Vatsala Mehra, “Washingtonian Ghazal Queen” all set to rock Kennedy Center’s showcase maximumINDIA ~ Neeta Krishnamurty, Express India , February 25, 2011
The Kennedy Center presents 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. The Festival will showcase a celebration of Indian arts and culture that includes performances in music, dance, theater, film, and literature.
Vatsala Mehra, “The Ghazal Queen” is the only lady artiste representing India in the music category. Ms. Mehra returns to Kennedy Center for yet another encore performance. Her concluding piece, “Dama Dam Mast Kalandar”, during her September 2009 performance, had the audience clapping in their seats. Manifold artistes have sung this number but Vatsala’s rendition was unforgettable, with her energetic, enthused voice threatening to bring the walls down of the Terrace Theater. This time she comes back with soulful Sufi and Thumri enfused with Jazz .She will be accompanied with Sunny Jain on drums and dhol; Pandit Mishra on Sarangi; Bashir Khan on Bulbul Tarang; and Debu Nayak on Tabla.
Vatsala Mehra, is India’s renowned ghazal ambassador, composer, and teacher, and her musical prowess encompasses musical and cultural boundaries. Ms. Mehra’s breathtaking voice, with its perfect bass notes and its rich and glorious tone, continues to bring freshness and fire into the world of ghazals. She “Breathes life in to her Ghazals” Her astonishing range breaks all barriers with its purity and her lustrous voice adds sheen to timeless renditions. It is a voice that celebrates an epoch in ghazal singing—an epoch of excellence and fluid interpretations. She mesmerizes her audiences with her unique style, gayaki, bass, and mood—incorporating all of these in the favorite themes of love, god, life, and death. Mehra, who infuses just the right amount of sensuality into her ghazals, has developed a strong stage presence and perfected the art of carrying her audience with her.
Ms. Mehra has adorned the cultural firmament of Greater Washington for quite a while and is deservedly known now as the Ghazal Queen. Her impressive stage presence has always elicited the appreciation of her audiences and her singing is full of verve, vigor and vivacity. Judging by the standing ovations Vatsala received, the enthusiastic audience heartily agreed. “Her mellifluous voice along with youthful and bubbly vitality in her renditions has a magnetic attraction for the young and the old alike” Her penchant for punctuating her performances with natural and perfect gestures has become a very powerful instrument in the overall presentation. 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. Under the guidance of Ms. Mehra, the students strive for excellence in music of all genres.