Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
March 30, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. — Fareed Haque is accustomed to good company.
The critically acclaimed jazz and classical guitarist from the Northern Illinois University School of Music can routinely attract 100 people to an intimate jazz club or 10 times that number to an outdoor music festival stage.
He’s performed with countless artists, including Sting, Ramsey Lewis, Joe Zawinul, Kurt Elling, Cassandra Wilson, Arturo Sandoval and Medeski, Martin and Wood. He’s received multiple nods from top jazz magazine Downbeat.
But to find his picture in Guitar Player magazine’s 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards, alongside photos of megastars Eric Clapton, Brad Paisley, Kirk Hammett, Pat Metheny, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, is company of a different magnitude.
There, on Page 27 of the May issue, Haque is named “Best World Guitarist.”
“Guitar Player is, to me, the premier guitar music publication. The readership is worldwide. It’s probably also the oldest surviving guitar publication; it’s been around since the late ’60s, early ’70s,” Haque says between lessons on a Tuesday afternoon.
“What’s significant to me is that I’ve made many critics’ polls before, but those tend to be writers in the know. It’s industry recognition. This,” he adds, “is a readers’ poll.”
Haque admits “Best World Guitarist” is a title that might seem odd at first for a musician known mostly for his ability to move seamlessly between classical and jazz performances.
Considering his fusion of traditional Indian and Pakistani music with jazz, however, the category is appropriate. And Garaj Mahal, the band Haque founded in 2001, maintains a busy road schedule as it successfully blends world music into its stew of jam and jazz.
Such international fabric is literally in his blood: He’s the son of a Pakistani father and a Chilean mother whose childhood travels included long stays in Spain, France, Iran and the homelands of his parents.
Adding fuel to the fire, no doubt, was a recent Guitar Player question-and-answer piece with Haque in which he talks of Indian tablas, Hindustani pop shuffles, his guitar-sitar hybrid and Latin jazz icon Paquito D’Rivera.
For whatever captured the attention of the magazine’s readers, he’s grateful – and eager for the opportunities it might present. Career “longevity” for sure, he says.
“I spent a long time hearing the name Pat Metheny before I bought one of his records. I spent a long time hearing the name John Scofield before I heard his music. If this can contribute to more people in the audience and more people buying the CDs, then it’s served its purpose,” he says.
“Certainly Eric Clapton sells a whole lot more records than I do. The fact that we’re both receiving recognition in the same article doesn’t really mean much, but I hope it’ll help,” he adds. “I could use the work.”
That’s not to say he isn’t busy. Quite the opposite, actually.
When he’s not recording – Haque has released two albums in the last eight months and has another coming out soon – he plays around 200 dates a year.
Half of those gigs come during 10-day tours organized around his NIU breaks, including four during the summer. When music festival organizers pony up airfare to fly Garaj Mahal into their towns, Haque seizes those opportunities to book club shows nearby.
Others dates are quick “weekend warrior” tours Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Members of Garaj Mahal still crowd into a van to drive to performances and load their own gear in and out of the clubs. They recently took on the expense of a road manager but still long for a profit margin that would allow the hiring of someone to drive, someone to run the sound board and someone to sell merchandise.
NIU audiences can watch Haque in action at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, during his faculty recital. Audiences in the Music Building’s Recital Hall (and on the Internet, thanks to a Web broadcast) can enjoy the talents of Haque and special guest Paul Moeller as they perform works for solo guitar, two guitars and some solo guitar jazz improvisations.
Education, of course, is a major responsibility: Guitar students learn under his tutelage Mondays through Wednesdays. So is The House; Haque owns the downtown DeKalb café that features plenty of live music.
“The most important thing in my life,” he says with a smile, “is my Google calendar.”
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