A TRIBUTE TO CLASSICAL MUSIC
The Music Room @ Friend’s Hearth, known as the Music Room or TMR for short, is the fruit of a labour of love. In a modest way –and in substance, not in form– it evokes the Mogul Emperor Shahjahan’s monument of love, the Taj Mahal, built for his beloved Mumtaz. While no Shahjahan, Rahmat Simab, the owner and creator of The Music Room @ Friend’s Hearth, has put the same passion into creating his TMR as Shahjahan had in conceiving and building his Taj Mahal.
Rahmat Simab hails from Afghanistan, an unfortunate land steeped in violence and tyranny. At a young age, when Afghanistan was a country Afghans could be proud of, Rahmat fell in love with music and became a devotee of Hindustani classical music in particular. Unlike India, the Afghan cultural atmosphere was not conducive to the promotion and celebration of music. Music was looked down upon, and only the passion and devotion of a dedicated, courageous few braved the odds. With the coming to power of the mujaheddin and later the Taliban, music was strangled, musical instruments were smashed and musicians and artists publicly humiliated. Rahmat had left the Hades that Afghanistan had become as a teenager in the early 1980s, but what was happening in his country of birth cut him to the quick. Losing himself in music, promoting it and associating with artists and musicians was his way of showing defiance towards the mujaheddin and Taliban mentality. TMR was conceived as a temple to the sanctity of music and true art, where tribute could be paid to true artists and those who revelled in their art. Thus, from a modest but exclusive “baithak” for the Hindustani genre of classical music, where only the best artists and performers were invited and which served as a haven for die-hard fans of this particular form of music, TMR has gone from strength to strength and has gained respect and popularity in South Asian musical circles worldwide.
Why “@ Friend’s Hearth”? In order not to confine itself by its name and have the liberty of hosting other forms of artistic and social gatherings, TMR functionality of the venue has become a major part, but not the whole, of the enterprise. For this reason, the place is called Friend’s Hearth, open and welcoming to all who bring and seek peace, spiritual uplifting, friendship, and art. Quality music has up till now been the main attraction for patrons of the venue, therefore the name “Music Room” (TMR) has gained more currency than “Friend’s Hearth”. But, for everyone, it will continue to be The Music Room @ Friend’s Hearth.
TMR is a private, non-commercial undertaking created solely for the purpose of answering a spiritual need. It aims to make every concert and programme very special and memorable, both for the performers as well as for the audience, through its strict criteria of inviting only the best artists and discerning connoisseurs. Income from sales of tickets is used as token remuneration to signal thanks and appreciation to artists and performers, and a small percentage to cover overheads.
The Music Room has so far had the honour of hosting Ustad Wajahat Khan, Smt. Swati Natekar, Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan, Smt. Kankana Banerjee, Shree Hemang Mehta, Ustad Ashraf Sharif Khan, Ustad Kiranpal Singh, Pandit Sanju Sahai, Ms Chandra Chakraborty, Ustad Shahbaz Hussain, Smt. Sanhita Nandi, Ustad Ghulam Abbas Khan, Sri Arnab Chakrabarty, Smt. Anuradha Pal, Sri Kamalbir Singh, Mehboob Nadeem, Hanif Khan and many other distinguished artists.
TMR is a well-developed and fully-equipped musical studio and function room for live shows as well as audio-visual recordings. The facility can accommodate around 90 persons, with half being floor seated, suitable for Afghan traditional music as well as Indian ghazal and classical performances. The stage can accommodate up to 7 performers at any one time, and is fitted with spot lighting, professional in-house sound system for audio recordings and high definition videography. TMR is also equipped with a ceiling-mounted projector and a supersized 3x2m screen for educational video and slideshows, as well as art-related documentaries. It also has the facility to live stream concerts and shows worldwide.
Out of respect for the sanctity of true art, and in deference to the spiritual ambiance created during performances, TMR has strict house rules which do not permit shoes, food and beverages, or unauthorised videography of live performances. Consumption of alcohol or substances of abuse before or during performances are discouraged, and anyone showing overt signs of intoxication will be denied entry or requested to leave. Almost all performances at TMR are recorded in-house and subsequently presented to the public through its ‘afghanblooms’ YouTube channel.