Raza Khan

The Blue Lotus Diaries #1

The reason for the long radio silence is because I have spent an intoxicating two weeks volunteering at the Blue Lotus Festival in Rajasthan. Yes, there were a few disasters along the way but the music more than made up for all of it. The next set of posts are excerpts from a journal I kept through the festival:

15.02.2013

Breakfast; The real kind with fresh fruit and muesli. Travelling in trains for two and a half days doesn’t allow for such luxuries. The festival has finally started and all the time it took getting here suddenly seems worth it.

I didn’t really know what to expect of Pushkar but so far everything seems as it should. It’s a tourist town. You’re assaulted from all directions by people trying to sell you things you don’t need. Flowers are being pushed at you as offerings to the lake and the best thing you could order of a menu is falafel. All in all I’m hoping to find some sort of sweet spot amidst the chaos.

The previous nights concert was held at a stage a little further out into the desert. Guests and volunteers were put onto camel carts and taken out to the stage. There were complications of course and after much aimless running around and apologizing we finally took our seats.

When it comes to Qawwali I know that I’m a little biased. Growing up listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan I can’t help but constantly compare technique. Watching Raza Khan huddled onto the stage with his four man troupe left me just a little bit disappointed. I couldn’t be more wrong. The man is a true pioneer. His technique is like nothing I had ever heard working with the music the same way one would approach a jazz tune. His unique voice moved through octaves like water and for the first time in my life I stopped paying attention to the beautiful sufiyana lyrics only to really listen to the technical aspects of his music. The unpredictability of it all kept me on my toes through the entire concert. The excitement for the rest of the festival has only doubled. Maybe my expectations are a little too high?

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