Jazz concert marks Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to India

It was the sublime occasion to mark the 50th anniversary of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s pilgrimage to India.

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Sep 24, 2014, 18:08 PM IST

Akrita Reyar New Delhi, Feb 17: The sublime occasion to mark the 50th anniversary of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s pilgrimage to India, the land of Gandhi, brought Jazz legend Herbie Hancock and panoply of other stars for “The Living Dream” concert in New Delhi on Monday night. The show began with the celebrated number “We Shall Overcome” in a duet vocal performance by Chaka Khan and Dee Dee Bridgewater. It was received with much warmth as the audience stood and swayed to the song. Earlier, Dr Karan Singh, on behalf of ICCR, welcomed the American civil rights activist’s son Martin Luther King III, who said, “Music brings people together. In our tradition, the freedom tradition, if Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior were with us today, they might not have told us that we shall overcome but maybe in some degrees we have overcome", amidst a round of applause. Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain joined the well-known piano & synthesizer whiz George Duke for treat of a composition called the "Brazilian Love Affair". George Duke said that “no matter where you come from, everyone understands Blues”, and then played a Blues number. Not only did the audience understand it, but the tune added to the sombre atmosphere of the evening. The 10-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan set the stage on fire as she belted out popular and powerful numbers. The Rhythm and Blues vocalist then sang a specially written “Night in New Delhi”, much to the delight of Delhiites. The much awaited performance from the 12-time Grammy winner and legend in every right, Herbie Hancock, came with “Speak Like a Child”. The jazz pianist who is visiting India for the third time, said, "It is a great pleasure to be in India again after 2006. And more so when we are celebrating the meeting of two great visionaries, whose vision resulted in the first black President of America." Hancock will also be recording an album with sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar and Grammy winner Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain later this month. Speaking about the project earlier he had said, "I am excited about this latest project. The record is a global collaborative project about peace and what can be achieved in a combined way by different cultures." He also described the plan as a "beautiful tapestry of dreams and one of eternal bond of cultures". Two times Grammy winner and UN Goodwill Ambassador Dee Dee Bridgewater, “felt deeply honoured” to be a part of the commemoration and dedicated the gospel number ‘Amazing Grace’ to the "memory of Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi". The hall then reverberated with her version of Miles Davis’ celebrated piece “Our Blues”. The high point of the evening was the conjoined performances of Ustad Zakir Hussain, Hancock and George Duke. The audience was soon on its feet asking for an encore. The musicians, who graciously obliged, came up with a surprise at the very end of the concert. Hancock, Duke and Hussain, among others, came back to perform their version of "Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram", a favourite of Gandhi. Needless to say, there could not have been a better conclusion for the concert, which was inaugurated with Dr King`s famous "I have a Dream" speech playing in the background. The audience, which had in its midst the Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and musicians from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, one of the co-organizers of the concert, and President of Jazz Capital Soli Sorabjee, gave a standing ovation. There was not a soul, who was not mesmerized by the unforgettable evening and wanted the trance to end. And why not? They had just been under the spell of the God of Jazz.