We were tired after spending much of the afternoon in Astoria Park for the Astoria Music Now! festival, but around 7:20 p.m. we roused ourselves and took the G train in the opposite direction because we wanted to catch South Asian superstar, Bollywood icon, and judge of TV's Indian Idol, Kailash Kher, at Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park. We're glad we did.
Although we arrived well after 8 p.m., we still managed to find empty seats in the fourth row, though all the way to the left of the stage. This is around where we usually sit at Celebrate Brooklyn! events and we wonder if everyone tries to sit in the same place or we are just OCD.
Electro Morocco, a Brooklyn-based group, was already in the midst of its set. As the press stuff said, "syncs flashy visuals with electroclash synths, throbbing surf guitars, and a seductive vocalist." More press release:
Seasoned Israeli musicians Assaf Spector and Roy Gurel, together with Zoe Kiefl, Taylor Galassi and Yuval Lion mix everything from Retro rock and Middle Eastern folk, to warped Electro in a fierce, high energy performance. French Pop/R&B sensation Stella will also be featured with the band.
URB Magazine said, "Ever since electronic music took over, poor old guitars have been short of work. Electro Morocco is dusting off those axes and yanking them out of the unemployment line and giving them enough amplitude to compete with their buzzing synths. ... So it looks like you'll just have to peep these kids on a dance floor near you."
That pretty much gets it right: they're bouncy and fun (was that in Ladino?) and the crowd was pretty receptive, considering that most had come to see Kailash Kher (there was a much larger than usual contingent of people of South Asian descent, including a Sikh little boy and girl in front of us, obviously brother and sister, who kept playfully hitting and choking each other during the evening as the older adults in the family kept telling them to quit it).
After a shorter than usual intermission, Jack and Rachel brought out the wonderful Terrance McKnight (looking natty in a dashiki) whose WNYC show Evening Music is often heard on at Dumbo Books HQ
on weeknights starting at 7 p.m. We bet he'll be moving to WQXR come fall, though he didn't say that.
Then four very talented dancers in traditional bright Punjabi dance garb (OK, we assume - the Punjabis we're friends with tend to wear stylish regular clothes) for a Bhanghra dance lesson, to which the crowd responded enthusiastically, standing up, raising their hands, moving their arms, shuffling their feet, and making that cool bhangra sound we can't figure out how to commit to writing.
Then the lesson ended, and the four dancers showed us how it's really done. Nobody gave their names or we'd give them credit. (We've gone to a number of things lately, like Friday night's wonderful Essential Shakespeare in Von King Park, where nobody tells the audience who the individuals performing are and this info doesn't seem to be online.)
Then, slowly, with a big buildup, starting with his first band members coming on stage, Kailash Kher appeared. The South Asians, and probably others in the audience, went wild. Our cell phone pics in the dark are even worse than the usual terrible, and if we post more than a few, it will just diminish Khalish Kher and the impact of his performance. (Though as a short person, we did like him even better for being so compact as to be environmentally correct.)
He's got a very good voice, and they don't call him a superstar for nothing; he's probably one of the biggest names worldwide that Celebrate Brooklyn! could get in any year, even if most Americans don't know who he is. His music is suffused with Sufi rhythms that we find hypnotic.
The crowd seemed to applaud the songs at the first bars of music, so obviously a huge proportion of the audience was totally familiar with his work, which we are not. The closest we get is that we once bought a Panjabi MC album (the one where he does "Beware of the Boys" with Jay-Z).
Anyway, who can't love Kailash Kher's Bollywood stuff? Tauba tauba! (See: Urdu/Punjabi for OMG)
"Hello Brooklyn!" Kailash shouted out after his first song. The charming, flashy sanger got lots of love from the crowd throughout his performance, and people were dancing in the aisles (so much so that audience members, whose views they were blocking, kept yelling at them to sit down).
Around 9:30 p.m., our 58yo body started to shut down (the legs and arms go first), a sign that we shouldn't run around all day on less than four hours' sleep, so we reluctantly left before we collapsed. A prompt and quick G train got us home in about 38 minutes and then we went to bed after writing the first paragraph above. (It's now Sunday morning, complacencies of the peignoir and all that.)
We've posted some videos so you can get a better idea of the work of exemplary musicians' work than our weak, ill-informed observations can offer. But in person is always better for us. There's something about sharing music on a summer night with a crowd that makes people happy and which always has since the days when Dionysius was worshipped. For a lot of people, Khailash Kher is a perfect replacement for the Greek god.