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In 2015

Oxford Tabla travelled to a very distant city, many miles from Oxford. During our time there we went to an amazing concert on 24th October. Where to and who did we see? For the answers please just scroll down!


Mehboob Nadeem 


Talvin Singh



Photo Credits: Neil Kensit

It was a truly mesmerizing and wonderful performance by Mehboobji and Talvinji in Shanghai...


Umrao - The Noble Courtesan is a stage adaption of Mirza Hadi Ruswa's 1899 novel Umrao Jaan Ada. Set in Lucknow during the late Mughal period of the 19th century, the play tells the tale of Amiran who is kidnapped as a young girl and sold to the keeper of a Courtesan's house. Amiran is trained in traditional art forms of Urdu poetry, Thumri (singing) and Kathak (dance) in order to entertain the rich nobility of the Mughal Court. Umrao's life as a Tawaif (courtesan) becomes one of refined grandeur, but her story is tinged with tragedy and loss.


Oxford Tabla missed seeing the show “Umrao - The Noble Courtesan” in London where it was on for three days earlier this year (see photo below) but had a chance to go to Edinburgh last week, where it has been on in the Edinburgh Fringe festival since 6th August.














We saw an absolutely brilliant performance on 28th August in Studio One of Assembly George Square, which was delayed at the start as there were some sound technical problems. All was eventually solved and we had a wonderful close up view from the second row. Being so close has its own drawbacks for although all the details of facial expression, so important in Kathak dance appear in wonderful detail, the show is also a play and it was impossible to concentrate on all the other performers at the same time. It was definitely a show with plenty going on and essential to take one’s eyes off the main scene to glimpse what the court nobility were up to – the whispering of secrets – the taking of opium and the very heady tantalizing caresses being exchanged between lovers. All this was moreover accompanied by a team of brilliant musicians with a rich variety of instruments – vocals, sitar, tabla, sarangi and two rubabs. Please see extract from flyer below for the names of Cast, Musicians and Creatives.


Oxford tabla were especially interested to see Mehboob Nadeem because he has been visiting a small but dedicated group of students in Oxford for the last seven years.  Acting as the Ustad, there was a very lovely exchange between him and his young protégé Amiran (Manorma Joisi). The day had come when she had learnt so much music from him their roles seemed to have reversed and she was now the teacher! This was done with a delightful extemporisation of a phrase of music she had been taught and of which she appeared not to remember the correct ending, but each time the Ustad intervened she began the phrase again and each time she changed it a little with great enjoyment, until she was at last interrupted by Khanum wanting to know what was going on. The Ustad explained simply that she was improvising and had no further need for lessons!


The story is complex and it would be worthwhile to read the book “Umrao Jaan Ada” by Mirza Hadi Ruswa for more understanding. Excitingly it has been hinted that although the show has finished it may well be revived next year!


Congratulations AMC!


Review penned by:


Caroline Howard-Jones, 2 September 2015


Mehboob Nadeem teaching Sitar in Oxford on

28 May

Photo Credit: Neil Kensit

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