ISLAMABAD: Two young Pakistani musicians who have gone viral in recent years for their tabla skills and are popularly known as the “Czar Brothers” have paid tribute to the founder of Saudi Arabia by singing the Kingdom’s national anthem to the beat of the classical Indian drum.
A video of the performance is to be released on Saudi Arabia’s National Day, which falls on Sept. 23 each year and marks the 1932 renaming of the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by the royal decree of King Abdulaziz.
Riyan, 11, and Isaac, 9, were encouraged by their father, Dr. Shehrezad Zaar, to start learning the words of the anthem and to practice playing it on the tabla at the beginning of this year. Zaar is of Russian ancestry on his father’s side and prefers to spell his sons’ surname as Czar.
“We were a bit shocked when our music instructor asked us to sing the anthem in Arabic,” Riyan told Arab News in an interview this week.
“It was midnight when I wrote down the verses of the Saudi anthem and started memorizing them. It took me a few weeks to commit them to my memory, though the accent required more practice.”
Riyan said that it took the duo two months to get the rhythm and pace of the anthem in sync on the tabla and perfect their vocals. “When the two things synchronized, we felt that we were soaking up Saudi culture,” he said.
The boys’ father, a Lahore-based medical professional, said the performance was “a gift from the people of Pakistan to the people of Saudi Arabia.”
“We decided to dedicate it to King Abdulaziz, the father of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News in an interview, adding that he wanted his children to perform the anthem since the Kingdom occupied a special place in the hearts of Muslims across the world.
The performance was conceived as part of a broader project that Zaar has been working on. He explained that the project, known as the “Imran Khan Leadership Institute of the Founding Fathers of the World,” will see his sons perform the national anthems of various countries with the aim of highlighting the leadership qualities of their respective founding fathers.
The institute has already compiled a booklet on the lives of 93 historical personalities from different countries.
For the musical composition of the Saudi anthem, Zaar consulted with Rustam Fateh Ali Khan, a scion of the famous Patiala Gharana, a school of Indian classical music. Khan is also the music teacher for Zaar and his sons.
Speaking to Arab News, Khan said it was his idea to render the anthem on the tabla, saying the entire team had worked on the project with “love and dedication.”
“It is the first time the Saudi anthem has been sung in a traditional South Asian style,” he said. “No one has ever done it before.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on the Middle East and interfaith harmony, Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, said the project reflected the love of the Pakistani people for the Kingdom and its leadership.
“This is a beautiful gift from the Pakistani people on the occasion of the Saudi National Day,” he said. “It shows the love and affection of our people for the Kingdom.”