When Toufiq Qureshi plays the drums, it is difficult to tear the senses away from the music. He is like a one-man sound army, and with the amazing effects he can coax from his throat, you don’t need to be a connoisseur to enjoy the musical experience. Watching Qureshi in concert is like watching a rhythm acrobat at work.
I heard Qureshi for the first time last year at a concert in Pune and found my indifference to experimental music melting in the face of his enthusiasm. He was playing with his partner of many concerts, sitarist Niladri Kumar. The hall was full of management students and sundry people who had walked in to shelter from the rain, but not one could walk out before his rendition ended.
Qureshi’s Forest, the latest in Music Today’s Soundscape series, packages this music that he specializes in. It is far more fun watching him move between drums, sounds and stories in a live concert. A percussionist is, after all, more of a showman than any other artiste. But an album would probably be the next best thing.
Forest works on the theme of a day in a forest from dawn to night. And here is a perfect platform for Qureshi to showcase his vocal and rhythmic skills along with his drumming prowess. He is now the deep voice booming through the trees, now the spirit of the forest, now the voice of a wild animal (with some help, Music Today says, from his 10-year-old son, Shikhar Naad).
In The Hunt and The Waterhole, Qureshi makes interesting use of the bols (sounds) of the tabla. For instance, he “speaks” the lively sounds of a quick ek tal to create the sense of doom as predators close in on their prey. In Live Swingers, he again uses tabla sounds and his throat (and that of his bandmates from Mumbai Stamp) with great effect to mimic monkeys at play. The only tracks that left me disappointed are those that involve melody in a big way, such as Call of the Night and Enchanting Forest.