ms. Mehra at her absolute best, looking radiant and graceful in a bronze black saree”, says Shalini Bhatia an ardent fan.
Ms. Mehra has adorned the cultural firmament of Greater Washington for quite a while and is deservedly known now as the Ghazal Queen for the combination of rich classical music, grace and beauty. Ms. Mehra is a renowned ghazal ambassador, composer, and teacher, and her musical prowess encompasses musical and cultural boundaries. She is rightfully the Cultural Ambassador of India in United States.Ms. Mehra learnt under the guidance of the Late Guru, “Ustad Momin Khan” of the pioneering “Lucknow Gharana”. Ustad Momin Khan was the great grandson of Ustad Sadiq Ali Khan (1800-1910). Ustad Sadiq Ali Khan was the “creator of Thumri” and of several ragas. Mehra has a repertoire of 15 albums by major recording companies. She is the winner of the Best International Woman Ghazal Singer award and is the first Indian woman ghazal singer to have released a ghazal video, Nigahen. Ms. Mehra was honored with an award by the Government of India for her contribution in projecting India’s musical tradition. Ms. Mehra has been the foremost pioneer in disseminating India’s rich classical music tradition through her academy, “Balaji Music Academy” located in Mclean, Virginia. The students at the academy are taught the fundamentals of Indian Classical Music, Ghazals, Bhajans, and Bollywood Pop with the accompaniment of the harmonium, tabla, and the tanpura.