Nasheeli’s Indian Pop

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Nasheeli’s Indian Pop, The Washington Post, By Don Maclean, March 1992

Ever wondered how Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez might sound if she came from India? If so, you can find out by listening to Nasheeli Peshksash, Indian musicians who combine classical Indian sounds with Western folk and pop harmonies. The star of the show is Vatsala Mehra, a vocalist whose clear, pure voice sounds much like Mitchell’s. Backing her are top musicians from the film industry in India: Sharafat Ali Khan on tabla, Feroze Shah on harmonium, Peyoush Shah on guitar.

For their concert at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater Sunday evening, they were joined by Ray Disney, who added discreet comments on keyboards and trumpet. The harmonium is a small keyboard instrument whose sounds are fueled by a hand-operated bellows. It has much the same sound as an accordion and will appeal to those who like that instrument. Feroze Shah plays the harmonium with a vengeance, tossing in spitfire glissandi and lightning-quick scales as the mood strikes him. Almost as impressive was the work of Khan on tabla. This apparently simple drum is capable of an extraordinary range of sounds and rhythms in the hands of a top professional such as Khan.

The audience consisted almost entirely of Indians, who had the advantage of understanding the words to Mehra’s songs, sung in Urdu. To Western ears, this music might sound a little odd, but the audience was enthusiastic.