peteg's blog - noise - music - 2014 06 25 TheSufiGospelProject

The Sufi Gospel Project

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Back to the Old Town School of Folk for the Sufi gig I'd been hanging out for for so long. It turned out to be part of the Eye on India festival thing, and the band was imported from India; I'd hoped they were locals. Sonam Kalra got grilled by a local and revealed that she is from Delhi, but not that she is a dog person or her marital status. She's of the Sikh religion, and used to be in advertising. Her voice is excellent. Her band is awesome and tight: the flautist (Rajesh Prasanna), sarangi (Ahsan Ali Khan) and tabla (Amaan Ali Khan) players all stood out, and while the Yamaha keyboardist (Alex Fernandes) did not, he may have anchored the whole thing for all I know.

So I expected an American fusion sort of thing, but it turned out to be more masala, finer-grained and somewhat messy in a pan-genre sort of way. They opened with some great sufi stuff, and the first set had me quite spaced out. One element was an adaptation of Amazing Grace. The second got a bit more Western; specifically something by Ray Charles that had been taken full-circle (gospel -> jazz -> gospel) left me cold (was it Hallelujah I Just Love Him So?). They also attempted Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which annoyed me a bit as Anthem is far more in tune with their ecumenicism. (Sonam termed her project secular, which is even more approximate.) They closed with the Sufi classic Daanah Pah Daanah, which I knew from the Coke Studio Sessions 4 recording by someone else. Very sunny.

The crowd talked throughout and thinned appreciably in the second half. I'm not sure why; I got pretty much what I expected. They played the following night in downtown Chicago, at "the Temple" (corner Washington and Clark), which I didn't go to, and I also regret not buying one of their CDs. After much futzery I did manage to get The Confluence from OKListen, and Verified by Visa not only looks like a man-in-the-middle attack but did not properly verify my address. The band recorded Man Manam for the Coke Studio, which gives you some idea how good they are. Unfortunately Sonam left out her bespoke sign language. The guitarists didn't make it.