Mubarak Al-Rashed sat and sang 'Qurbani' on a messy sofa in Indian guitarist Manoj's cluttered room in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh. Adding more spice to the scene, Mubarak's cousin Abdullah Ali sat opposite, playing the Indian dholak (drum). This was a fusion of many things. Two well-dressed, well-built and well-off Kuwaitis singing and playing Indian music while two Indians, Rafi the singer and Manoj the guitarist, watched to their anand (delight). The quartet was practicing for an Indian music show scheduled for the Eid evening organized by the Kozhikkode District Association at Indian Central School, Jleeb. The star of the show is Mubarak Al-Rashid, 30, a Kuwaiti citizen from Qurain, an area where his talent to sing, speak and have a real feeling for old Hindi songs may be not be widely known.
The rest of Kuwait, however, is familiar with the Hindi lover who has never gone to India. In 2008, Mubarak sang three Hindi songs at Qadsiya Stadium during Sa Re Ga Ma, a musical night. Mubarak, who began by singing in his car and to his cousin and 'guru' Abdullah in the early 1990s, stood in a T-shirt and jeans at Qadsiya before a baffled crowd, unshaken, but moving his hands like Amitabh Bachchan in the 1978 film Don. That memorable event happened through Mubarak's Indian and Pakistani friends Rihan and Saud.
Abdullah, a policeman by profession, has never been in the limelight. With his terrific musical sense, he encouraged and reassured his cousin Mubarak, who amassed a collection of Hindi songs. In the late '90s, they frequented the Silver Star video shop in Mirqab, buying videos of Hindi songs with Arabic subtitles. "During those days", Mubarak said, "Mohammed Bashir, a friend of mine from Mumbai, helped me with the pronunciation.
Although Bashir, who used to play shai banjo (a string instrument), subsequently left Kuwait, Mubarak, as fate would have it, went on to make new Indian friends. He met Rafi, a young, energetic and entertaining singer, popularly known as 'Junior Mohammed Rafi' after the Indian music legend, at a party arranged by Hamed Malhotra, an Indian expat who lived in Bayan. At that event, Mubarak, clad in his usual T-shirt and jeans, sang an Indian number, much to the delight of the guests. "I thought, 'he's a Pakistani'", recalled Rafi of his first meeting with Mubarak. At the same party Rafi also sang a few Hindi numbers. The two became instant friends and still continue to get together for stage concerts and other musical events.
After meeting Mubarak and Rafi, guitarist Manoj, who literally plays almost every musical instrument, as well as running the music troupe 'Music Highway,' arranged a program featuring their talents for Al-Watan TV. On the show, Mubarak sang a Shah Rukh Khan-film song while Manoj played the back-up. The three collaborated for almost 10 Indian programs, including last week's Entertainment City program arranged by Prasanth, a mutual friend.
The three musical friends, Mubarak, Manoj and Rafi, along with Abdullah, met again on Wednesday at Manoj's place to practice for the Kozhikkode Association's Rafi-Kishore Nite. While practicing at the seemingly chaotic flat, Mubarak jumped from the sofa shrieking, 'Is there a mouse here?' Manoj joked 'Yes', pointing to the mouse on the computer table, where Pepsi cans were also scattered.
I asked Mubarak, who's currently growing a goatee beard and was clad in a traditional Kuwaiti dishdasha, if he's been taking care of his vocal chords by avoiding cold drinks.
Aadi," he smiled. "I eat everything. Allah takes care of me.
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