Vatsala Mehra’s Performance at Kennedy Center, India Abroad, By Aziz Haniffa, April 1999
WASHINGTON – It was a veritable feast for ghazal aficionados at the Kennedy Center here March 20, when noted ghazal diva Vatsala Mehra held a nearly 500-strong audience captive with a scintillating three-hour concert.
Mehra, who returned to the Kennedy Center after seven years, and this far remains the only Indian ghazal singer to perform there, showed her distinctive versatility by singing some of the classic Urdu perennials filled with lyrics of romance and love and punctuating them with selections from her new CD “Meri Jaan” released this year, and jazzing it all up with some pop from her albums “Ole Ole” and “Jhoom Jhoom,” which in the late 1980s figured in the top 10 in India.
Reinforcing her performance was the electricity generated by her accompaniment that comprised some of India’s top musicians who were flown in just for this one show. Organizer Ranvir Trehan, who heads a local systems analysis company called SETA, said the show was dedicated “in everlasting fond memory” of Mehra’s late father, Devendra Kapur. The duets of Mehra herself and the tabla player Manoj Bhatti, and the latter and the guitarist Jayantilal Rayshi Gosher, had the audience, many members of which had traveled in two buses from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in raptures.
The Mumbai-born Mehra who immigrated to the U.S. in 1974, but ever since has traveled to India every year for periods of about two to three months to record and perform, was accompanied by violinist Rajendra Singh Sodha, percussionist Indru Hashmatria Chainani and Akhlaf Khan on harmonium.
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