Tag Archives: Fidel Dsouza

Parvaaz live in Concert at Phoenix Market City, Chennai

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The city of Chennai which was recently victimized by the disastrous floods found itself bouncing back to normalcy and putting all its pieces together, only to be perfectly glued by Parvaaz’s enthralling performance at Phoenix Market City, Chennai.

While half the city continued to prefer staying indoors, the rest of them were waiting for the Bangalore-based experimental band to finish their sound-check and bring the tunes of a mélange of languages, inspirations and genres. Parvaaz, yet again bewitched a whole new audience with an extremely tight performance, thereby gaining a bigger fan base in one night.

The evening kicked off with a progressive yet bluesy riff that led to ‘Itne Arze Ke Baad’. The song possessed the right level of energy to set the mood for the rest of the one and a half hours, transporting everyone to a far away, distant land. Kashif’s guitar solo was the hero of  the song, which was furthered by Khalid’s piercingly beautiful voice, Fidel’s nifty bass tones and Sachin’s improvisations with the drums.

As soon as the first song ended, everyone was greeted by sirens wailing and a powerful drum intro to ‘Beparwah’, quickly setting a light and groovy atmosphere. Khalid’s vocals were just spot on, and the song itself used a very modicum amount of samples to aid the live act.

Just when the song ended and the audience was getting ready to groove again, ‘Gul Gulshan’ captivated their breath completely, with Khalid’s vocals and resounding in the arena backed by Sachin’s percussions. This song is a personal favorite of mine, and its effect on the audience every time it is performed never ceases to awe me.  Its climax slowly woke people up from a trance like state, and the entire venue erupted into an unexpected applause at the end of the song. Sachin’s use of various percussions has always been a stand out and nobody failed to notice that. The guitar solo with the bass lines that reminded me of Porcupine Tree had a spiritual intensity to it – something that the band will carry with themselves wherever they go.

The band brought a nice surprise by playing two new songs, ‘Color White’ and ‘Shaad’, which displayed the technicality involved in their music. They were different, and yet came along beautifully, fitting into the genre of the music. These songs did leave a promising note on the band’s next project.

‘Dil Khush’ just made everyone’s spirits soar up high, with the audience grooving to it and tapping their feet the entire time. The song showcased Fidel’s brilliant, completely groovy bass lines that were complemented perfectly by Sachin’s percussions. It was a treat to the eye watching the bassist funk it up a notch!

The much awaited, 17 minute long ‘Baran’ swept everyone off their feet, temporarily transporting them to snow-capped mountains and the valleys. With Khalid’s haunting voice echoing throughout, the song told the story of the beauty of Kashmir in a language understood by all, with a trace of a melancholy strain during the first part of the song. However, the rest of Baran, which means “Rain” in Persian was only about Chennai that night, uplifting them from the adversities they had just faced by the rising progressive guitar riff balanced perfectly by the rest of the instruments.

The 90 minute set ended with ‘Ab Ki Yeh Subah’ , characterized by a soothing voice and calming acoustics. It brought a smile on everybody’s face, whose expressions immediately changed to amazement watching Sachin transfer into a magician on his drum kit, while maintaining the disposition of the song.

Though the audience seemed quieter than any other Parvaaz audience I’ve seen, their veneration was clear through the loud, earnest applause that the band got every time they finished playing a song. Parvaaz’s music connected to each and everyone at a personal level, which is what the city needed right after the disaster. The set list was versatile and played with various emotions in a matter of one and a half hours. Overall, it was a beautiful night made by a beautiful band!

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Parvaaz gears up for the launch of their album ‘Baran’

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They have one of the most distinguishable sounds emerging from the indie music scene in the land, and to top it if, they decide to lace their music with a generous helping of Urdu and Kashmiri lyrics which turn the Parvaaz album experience into a sort of bass-plated, high-octane guitar encrusted qawwali-esque pantomime. Don’t get us wrong, they are incredible, and certainly not stereotypical. Commonly categorised as Sufi rock, they are clearly influenced by psychedelic  overtones, and a very serious attention to lock-and-loop groove, especially in songs like ‘Itne Arsey Ke Baad’ which has a mounting guitar solo in the midst of a smooth, post-jazzy ambience. “Our music is a perpetual process of combining various ideas into one single piece of expression,” says the band.

There’s no doubt about it, Khalid Ahmed is the crowning jewel of Parvaaz. Not that we mean to, in any way, downplay the other members. Kashif Iqbal is a devil with that winding guitar which edges its way between the caressing words, each lapping into the other in a glorious flow of lilting, honeyed rock with somehow perfectly matches a paced, powerful beat and an encompassing interplay of sound which seems to encase the lyrics like a cushion. Fidel D’Souza is a bit of a jack-in-the-box, subdued and almost shadowy for the most part, with sudden jumps at a magnificent stretch of bass before ninja-ing back into accompaniment.  Sachin Banadur? He makes drumwork sound way too easy considering that he transitions from beat to beat with the ease of a cat. A ninja cat.

After their incredibly acclaimed releases ‘Dil Khush’ and ‘Behosh’, the guys return with a sort of culmination of their musical history in ‘Baran’.  Think of it as some kind of evolutionary destination which will narrate the saga of Parvaaz. Not much has been given away,  but Sanjeev Nayak from Swarathma is collaborating on one of the tracks with his violin, which is a treat in itself. When asked about their upcoming album, the band says, “Baran contains mostly our material we’ve been performing live for quite some time now, songs come together as work moves towards reaching a primary shape to the work.” To commemorate this album release, which is clearly iconic to them as a band and to all Parvaaz bands, the guys are kicking off a launch tour. The dates are as follows :

13th Aug: High Spirits, Pune;

14th Aug – Blue Frog, Mumbai

17th Aug: Museum Theatre, Chennai

6th September – Counterculture, Bangalore

CDs and merchandise will be available at all the venues, which is awesome news for all of us because really, people, we love the band far too much to not be supporting their astounding musical coming-of-age, right?

Find more information on their Facebook page :   https://www.facebook.com/parvaazmusic/timeline

Or stroll over to their bandcamp page from some amazing memories of what they are capable of : http://parvaaz.bandcamp.com/

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Parvaaz at BFlat Bar, Bangalore

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Parvaaz at The High Spirits, Pune

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Parvaaz Live At CounterCulture: The Behosh EP Launch

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Kashif Iqbal and Khaled Ahmed moved out of Kashmir a few years ago and have been involved independently with various acts since then in Delhi and Bangalore. The two friends found each other in Bangalore and Parvaaz was formed in 2010 with a different line up. Sachin Banandur and Fidel D’Souza soon joined the duo on drums and bass and have been regularly writing music and gigging since then.

Parvaaz has just finished recording their first EP, Behosh. After countless hours of recording and spending most of their money on their new album they have produced something remarkable. CounterCulture on Friday the 13th, July, saw Parvaaz take to the stage for the launch of their much awaited album which was officially released with the members of Swarathma on stage with the band.

Their music is surprisingly fresh and original. It’s definitely the rock n’ roll that we know and love but it’s especially hard to pigeonhole a band like Parvaaz into any sub-genre. They have managed to seamlessly blend in elements of Hard Rock, Blues and Psychedelia into a sound that is uniquely theirs. The lyrics are mostly in Urdu and Kashmiri and draw from their personal experiences and there is considerable depth to them.

The first time I heard the name Parvaaz , which is Urdu for “flight”, was through their drummer Sachin Banandur. Sachin started his musical journey by playing the Daf when he was just five years old to accompany folk musicians in his native village of Bananduru. He has a very feelbased style of drumming which I really enjoy and has an intuitive knack for picking up odd time signatures. During this time I was very unfamiliar with their music except for bits of demos that they had been recording. I really had no idea what to expect.

The first track from their set, ‘Shabaan’ completely threw all my preconceptions about “Sufi Rock” out the window. Many have incorrectly labeled their music as “Sufi Rock” which has something to do with the irresistible urges that people have about putting everything into categories. Khalid, the band’s frontman told me he has no idea what Sufi even is.

The next track ‘Lolmatlai’ from their new album is a song about love, not towards anyone or anything in particular. The entire song is in Kashmiri and the word ‘lolmatlai’ itself means caring and unconditional love. It’s an emotion that can be related to anything at all. When I asked Sachin about the song and the meaning behind it he mentioned how he gets goose bumps every time he plays it live. The song really emblematizes Khalid’s voice. Throughout the history of rock n’ roll, there have been messianic figures leading the charge, those special, intense, magnetic front men who inspire a level of devotion otherwise found in only religion and football.

Next up was ‘Khufia Dastaan’. Their music keeps you hooked in from the start till the very end like a journey through the valleys of Kashmir. I could hear a heavy influence of The Doors, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin in their sound – just my kind of music! Khalid’s voice takes this already intense instrumental section to another level.

Itne Arsey Ke Baad’ was written two years ago and relates to Kashif and Khalid’s experiences on being separated from their homes. It talks of missing home and being taken in by all the distractions when away. The music is beautifully haunting at times. “Kab tak aise jiyein, kab tak haske sahein. Duniya ke sara nasha, kab tak aise piyein” is probably my favorite lyric from the Behosh EP. The lyrics will give you some serious food for thought and from what I understand both Khalid and Kashif have been influenced by Kashmiri poetry and literature.

Marika’ is a song about a very dear friend of the band from Norway. The lyrics are dedicated to her ways of doing things and the light she shared with the band. Kashif explains, “The song is about what we felt when she was here and what she shared with us. She’s travelled all over the world and so she had so many stories to share. She was also a great cook; the song even speaks about that!”

They followed up with ‘Laale Zaar’, ‘Mastaan’, ‘Zikr’ and ‘Ziyankar’. Parvaaz makes music that glows with meaning and a love for arts’ external power to touch the soul. They have an instinctive ability to express love, loss, happiness and heartbreak through exquisite melodies and complex arrangements. The music haunts and consumes in the best way possible.

Playing the album a few more times makes it obvious that they have a firm hold on their inspirations, and are using it to guide them into a formidable future. Make no mistake, this is not throwback music, but genuinely progressive. Their 2011 release ‘Dil Khush’ (which is also featured on the EP) hinted at the blueprint which the band intended to use to map out an interesting body of work. There is a lot of depth, and layers of guitars, other instruments and extended drum solos.

The last track they played was ‘Behosh’. The track offers a continuation of this approach, as Kashif offers some soulful lead guitar work and Ahmed uses his voice as an instrument, rather than merely intonating lyrics. And I must mention that the bass lines to me sounded like they were drawing inspiration from the other members of the band so as to add more texture to the songs. The four of them have great chemistry on stage. You need to watch them live to get an inkling of what I am talking about. The song is about a man describing a vivid dream he had, which encompassed his entire life and the struggle in it. When he wakes up his inner voice tells him how naive he had been throughout and how worldly pleasures have distracted him from what is truly important.

At this point the atmosphere at CounterCulture was electric. If they can manage to continue with this much vitality and passion all the way through, we might be onto the makings of something legendary. At the end of their set, the band gave their heartwarming thanks to everyone who was present there and to everyone who made the event possible. You could tell from the way the four of them looked at the audience that that moment was a microcosm of what they have gone thorough as a band, the good and the bad. It was a wonderful, uplifting moment that demonstrates exactly why the fans of this band really connect to the music at a higher level.

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Behosh by Parvaaz

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Way back when in the year 2011, I had witnessed a live performance by Parvaaz at Legends of Rock, the audience was informed that Parvaaz was a Psychedelic, Sufi rock band from Bangalore and that they sang most of their songs in Urdu and Kashmiri. I distinctly remember hearing an audible moan from a metalhead a few tables away. Although most of us did not understand the lyrics, needless to say, by the end of the show the band had managed to turn us all into rabid fans with their amazing stage presence and lead singer, Khalid Ahmed’s explosive vocals.

With a number of “fusion music” acts such as The Raghu Dixit Project, Swarathma and Emergence making it big in India and beyond, the time is ripe for Parvaaz to be the next big thing. Their soulful, psychedelic rock, powerful vocals and eloquent lyrics are guaranteed to take them places. Although they are mistakenly categorized as a “Sufi-Rock” band because of their Urdu and Kashmiri lyrics they strive to shake-off all stereotypes and are hard to typecast into any genre. Parvaaz is a pioneer in the Bangalore music scene with their vibrant songs; deep, meaningful lyrics written in an unfamiliar language and unmatched vocals and stage presence.

Parvaaz (which means “flight” in Urdu) came to be in March 2010 when two of the three original members and childhood friends- Khalid Ahmed and Kashif Iqbal reunited in Bangalore while they were studying here. The band is truly a brainchild of these two talented musicians from Kashmir. After one of their original members and bassist Neil Simon, Rhythm guitarist Adarsh Deokota and drummer Somarshi Bhattacharya were not able to continue with the band, Parvaaz settled into its current line-up with Khalid Ahmed on vocals, Kashif Iqbal on lead guitar, Fidel D’Souza on Bass and Sachin Banandur on Drums. It is not an exaggeration to claim that Khalid Ahmed has the strongest vocals and best showmanship of all the lead singers out there in India. Their songs and live performances have distinguished them from the rest of the herd. Parvaaz’s electrifying performances led them to win numerous college fests and they have been steadily gaining popularity since their performance at the Fireflies Festival of Music and Arts in Bangalore in 2011.

After much speculation and doubt, the band released their debut E.P. called Behosh on 13th July, 2012 and if this is to be considered a teaser for their planned album then nothing short of extraordinary can be expected from their album. Khalid Ahmed and Kashif Iqbal have penned the lyrics for all the tracks on this album in Urdu and Kashmiri, as is the case with the rest of their songs, and are unapologetic about it. They write and sing in the language they find comfortable and anything else would seem unnatural. Their sound incorporates elements of Sufi, Jazz, Blues and Psychedelic rock beautifully without being unpalatable to mainstream audiences. One can get a sense of their confident, electrifying and unabashed live performances from the five tracks that they have chosen to put in this E.P. As the band puts it, they want their listeners to lose themselves completely to the music and quite literally become “Behosh”. All the tracks on Behosh contain mesmerizing instrumental interludes and deep soulful lyrics. A sense of nostalgia and melancholy pervades the album and they have managed to create a seamless flow from song to song. Behosh starts off with a funky, psychedelic sound and progressively becomes more peaceful and melancholic.

‘Behosh’, the title track, begins with a funky, ominous, psychedelic bass section and leads into the vocal acrobatics of Khalid Ahmed. This track is a perfect mix of Psychedelic rock and blues with the addition of amazing vocals. The guitar solo section followed by the Harmonica interlude provided by Jerome Mascarenhas really drives home the blues influence on this track. Just when you thought the song would end quite tamely, the frontman’s oft mentioned amazing vocals kick in and the song ends in a glorious flourish.

‘Marika’ immediately shocks you with an almost primal scream. Written for a female friend of theirs, named Marika, from Norway, the song contains some great instrumental sections like the previous track. This track is a delicious mélange of frenzied vocals and guitar riffs accentuated by the brazen laughter track thrown in. A very memorable song as I instantly recognized it from their live performance a year back. ‘Marika’ is sure to get your pulse going with its racy drums, suggestive lyrics and energetic lead guitar.

After the first two energetic pieces, the E.P moves onto a mellower ‘Itne Arsey ke Baad’. Penned after Khalid Ahmed and Kashif Iqbal met their friends from back home, this song captures the heartbreaking distance from and the fervent longing for their homeland. The lazy, bluesy music belies the intensely nostalgic and heart wrenching lyrics. If you are not suffering from melancholia, you might just end up leaning back, closing your eyes and enjoying this relaxed tune and forgetting all about the otherwise heavy subject matter.

‘Dil Khush’, literally translated as “happy heart” is an uplifting tune and is the longest track on the E.P clocking in at over eight minutes. It celebrates the joie de vivre that comes from blissful ignorance. The sound of rain welcomes you to this optimistic track with its thumping bass line and brilliant guitar dominated interlude. I might be prudish to admit that I did not particularly like the three minute drum solo. Maybe they got a bit carried away with the theme of celebrating life with this drum solo as it seems disjointed from the rest of the song and unpleasantly jolts you right when you are getting into the groove of the song. Kashif Iqbal’s delightful guitar riffs and unrestrained playing are the high points of this track.

At last, my favourite song of the album- ‘Lolmatlai’ is trippy, soothing, utterly beautiful and an appropriate end to this album. Listening to this track one can’t help but compare Khalid Ahmed to the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This track is fully written in Kashmiri and speaks of the object of one’s love. ‘Lolmatlai’ instantly transports you to another worldly and ethereal place (should I daresay Kashmir!) and I couldn’t help but lament at how short this track was. The dramatic and orchestral sound achieved by the deep bass, guitar strumming and percussions does not distract from the clean, breathtaking vocals on this track.

Behosh is a succinct sample of Parvaaz’s body of work and a perfect reminder as to why Parvaaz has such a large fan base. The five tracks on this E.P cover varied topics and musical styles and yet do not seem haphazardly placed. They have managed to capture the energy of their live performances in this near perfect E.P. Enough cannot be said about Khalid Ahmed’s vocals; passionate, perfectly enunciated and unmatched in power and complexity; no other lead singer can hold a candle to him. Each track on the album is a harmonious blend of ridiculously good vocals and beautiful instrumental pauses and to truly enjoy this E.P I will repeat what was suggested to me- lock yourself up in a dark and tranquil room, close your eyes and listen.

The band members financed the E.P themselves and produced it on a shoe string budget and a lot of hard work. So yes, their music is awesome and yes, it is tempting to download it illegally but don’t be a nasty freeloader and buy the E.P which is now available on Flipkart as well as digitally on  OkListen. Enjoy the music and the beautiful album artwork. Also, as you wait for their upcoming album with unbridled enthusiasm make sure to watch them live; which is the best way to witness the phenomenon that is Parvaaz.

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Parvaaz at Italia, Bangalore

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The Hindi-rock genre has been much maligned in the recent past. A large percentage of the output that’s clubbed (sometimes unfairly) under this sub-genre is the MTV-friendly dreck that you hear on your local radio station during peak-hour traffic. Enter Parvaaz – their official bio steers clear of the H-word and classifies them as “blues/psychedelic rock”. One listen to their music and you realize that Parvaaz are indeed a band that are deeply rooted in 70s Brit blues-rock, with the added twist of Hindi/Urdu/Kashmiri lyrics.

The venue – Italia – known more for its vegetarian Italian food (!) than its live music, provided the setting for an intimate, smoke-free gig. Parvaaz, joined by their new bassist Fidel D’Souza, started their set with a swirling, post-rock influenced jam which was the furthest they deviated from their signature blues sound during their set. The band quickly settled into their groove with ‘Itne Arse ke Bad’, a number that managed to sound psychedelic and dirty simultaneously. Set-highlight – Behosh’s riff had all the swagger of Mick Jagger in his pomp and a thumping bassline that was catchier than a rickroll. A feature of Parvaaz’s setlist was their uber-groovy bass lines ably performed by Fidel. Frontman Khalid Ahmed’s quiet demeanour betrayed him at one point when he mentioned that the feedback he often received was that he did not interact with the audience enough whilst on stage. Ironically that proved to be his only substantial interaction with the sparse 40-odd people seated at the venue.

Their set also featured their debut single ‘Dil Kush’ which starts off like all good debut songs should but then had the audacity to have an indulgent and out-of-place 3 minute drum-solo section in it. ‘Marika’ was another song featured that began with promise but then petered out and ran out of useful ideas before it reached its conclusion. The catchy ‘Azaadi’, about freedom and the lack of it in India, was the penultimate song of the gig and it finally got some heads-a-bobbing and lips-a-moving in the crowd. The wonderfully written ‘Ziyankaar Pt I’ was the fitting finale to this short concert. The song used a repetitive two-note bass line in the verse and some arpeggiated chords over it to build an eerie sense of guilt which perfectly complimented Khalid’s vocals on this track. Guitarist Kashif Iqbal was tight without being overly flashy and had a lovely guitar tone although certain chord patterns he used seemed to repeat in a few songs.

This fledgling band seems to have gone through quite a cycle during their short tenure in the music scene. From playing small-time college fests to winning the prestigious B-School of Rock at IIM-B earlier this year, they’ve come a long way. Vocalist Khalid is one of those talents that can effortlessly transition from a passionate Urdu couplet to a high-pitched, primal shriek. (Listen here at the 8.02 mark. yes that’s his voice!) 2012 probably has a lot in store for them. Only word of advice: fewer drum solos please.

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Bourbon Street at Legends of Rock, Bangalore

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Sunday the 7th of August was a cloudy, drizzly evening that had me trudging up the road leading to Legends of Rock, Koramangala. I entered to find the place packed and was told that I might have to stand to listen to the band playing. Legends of Rock seemed like THE place to unwind after a week of hard work at the office; it was also the place to be to share space with a smoking hot band, rather literally considering its cramped and smoke-filled interiors.

I somehow found a seat just in front of the bar and settled down to enjoy an evening of music with Bourbon Street. I was looking forward to hear them play, having sampled their music online, but was a little apprehensive: recording music in a controlled environment is quite different from how you carry yourself in front of an audience.

The band consists of Jerome Mascarenhas (Vocals/Harmonica), Chester Pereira (lead guitars), Fidel D’Souza (bass), Bharath Kumar (Keyboards), Sudhakar Prabhu (Drums) and Ian Castelino (Djembe). The band is often joined by Carnatic violinist Dr. Sangeetha, who performs with the band for the fusion set.

Bourbon Street opened their gig with a rendition of John Scofield’s ‘A go-go’, an instrumental which lent a jazzy feel to the evening. I was glad they didn’t start off with something heavy, having come across artists who’re too eager to please by playing stuff that upsets the mood of the place. This pleasant number was soon followed by Roy Buchanan’s ‘Roy’s Bluz’. Chester doubled up by lending vocals to this song.

Starting off with jazz, Bourbon Street slipped into the comforting sounds of the blues. Chester’s waspy vocals were accompanied by their vocalist Jerome performing harmonica duties. I found myself cheerfully tapping my feet to the music, and I wasn’t alone. The place was suddenly transported back in time and there was no looking back: the audience was hooked.

‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ followed next, with Jerome taking charge of the vocals. Bold and empowering, this song was a little heavier than the previous two songs. By this time we’d understood that this band was going to surprise us with every new number.

Just when we thought the event was going to be a one-sided affair with the band doing all the hard work, Jerome asked the crowd if they were sober enough to follow their music. Dave Brubeck’s ‘Unsquare Dance’ followed, with the audience clapping in tandem with the beat. It proved to be quite a challenge keeping up with a tune on a 7/4 and quite a few members of the audience falling out of rhythm before long. But was great fun to be part of the magic of the band.

Bourbon Street’s version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Chameleon’ followed next, as the crowd grooved to the snappy funky solos that each member of the band churned out with an ease that made it seem like they were in their element.

After playing a flurry of covers during the first set, the second set opened with an original composition ‘Opulence’. Opulence is a progressive instrumental track written by Chester, making use of an odd meter sequence from 7/8 , 6/8 to 5/8 + 4/8. This number was also shortlisted at the Yamaha Asian Beats 2011 contest. This number took a myriad of turns, one blending seamlessly into another, taking me through a mesmerizing trip. ‘Opulence‘ certainly brought out the best in each of the band members.

The song that followed took us all by surprise. What started off with funky guitar and harmonica riffs ended up being Dr. Rajkumar’s ‘If you come today (tick tick tick)’. Now it takes courage to belt out a Kannada film number at a bar called Legends of Rock, but Bourbon Street pulled it off and got the crowd shouting out for more. An excited Ashish, (of LOR) took stage and commended the band for flawlessly syncing their genre with a Kannada number. My verdict- Incredibly ingenious!

‘Got my Mojo Working’ was the next track, and boy did they get the crowd’s mojo working! Much heavier than the numbers played before, the rhythm and drums in perfect sync, this Muddy Waters cover got the audience singing/screaming/shouting out what they could of the chorus with Jerome. They also moved on to cover Doobie Brothers’ ‘Long train runnin’ which kept up the crescendo that was built up through the show.

Bourbon Street wrapped the evening with Santana’s ‘Black Magic Woman’. A familiar number to most on the floor, it was the perfect way to end a show that was sure to leave a lasting impression on everyone who was there that night.

I was lucky enough to get some time with the band once their gig ended, thanks to Jerome’s invitation to have a chat with the band. The first question I had was whether they were comfortable playing at a small venue like LOR, with the band members seemingly jostling for space on the tiny stage. “We performed here the first time LOR reopened for live music after the whole ban thing.” said drummer Sudhakar, who’d been obscured from view for the most part of the evening. “We like the place and are comfortable with playing here since the crowd is very responsive as they’re seated quite close to the stage.”

On asking Jerome, where Bourbon Street stood among blues bands in Bangalore, he replied with a smile, “In this city, there are bands that play the blues, there are bands that play jazz, bands that play fusion and then there’s Bourbon Street which plays a bit of jazz, a bit of blues, Carnatic fusion and a lot more. It’s a mix of genres packed into one show.”

On being asked as to why they chose to play cover versions for most of the evening, Sudhakar said, “None of the covers sound like the original. In fact we lend in our own touch to every cover that we perform, so you’d never find two shows sounding the same”. A soft spoken Chester added that they’d like to expose the public to a broader spectrum of music primarily from the older days. The artistes of that period, he said, performed with such passion that it puts many of the contemporary artistes to shame.

The gig went well apart from uncomfortable seating and an annoying light that kept shining into the audience’s eyes. I wrapped up my conversation with the band thanking them for the chat, making a mental note to catch them live again next time.

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The Big Junction Jam Festival- Day 1

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Something that I have learnt over the years about Indian musical events, especially those that have live music, is that they never seem to start off at the scheduled hour. I walked in at 10:30 sharp, on that lazy Saturday morning, into the Big Junction Jam Festival arena in Palace Grounds and was greeted by Swarathma, at work on their sound check. A quick round of introduction with Karan Karthik (from The Live Gig) revealed that their sound check started an hour back. Well, it continued for the next hour or so, while I lazily roamed around the place.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was really a couple of hours), Bangalore based Old School Rebels got on the stage & kicked off the festival. Playing an extremely short set (which almost every band, that followed them, did over the course of the fest) of four tracks, they played two of their originals, covering Audioslave’s ‘Revelations’ & Velvet Revolver’s ‘Slither’. Maybe it was the lack of a sizeable audience, the set never made quite an impression by the time it ended.

Local Bangalore based jazz-fusion jam act Bourbon Street were up next, with Fidel from Old School Rebels on the bass again. Bourbon Street is fronted by Jerome Mascarenhas, who was missing from the action this time around. In his place was a thin lad named Ganesh, whom I hadn’t seen play with them before. I was told this wasn’t his first gig with them, which was evident from the way he was on the stage. Playing originals as well as covering old songs like Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’, & Phish’s ‘Free’, their set was cut short as well, and was plagued by sound glitches, the booming bass & the inaudible-at-times lead guitars. One noticeable cover was that of ‘Nature Boy’, a poem, originally performed by Nat King Cole.

The all-Infy band Joos followed Bourbon Street for their set. Playing an original ‘Float’ with three covers that included Elvis’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’; this was a decent set, although the vocals were a bit of a disappointment!

Black Sun, a 3 piece blues-rock act from Bangalore came in next. Not having heard of the band earlier, I had absolute zero expectations from them, and was pleasantly surprised to see three young lads climb the stage. Playing a real tight but short set, that included a self-composition oddly titled ‘Old Monk’, they were probably the only act of the day that asked for a couple of minutes for an extra song, and the organizers obliged. Closing off with a neat cover of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’, they were well received by the limited audience that had gathered by now.

By the time I had got my share of chicken wings (Plan B had a counter in there!) and a couple of beers to wash them down, Mad Orange Fireworks had set up and were halfway into their first song. With Michael Dias fronting the band, it was difficult to miss the TAAQ/Bengaluru Rock flavor this band’s music has. Also, the fact that the first gig these guys played together was just couple of months back wasn’t really evident, with original compositions taking preference over covers for the majority. Their tremendous energy throughout their set wasn’t lost on the audience either.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a decent number had turned up and The Indian Blues and Khalihan got to perform before the event was interrupted by rain. The Indian Blues seemed to make an impression with the presence of a sarod and a santoor on stage; however Khalihan failed to create much of an impact.

When I had read the schedule for the festival, one thing that caught my eye was Live Banned, the only act mentioned sans the genre of music they played. Imagine the shock when they got on stage. Forget the black metal bands with corpse paint or GWAR with whatever they wear; these guys had the most insanely funny outfits I have seen a desi band sport. Still no hints on what they’d play though. I did not see what was coming my way. A Tamil movie song is what the guy next to me says. Okay. Wait! Baazigar’s ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen’? Crossed with Maiden’s ‘Fear Of The Dark’? Was I drunk or was that the Swat Cats theme? The Terminator? The most entertaining act of the day till then, Live Banned had everyone up on their feet and close to the stage in no time. Hope this act lasts, entertaining audiences in the days to come, and I hope their gags on stage do not repeat either.

Mumbai based raga rock act Paradigm Shift were a surprise entry among the headliners, and their beautiful set left no doubts that they deserved the spot. Their seamless blend of Indian classical music & rock n’ roll was vibrant enough to draw us closer to the stage and pay attention to them. With a violinist in the fold, the sound was very different from what we had expected of them. Vocalist Kaushik who, we later learnt had no formal training in classical music, has very soothing sufi-esque vocals. The track ‘Dhuan’ was the highlight of their set, probably the most polished song of them all. They paid a tribute to A.R Rahman covering the title track of the movie Roja.

The only progressive yet melodic hard-rock act of the day, Evergreen from Kochi took stage as the Sun went down. The traces of metal in Evergreen’s music, if not abundant, are evident. Fresh from the release of their latest video (City Blocks), their set was probably the longest of the day. Playing regulars like ‘From Here To Clarity’ and ‘Vengeance’, their DT/Rush influenced song writing, if not as prolific as either, was a breath of fresh, though heavier air from the rest of acts. Though the audience reception wasn’t very warm, they were the perfect openers for the rest of the headlining acts that followed.

Carnatic rock aficionados ‘Agam’ came on at the far end of the first day of the Big Junction Jam, right into slots reserved for headlining acts. After a short and uneventful sound check (as opposed to the longer ones audiences had to endure prior to the bona fide professionals grabbing the stage), Agam’s Harish Sivaramakrishnan introduced their first song ‘Brahma’s dance’; he sure had to make time for a hat tipping to the organizers and the crowd which was a nice little touch. Despite its down-tempo beginning, ‘Brahma’s Dance’ had the band off to a strong start. It took the first few bars of the song for Harish to settle into his vocals, a minor flub we heartily ignored. A strong point toward the middle of the song is an amber-toned shot glass of Harish’s special brand of rock Carnatic vocal that’s come to be the quintessential Agam flavour. A rising crescendo with an abrupt end had the crowd sighing with relief at the arrival of one of the few refined bands of the day! ‘Raag Dhanashree’ was up next and began strong on the tabla and electric guitar; the violin nosed its way in after Harish’s mike, toning it down just enough to meld with the song rather than overshadow it. And lo and behold, there was a sudden crowd in the front – stark contrast to the motley crew that had populated the area so far – mostly photographers, who ambled around looking like stragglers at an after party.

A flurry of well-rounded musical scales in the interim and the band was already halfway through the four-song set! ‘Lakshya Padhyai’ or ‘Path of Aspirations’, the next song, had a notable jazzy bass guitar face off – so short, you could miss it – that is a highlight of the song for this jazz lover. Beautifully light violin notes lead into the bridge and on into the end of the song. ‘Raaga’ was up next with the first Hindi lyrics of the set and a heavier sound justifying their ‘rock’ tag. With its short staccato stabs of guitar playing, the song was the first to get the crowd going in what seems like forever! It even brought Harish down to his knees – making photographers scramble to capture it! ‘Malhar jam’, usually the best kind of crowd-pleaser, was up next, but the band was cut off by the organisers. Harish made a valiant attempt at a last song but he was shot down.

Parvaaz, Bangalore-based psychedelic/blues outfit was up next. Having seen them win the Unmaad gig in IIM-B earlier this year, and then play at Fireflies as well, and the level of commitment they have shown at each and every gig, the only grudge I have against them, if I were to nitpick, is the lyrical content, which just doesn’t seem to match up with the music they play. Either that, or I don’t get it at all. Probably the latter. The show was running late as it is and musical sharks Swarathma and the percussion masters Beat Gurus waited patiently in the wings, waiting to do justice to the stage.

Enter Beat Gurus & the crowd that had pretty much settled down for a short break was back, up against the stage barricades in a minute. This decade old percussion-only group is a familiar name amongst namma Bengaluru music aficionados. The octet got on stage, a quick sound check was followed by a quick exit and a quick return in colorful kurtas. Well, the quick part about their stage act showed up in the length of their set as well. Two songs were all they got time to play. The seasoned performers they are, the audience was clapping along in no time cheering them on. Almost everyone, including the band, wanted this to last a bit longer, but time was running out and the biggest act of the day was gearing up to close the night.

Swarathma, arguably the biggest folk rock act India has seen in recent times, finally took the stage at quarter past ten. After a second and thankfully shorter sound-check, they started off the proceedings with ‘E Bhoomi’. Crowd favorites like ‘Yeshu, Allah aur Krishna’ shortly followed up. Swarathma are a treat to watch live, despite the relentless touring they seem to be on nowadays. Be it Vasu Dixit’s humor on the stage, his word-play with Jishnu, or Varun Murali’s flawless guitar playing, they have something for everyone in the audience, be it the musician or the ones who are in for the fun. Vasu was off the stage in the middle of the song and before you knew it he was dancing on the thela right in the middle of the crowd, urging everyone who had waited patiently for them to be a part of the act. It was nearing eleven already and even Swarathma ended up with just a four song set at the end of the day. I rue the fact that their sound-check in the morning lasted long enough to eat up into the length of their own set, not counting the bands that didn’t get a chance to play at all.

Despite the good music, the food and the beer, the number of people who attended was lower than expected. We finally left the venue, a little disappointed, but secretly hoping that the scene would improve on the second day of the festival.

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