Thursday, February 3, 2011
Alif Laila and Monir Hossain at the Washington Conservatory of Music, Glen Echo Park, MD.
by Jeff Byers, Thursday February 3rd, 2011
The soothing sounds of Indian ragas filled the air last Sunday when sitar player Alif Laila, joined by Monir Hossain on tabla, graced the stage at the newly opened Glen Echo Park venue of the Washington Conservatory of Music. After days of gray skies, snow, and frigid temperatures, the bright and colorful melodies beaming from Alif’s sitar seemed to work in unison with the sun as it broke out from behind the clouds and filled the day with light and warmth.
The acoustics and aesthetics of the room, combined with the joyous energy felt by the audience, came together with Alif’s music for a very special presentation. Alif began with Raag Kafi, whose romantic spark immediately captured the audience. By the end of this first piece everyone was drawn into Alif’s world, forgetting the world going by outside. Now in this place of serenity, Alif presented Raag Desh. Building slowly but earnestly, Desh developed into an intense display of emotion – Alif and Monir seemed to be reading each other’s minds as they wove raag and taal together in a beautiful mix. After an earth-shattering climax, the audience’s applause would not let Alif leave the stage. With extra time granted, she displayed a heart-felt and devotional Raag Bhairav. I myself was too mesmerized to recall what ensued until the end of the piece.
The packed venue wanted more from Alif but that would have to wait until next time. Many stayed to talk with Alif after the performance wanting to know more about the instruments and form of Indian music – knowledge that Alif loves to share – and will so more with the Washington Conservatory of Music as she begins to teach at the Glen Echo location. This is a great opportunity for all in the Washington, D.C. area to be enlightened by Indian music through the work of Alif Laila.