After waxing poetic about his last two EPs, I had hoped desperately that the debut album by Prateek Kuhad would be a fitting follow-up. Prateek Kuhads mellow sound and soulful sensibilities have already garnered him a huge following and this was his much-awaited debut album that had a lot to deliver. Released on 21st January, 2015 – more than a year after his last EP Raat Raazi, In Tokens & Charms his first full length album, showcases what Kuhad does best stir up the soul of the listener with the acoustic guitar!
In Tokens & Charms far exceeds expectations and was well worth the wait. Even though this album is filled with stripped-down, acoustic guitar-laden songs, be prepared for an emotional turmoil. Kuhad sticks to his signature indie-folk and pop sounds and each song is crafted perfectly to tug at your heartstrings. It is quite evident that his use of minimal arrangements and honest lyrics has made him a hit at many music festivals and this album is chock-a-block with the kind of songs that his fans love.
Although Kuhad is comfortable singing in English and Hindi, and Raat Raazi consisted solely of Hindi songs, In Tokens & Charms consists entirely of English songs. In his efforts to create the album, Kuhad was supported by Sahil Warsi on bass, Nikhil Vasudevan on percussion, Jacob Cohen on cello and Danny Severance on the violin. He stays true to his signature style and the compositions are whimsical, charming and very easy to listen to. Intentional or not, one can definitely discern hints and influences from artists such as Ben Howard, The Lumineers and Paolo Nutini. Kuhad isnt trying to tackle grand themes and philosophical topics with his lyrics they are all love songs based on his personal experiences that make them so relatable and intimate. Bittersweet yet comfortable, his music benefits greatly from his style of singing, enunciation and clarity of voice. The album as a whole, including the cover image, has a very vintage vibe to it even though the songs are quite minimal and urbane and have the power to bring back memories of the past, simpler times, youth and innocence.
The first song on the album Oh Love, hooks you in immediately with its folksy sound and catchy melody. It is an endearing track that is soothing and groovy at the same time. The percussion and the cello highlight the folk influences but dont overpower the soft vocals of the song. Oh Love quickly became a personal favorite and is one of the most unique songs on the album.
Kuhad moves onto a mellower track Holding on, that reminisces about a past relationship. This bittersweet song starts off with just his voice and the acoustic guitars but quickly turns upbeat and summery as the percussion kicks in. The refrain is extremely catchy and so is the melody dont be surprised if you find yourself humming this tune in no time.
The third track Flames is immediately discernible as it has a guitar intro that shifts the album into the pop genre. Unlike the name, this song is anything but fiery although is it one of the few songs on the album that features the lead guitars so heavily. Unfortunately, it does overpower the entire track.
Thankfully, Into the Night returned to the folk sound that is so unique to Kuhad and made me forget about the anomaly that was the previous track. What adds to the upbeat vibe of this song is the vocal phrasing and cheerful romantic lyrics. ‘Into the Night‘ will have you tapping your foot and will definitely bring a smile to your face and have you regretting the fact that its the shortest song on the album.
Unlike the previous track, Go is gloomier with stronger vocals to add to the distressed mood of the song. Kuhad tackles the topic of heartbreak and parting with this track that is neither overtly sentimental nor melodramatic. Another personal favorite, Go has a beautiful acoustic intro and the cello perfectly complements the song. The heartrending quality of the cello, especially during the refrain ensures that you dont forget the track in a hurry.
This is followed by Fire where Kuhad shows off his vocal range and abilities. The long instrumental beginning and the relaxed riff adds to the darker mood of this track. Fire may not be as much of a standout as the previous song, but it is definitely one of the more memorable tracks on the album as it is more downbeat with a tinge of sadness. The album shifts tempo again with the next song Held You Tight that is upbeat and optimistic and has all the makings to be a great single off the album. Just when you though the album was getting a little depressing, this track pulls you right back out into a lively mood. The fast paced beats and bouncy melody of the song will have you shaking a leg.
Be At Ease is a more laidback track that is also bright and cheeky. The breathy vocals, leisurely pace and fingerstyle technique add to the relaxed attitude of the song. The broomstick drumsticks make the track gentle. This buoyant song talks about what we are all looking for from love someone to be at ease with.
Cold Shoulders is even mellower but never gets dull or annoyingly slow. Kuhads vocals are especially soft here and the minimalistic arrangements make this song very dreamy and romantic. The final track of the album Artist sounds like a beautiful tribute to a special woman and features an ethereal acoustic guitar solo. With sparse lyrics and long instrumental sections, one knows the curtains are coming down on this beautiful album.
In Tokens & Charms is a perfectly constructed album, starting off with an optimistic and uplifting feel, moving on to melancholia and a twinge of sadness and then back to bliss. It seems like the last two tracks were especially made to give the album a fitting end instead of an abrupt finish. This album shows why less is more and that even the most restrained compositions can be very poignant and expressive. Kuhad is back in the spotlight with this admirable follow-up to his two excellent EPs and even though the album is very cohesive, every song has a perceptible unique element to it. With In Tokens & Charms, Kuhad has clearly announced that he isnt an amateur anymore hes an experienced and talented musician with an enviable style.
It has been hardly under a year since the release of Prateek Kuhad‘s EP Raat Raazi (read our review of the album here) and he is already working on his next release – this time an English album planned to be launched early next year. Prateek has released a live video of ‘Big Surprise,’ a track that will be on his upcoming English album. This video also features Nikhil Vasudevan on percussion and Nawa Lanzilotti on cello. Check it out!
The second day at the beautiful Fernhills Royal Palace dawned on a venue full of people eager to get on with the festival atmosphere and lounging on the grass at the Calaloo, watching the initial bands setup while grabbing a quick breakfast. There was an invisible crackle to the air. Since it was a Saturday, more people from near and far were expected to flock to the venue, a steely glint in their eye the determination to have fun over the weekend apparent.
Lucid Dreams started their set with an excellent rendition of Iron Maidens ‘Wrathchild’. The bands own compositions ‘Father Forgive Us I & II’, were not very different from ‘Wrathchild’, replete with sing-along choruses and great guitar work. Both were great ballads and the looming rain clouds helped create a great atmosphere around the stage.
The Vinyl Records are a pop punk band from Arunachal Pradesh and they were a good choice for the Blubaloo stage. They have a fresh and slightly off-centre vibe to them that has nothing to do with gimmicks or costume but just the music. Last year at The MAD Festival we had waxed eloquent (more like drooled in words) about all-girl band Afflatus; we felt pretty much the same about this band. And, when the vocalist Cheyyrian Bark strapped on her keytar, we were hooked. They have an EP called Whims out and we were quite taken by the titular song.
Jass Bstards – dressed in dapper suits with each member sporting a Fez, this three-piece from Delhi was definitely one of the highlights on Day 2. Led by Stefan Kayes keyboard as well as his sardonic humour, the very versatile Bstards (a nod to Rik Mayalls character from The New Statesman perhaps?) played a wholly unique set ranging from songs in the style of jazz, Latin Samba and even 80s pop. Samba Sin Tutilo had everyone on the crowd samba-ing to the beat. Stefan even jumped into the crowd for impromptu jigs with the ladies in the crowd. From creating little loops to using heavy distortion and feedback, Mr Kaye was able to pull it all off on his keyboard. Drummer Nikhil Vasudevan played complex beats with a metronomic accuracy as well as a deadpan look on his face behind his thick beard. He also half-jokingly threw a drumstick in Stefans general direction at one point of time during the gig!
The Bstards set paid reverence to a whole bunch of sub-genres, not usually heard in the Indian rock Scene. It also poked fun at the highbrow-ness associated with jazz music with Stefan generally taking the piss by doing things like crawling under his piano while playing it. They also used a theremin during their gig. How cool is that!
The strong Day 2 lineup continued with the a-ma-zing hip-hop/Reggae outfit Bombay Bassment. It didnt seem like there was too much of a buzz when they were soundchecking – a lone bassist – Ruell (who resembled Tom Morello with his shorts and baseball cap) tuning his guitar on stage while there was a sparse Saturday afternoon crowd lazing on the Fernhill lawns. Three songs into their set and there was a massive crowd jumping to BBs grooves! MC Bobkat with his stage presence and mic skills upped the ante on the Bluballoo stage with his old school rap-influenced vocals. Jump N Shout was a cue for all of us to do exactly that, although it made taking notes for this reviewer very difficult. Their set had a great tempo too, as they interspersed some reggae jams in between their high energy hip hop tunes like Get Down which had a sick breakdown bit. Their gig perfectly set up the crowd for the rest of the evening, although Bombay Bassment was a tough act to follow. To quote Bobkat, respect in every aspect.
Solder, the live wire band from Bangalore were next on the Calaloo stage. Their genre, in their own words, is Happy Rock, and they surely did not disappoint. Siddharth Abraham, the exuberant vocalist, toyed with the willing audience, while the band played an effortless and a flawless set that included the staccato, upbeat and happy ‘Cookie, Simple Things’ with its nice four-part acapella intro, Believe, which is absolute crowd anthem material, ‘Questions, Whiskey and Wine’ and ‘Take a Stand’. No Solder show is complete without the incredibly catchy ‘Irish Coffee’ and their first big hit, ‘All By Myself’. The guitars soared, Siddharth danced and gyrated, and the audience lapped it all up with delight!
Peter Isaac has been feeling the blues for the better part of a couple of decades now. Chronically even. Hes even got a circus to share this chronic blues feeling. His band of not-so-merry men people though, includes some of the more exciting musicians on the Bangalore scene. The Chronic Blues Circus setlist at Go Mad was predictably peppered with some blues standards and some originals sandwiched between those. By and large, it wasnt mind blowing but didnt exactly disappoint either (if youre a big blues fan that is). Peter Isaacs voice may have lost some of its sheen, but hasnt lost any of its enthusiasm. Miriam Johns vocals coupled with Ananth Menons guitar playing and vocals lend an eminently likeable aspect to watching this circus act. Top picks included ‘Sweet Nicotine’, with some stellar guitar soloing, ‘Woman’ and Howlin Wolfs ‘Killing Floor’.
A lot was expected from UNK. Apart from the legend Radha Thomas whos been performing since the 70s, the band also had accomplished musicians such as Aman Mahajan, Mishko Mba and Matt Littlewood. Unfortunately their jazz stylings did not really suit the mood of the festival at that moment. Meant for an intimate venue with dim lights and a fine whisky in your hand, UNK played an out-of-place and slow set to the afternoon crowd at the Calaloo stage. Radha Thomas voice is as beautiful as ever, she often throws in little Hindustani-influenced bits amidst her smooth jazz vocals. The best moment from their set was the tongue-in-cheek homage to Dosa, parodying Bob Marleys ‘Smoke Two Joints’. Called ‘Rendu Dosai‘, the song had a listing of all the possible types of Dosa. Sponge doSe, RagidoSe, MozarellachesedoSe. It was both memorable and bizarre and totally unexpected although their other songs lacked any real punch on the day.
Parikrama had the envious evening slot on the Blubaloo on Day 2. Playing to the just-about-to-get-drunk crowd, they provided our dose of retro for the evening with a largely by-the-numbers set. There was an announcement for Happy Hours at the bar, which saw an exodus towards the alcohol counter. Their set was a mostly a bunch of their popular songs although they played a new song unimaginatively titled ‘Dominant Seventh’. Parikrama ended their set with ‘Tears of the Wizard’ – based on Gandalf from LOTR.
Bands like One Nite Stand really entertain at festivals such as this. The weather and the venue have a great role to play in the openness of an audience and its folly for a band not to capitalize on this. We suspect the atmosphere and their choice of popular songs to cover had more to do with the positive response from the audience but they did entertain over at the Calaloo. We were quite taken by their original song, Never Let You Go. These guys know how to work an audience and work it good!
With a constant barrage of updates on their FB page and a sizeable Indian following to boot, Pakistani act Noori was supposed to bring the house down at Go Mad. If one were to go simply by crowd response, they may have, but the vocals were a disappointment to many. Maybe the altitude and chill didnt help, but frontman Ali Noor managed to sound consistently off throughout their setlist. Kicking off with ‘Kedaar‘, an energetic song to boot, what was immediately apparent is the quality of the band itself. Tight, full sound, great stage energy. And then the vocals kicked in. A technical glitch in the middle led to an appalling, college band level bit with a song whose primary lyric referred to one doing unmentionables to ones sister. The crowd lapped up ‘Jo Meray’, the Coke Studio classic ‘Aik Alif’, ‘Nishaan’ and ‘Saari Raat’. Kami Pauls drumwork and Saad Sultan on the guitars lent some solidity to proceedings. Ali Hamzas more rustic sounding vocals seemed a little more pleasing than Ali Noors. What wasnt on display was the vocal pyrotechnics one has come to associate with Noori, especially on songs like ‘Aik Alif‘ and ‘Saari Raat‘. All said and done, a live acts primary job is to entertain its audience, and Noori managed to do that with the sizeable crowd that had gathered.
Indie Electro rockers Sky Rabbit followed One Nite Stand on the main stage just as the coldness in the air went from hill station to Arctic Circle. There was a definitive anticipative buzz in the air and Sky Rabbit didnt disappoint. ‘Hilltop’ with its chorus that go No skill, no kill, youre on a hilltop seemed like it was written just for this festival. The happy-high crowd heads bobbed along to Raxit Tiwaris reassuring voice while the band belted tracks of its eponymous album. The ended their set with the anthemic ‘Anti-Coke Ganapati‘, a song whose lyrics everyone knew! If one was forced to choose an act that matched the vibe of the festival, Sky Rabbit would be that act. An impressive set which unsurprisingly had calls from the audience for an encore which unfortunately did not happen. The ending of the set was also a cue for this writer to go in search of more alcohol.
Jeremiah Ferraris mix of Reggae, Calypso and Punk makes you involuntarily bob your head, even as youre trying to understand exactly what theyre singing. They have the thick Jamaican Reggae accent down pat and they play with an easy energy that you could probably brush off as youth but we have a feeling these guys will be just as energetic twenty years down the line. Their first song ‘Legalise’ went slightly unnoticed since the crowd took a little while to gather but ‘No Booty’ was catchy enough to set the mood for the rest of the set. Lead vocalist has the machine gun delivery of words down to an art. Their songs ‘Mindless Riot’, ‘Dubby Rock’ (Yes, its about what you think its about) were our favourites of a dozen-song setlistand their cover of Marleys ‘Sheriff’ was authentic to say the least. All in all, they made us jump up and down to their music, something that probably saved us from imminent hypothermia. Were eternally grateful.
Over at the Blubaloo, the last act for the night was the Natya and STEM Dance Kampni. Madhu Nataraj and her team brought together the different aspects of STEM Space, Time, Energy and Movement to communicate with a vocabulary that used the body in two different ways . At one level each individual created distinct images as a part of a whole, like different dots in a pattern – remove one dot and the whole image loses its appeal. And at another level all the dancers came together to form one single colossal entity. Trained in Kathak, contemporary dance technique, Yoga, martial arts like Kalari Payattu and Thaang ta, the dancers used minimal facial expressions in order to give the entire body the power to emote. The frontiers of classical idiom were extended in order to connect with the contemporary audience. In order to make this dialogue more appealing the lighting was designed in a way where it gave a unique dimension to the choreography. By keeping the costumes and the make- up simple the idea was to accentuate the movements and explore the dancing space in a much deeper way.
When moments from a sports event are captured they look no less than dance movements. The player experiences excitement, anger, passion, fear, disappointment, elation, sense of loss and achievement within a limited period of a game and that comes out through his/her body in myriad ways. This aspect of sports which looks very similar to a dance was presented in the piece titled Sports. The dancers danced different sports and also enacted the drama which goes along with the game. Racing, cricket, basketball, tennis, sword fight, hockey, kabbadi were some of the sports featured. Dressed in orange and black they moved to different mnemonic syllables which were rendered keeping in mind the feel of the sport.
Vajra stands for the thunderbolt and the diamond – both are related to light and are considered powerful in their own ways. This piece brought together the aspects of luminance, indestructibility, force and strength in order to depict the images of Shiva and Shakti. The dancers looked magnificent in white costumes. With excellent body technique, amazing control of energy in movements, perfect synchrony and stability; they weaved myriad patterns on stage to depict the iconography of Shiva and Shakti. Beats on damru, resplendence of the moon, gentle flow of water were shown in unique ways by using the entire body and not just the mudras. And suddenly the stage was lit with light beams coming from the torches tied to the dancers bodies which added a unique dimension to the movements.
It was a solid day for anyone who attended and as it began to sink in that there was but a day left to the festival, everybody tottered home to their tents or rooms shivering, vowing to come back the next day super-energized and with at least five more layers of clothing.
Sohan Maheshwar, Sharanya Nair, Bharath Bevinahally, Purva Dhanashree, Uday Shanker, Rohan Arthur
Remember, these people are not your friends. They will buy you drugs, make you meet girls but they are not your friends. And remember, its all happening. –Almost Famous
My first attempt to cover a music festival made me feel like William Miller from the movie Almost Famous, though I realized soon that the comparison was too glorified. This wasnt going to be a window into the dark secrets of the bands but just a platform that would put forward an experience at Escape. I had been to the Escape Festival two years ago and I remember the experience fondly. It was the perfect ambience, well organized and the music was selectively good. I was looking forward to going back to rediscover what it feels to be in the arms of music for three whole days.
Like all events, this one was no exception with regard to the lack of organization. It probably went a step ahead. The venue did greet us with a spectacular scenic vision and a remarkable stage but almost everyone complained of waiting endlessly for a room – even the artists. We were tired, hungry and without a roof for hours and it was only after several outbursts from artists, visitors and media alike that things seemed to be sorted. Almost everyone complained about the lack of organization and vacant stares from the people responsible. But when the music started, everyone just shut up.
Let me throw some light on what the festival was about – there were over 17 bands performing amidst a brilliant sound and stage, aptly named Soul Garden, there were film screenings, artists displaying their work and a second elaborate stage called the Magic Forest for electronic music and an impressive list of artists.
The evening of the 24th started with Delhi Roots (apparently with no one from Delhi in it), whose genre is defined as Latin Reggae. A last minute addition to the list of performers, I particularly enjoyed Sergio, the bassists performance. It was the first appearance of Shirish Malhotra on the Saxophone (and then on the flute), in the festival. Vocalist/Guitarist Antone was a huge support to Sergio not just with music but also stage presence. For me, the band didnt do much musically, though they did lift up the crowds spirit.
Next up was Atul Ahuja with a host of accompanists. The accompanists included Shirish Malhotra (Saxophone), Anirban Ghosh (Bass), Nikhil Vasudevan (Drums) and Stefan Kaye (Keyboards), who apart from a few unintended mistakes made Atul look good. This was the perhaps the only act to do all covers on stage, and popular ones at that. Stefans stage antics amused the crowd and the artists alike.
And then the band that I had been waiting for came and stole the show! Thermal and a Quarter kept the crowd going with their popular songs and did some songs from their new album. Bruce was and is a treat to watch. The relatively quiet duo- Rajeev Rajagopal (Drums) and Leslie Charles (Bass and backing vocals) – helped the band belt out some of the best songs of the evening. Not only is their legacy of over 15 years as a band commendable but the fact that they dish out something new also is.
The evening ended with Faridkot who started on an impressive note with great sound but ended as a band that sounded monotonous. The band that calls itself confused pop had an eclectic mix of blues, soulful harmonies, slick guitar riffs and powerful vocals, but unfortunately after a point it sounded like they were playing the same songs. I did enjoy the harmonic melodies of IP Singh and Sonam though! The first day was hectic and it had nothing to do with the stage acts, just the management, but I was glad it ended well.
From the looks of it, the second day had a lot to offer at Escape. Against the backdrop of the peaceful lake, where I could find people jumping in and boating, there were movie screenings. No one seemed to have a clue about them and I found a lot of people coming up to me and asking the clichéd question So, Whats The Scene? It was unfortunate that people missed out on the movies and music only out of lack of information passed on to them. I am not a huge fan of electronic music but I was pleasantly surprised by the music served at the Magic Forest because I expected straight up electronic, but it was experimental.
Fuzz Culture stood out but I think that had more to do with my preference than strictly about electronic music. The act consists of Arsh Sharma (guitarist/vocalist of The Circus) and Sri Mahajan (Drummer Parikrama). People were looking forward to Vachan Chinnappa and Waga Waga (Aeroplane Records, UK) but a brutal stop was put by the cops during Vachans act. So the acts that did perform were Frame/Frame, Loopbaba. Fuzz Culture, Tarqeeb, Ez Riser and Buffa Pirate (who performed the next day morning to no audience instead of their scheduled Saturday night performance).
Soul Garden started with what was called the Square Root Sessions, which featured upcoming bands. Out of the three bands which performed, Pilgrim Tree House, Prateek Kuhad Collective and Gravy Train, Prateek was my pick. The evening sun was about to set so the acoustic works of Pilgrim Tree House and strums of Prateeks guitar were a perfect mood setter. Just when I thought the strumming of Prateeks guitar was becoming monotonous, Vir Singh Brars Jambi (a musical instrument that I hadnt heard before) set the music apart. I didnt quite enjoy the Hindi compositions for the mere fact that they didnt offer anything new.
While I understand the popularity of Gravy Train coming from their act and interactions on stage, I would hope they concentrate on music as much. Akshay Johars bass stood out for me in the band. Gravy Train features Tanya Nambiar (Vocals), Akshay Johar (Bass), Karan Malhotra (Guitar) and Bhairav Gupta (Drums).
The amateurs set the mood and now it was the turn of the popular bands to carry the shiny beacon which pretty much flickered till the end. Sanchal Malhar of Indigo Children fame and Toshar Singh Nongbet of Indias Got Talent fame kept the crowd going. It was good to see the crowd enjoying Toshars opera style!
Bertie Da Silva and Amyt Datta were the opening act to Skinny Alleys tribute. They had the fellow musicians up in applause and the crowd enjoying every moment of their performance. The evening belonged to Skinny Alley who paid a tribute to the great Gyan Singh. More than a performance that has to be subjected to scrutiny as a musician, it was an emotional drive. It was good to see Bruce (from Thermal and a Quarter) joining in the tribute that lasted for quite some time and kept the crowd going. Jayshrees vocals didnt seem to fade till the last song and the applause from other musicians was endearing. More than musically enriching the second day for me was an emotional roller coaster (of the good kind).
And then came the third day and I was reminded why I had come to Escape and stuck around the chaos. The Magic Forest offered a treat to the interested souls as the artists played well into the wee hours of the morning. The featured acts were Shantam, Vial, Dirty Saffi (who unfortunately did not play), KT, Tadayan, White Wizzard, Arjuna, Al Psummetrix, Technical Hitch and Post Modern Pundit. From the description and the buzz created, I wanted to listen to Post Modern Pundit and Dirty Saffi, but I was hooked on to Blackstratblues who were playing around the same time. Amongst the bands performing in the Square Root Sessions, The Cham Chams didnt perform. No Thoroughfare and Raunak Maiti started the evening and Run! Its the kid set the pace.
Unfortunately, I missed No Thoroughfares performance as I was drawn to watching a movie (which was brilliant). Raunak Maiti had Prateek Kuhad joining him for a few songs as all his songs were acoustic compositions. I did not enjoy his compositions on the keyboard as they sounded incomplete. It seemed the two artists from Mumbai had quite a support though in the audience. Dhruv Bhola (Backing Vocals/Guitar) and Shantanu Pandit (Vocals) from Run! Its the kid helped gradually shift the music from acoustic to Folk/Reggae sounds. The Ukulele added the much needed zest. Most of the bands featured in the early part of the two days were acoustic or Reggae.
Beneath the star studded sky, breezy intoxicated air and the tremendous sound and stage, Blackstratblues began to mesmerize. Warren Mendonsa wielded his weapon and dedicated songs to the sunny evening, the rainy days and Zeppelin (his dog). Jai Row Kavi (Drums) joined Warren and made the shift to blues pretty effortlessly. This was one of the moments when I was reminded why this festival was worth coming to!
Tough on Tobacco was again high on reggae and quite predictably, Sidd kept the crowd going. A band that starts to describe itself as a 6-piece progressive disco dance metal bhojpuri act from Outer Mongolia is indeed a humor tinged pop-reggae band. I was particularly intrigued by the photo of the band on the schedule brochure and their music seemed to explain it! The band features Sidd Coutto (vocals/guitar), Gaurav Gupta (guitar/vocals), Pozy Dhar (guitar), Neil Gomes (violin/sax/flute/vocals) , Johan Pais (bass) and Jai Row Kavi (drums/vocals).
The evening ended with Ska Vengers, another act that was sought after in the fest. The eight-piece band made the crowd stand up and dance to their tunes. Vir Singh Brar got on the stage to join them, this time acknowledging the band by dancing. It was the first time I was listening to them and they came across as a modern twist (the twist being interspersing various genres of music) to Jamaican music. Shirish played with the first band in the 3-day festival and then played with the last as well. There isnt any musical significance to this but it sure is a fun fact! The lineup includes Samara C. (vocals), Delhi Sultanate (vocals), Stefan Kaye (organ/percussion), Raghav Dang (guitar), Tony Guinard (bass), Nikhil Vasudevan (drums), Rie Ona (alto saxophone) and Shirish Malhotra (tenor saxophone). The electronica stage was thumping simultaneously, which made me feel torn between the two stages. However people who were clear about their agenda must have enjoyed to the fullest!
My first impression of Escape (from two years ago) was that everyone finds his space – a space that is personal and oblivious to fun as defined by others. This time I found an invasion of my space mostly by the mismanagement and lack of information. Escape for me was never about getting high on anything other than music and the ambience, and I found myself meeting people who thought otherwise. But the effort of bringing so many creative minds under one roof is indeed commendable; if only the fest had been managed well, it would have left a lasting impression on my mind.
There is nothing I can write that will possibly justify the kaleidoscope of emotions that every single person present at Hard Rock Café went through at the Bob Marley tribute show. I am still undecided as to why they call themselves Mob Marley; the unmistakable trance-like ska tunes of those legendary Marley songs invariably invoke a sense of unity and peace and could well thwart any mob in the making.
Having arrived a little late, I did miss a song or two, but that also meant that I swam right into the groove. Frontman, Chintan’s very own description of the band: “We are Mob Marley and we have a friend here, a friend there, a friend way over there and a friend back there”. Indeed, what a night among friends that was! Chintan Kalra was in one of his many effervescent avatars, though not armed with his bass guitar this time as you would normally see him, be it with Parikrama or Think Floyd. On the contrary, he took up the role of the Rastaman himself, complete with the undeniable Jamaican accent and Marley’s signature presence.
People seated behind had no option but to stand up and take notice. Musically, the show was most enjoyable, for the lack of a better word. The distinct sound of a reggae song, the offbeat rhythms were carried out well by Raghav Dang of SkaVengers. Though I think his rhythms did go off a couple of times, overall it did not hamper the performance. Songs like ‘Buffalo Soldier’, ‘Exodus’ and ‘No Woman No Cry’ were spot on. The enthralled audience stood as if in a trance as the band rolled out super hits like ‘Could You Be Loved’ and ‘You’re So Fine’. Nikhil Vasudevan on the drums was spectacular. His subtle underplay and impeccable timing perfectly accentuated what we know as reggae. At no point did he go overboard, yet the one-off rolls hit the sweet spot flawlessly. His lazy demeanour and lazier playing style was probably custom-made for the genre.
After the mandatory break at HRC, Mob Marley again rekindled their magic with songs like ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, ‘Jamrock’, ‘Red Light’, ‘Zion’ and the likes. They did pepper the show with a few Damien Marley songs that were accompanied by some insane rapping by some Frenchman who just appeared out of the crowd. The crowd (if I must call it one) went berserk and understandably so. I for one haven’t heard anything like that before and frankly I thought it was mind blowing. Rohit Kulkarni’s mesmerizing Fender sound was very distinct – a treat to the ears. He took on the ‘Redemption Song’ solo with calm and simplicity, the essence of reggae. Even though it isn’t the most complex, to deliver that ethereal feel is imperative and Rohit did it with much élan. Sid Mathur, standing on the other side of the stage was having a good time with his bass guitar. The groovy licks sounded just right and the prominent bass lines and relentless rhythm with occasional moments of magic thrown in did wonders to hold together the Jamaican sound.
Overall, I think Mob Marley would have definitely made Bob proud. I’ll end this narrative with one of my favourite quotes by the Man, the Legend, our very own Rastaman, Bob Marley.
“Free speech carries with it some freedom to listen”