Tag Archives: Piece of my heart

Ditty & Mark at Speakeasy, Gurgaon


‘The Jazz Lab’ written in big red letters demanded to be noticed. Not a genre of music easy to come by in Gurgaon. And a jazz duo certainly seemed an intriguing prospect. Having never heard them, or even of them, I was more than curious, and so I showed up at Speakasy on Saturday night to watch them live. The name of the pub is a tip of the hat to the prohibition era. While distilling, selling and serving alcohol were all prohibited by law, a number of illicit bars, called Speakeasies, mushroomed all over the US. The dimly lit place gives you an old world feel, with its cozy atmosphere, retro-dressed servers, and the superb B/W posters. Just the sort of place you would wish to visit to listen to some smooth jazz while nursing a drink.

Over the banter at the bar, suddenly a voice pipes up…’Hello everyone!’ With a shy smile, a likely schoolgirl says “I am Mark, and he is Ditty” pointing to her guitar-slinging companion on stage. A few nervous laughs, and her companion assures everyone that he is, in fact, Mark, and she is Aditi, or Ditty. The duo starts off the night with a mellow song, the title of which I could not catch. Very easy on the ears, the vocal-guitar track takes on a new dimension with an unexpected addition – Ditty’s trumpet. Not an instrument one sees often, it somehow added to the soothing effect of the song. After the great start, Ditty invited to the stage Nikhil Mawkin on the drums and Arpan Guhathakurta on bass. The quartet moved on to a song called ‘Music’. It turned out to be one of my favourite tracks of the night, and I was very happy when the band did an encore. The unhurried fingerstyle guitar lines with their warm tone created a spiral through which Aditi’s vocals delved deep and soared high. The young lady marched to her own tune, totally lost in her music. The spoken word interlude was superbly executed, and the rhythm section had everything down pat. Glad I recorded the song during the encore.

Ditty & Mark at Speakeasy, Gurgaon

Next up was a song that Mark introduced as Anglo-Nigerian Jazz, followed by another track which reminded me of ‘Black Velvet’. The latter started off soft and soothing, with the tempo slowly building up. Loved Nikhil’s ‘big-drum’ sound on this. The band played a couple more originals. I couldn’t catch the names of the tracks, but it was turning out to be a calm, unhurried experience that a Saturday evening ought to be. I had never heard these songs before, but their music has a comfortable familiarity, that makes you feel you have known and hummed and loved these songs for a spell.

The band shifted gears, lest anyone typecast them, and showed that they can shake things up a bit. Launching into the next number that had clear funk influences, Mark switched from his restrained guitar playing to belt out some superb licks and a brilliant solo that was surely one of the highlights of the evening. Ditty too held nothing back, hitting the high notes just right. Her voice is soft and sensuous one instant, and powerful and edgy the next. There’s tremendous energy on stage, and the four are clearly having fun. Seamlessly moving from a Brazilian song to Tom & Jerry to Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece of my heart’, getting the crowd to join in on the ‘wooh-oh-take it’ refrain, the duo have an air of quiet assurance about them. They have been playing together for a year now, but seeing them on stage it’s easy to believe they’ve been doing this a lot longer.

Over the next few songs they showcase their influences, ranging from Latin, funk and R&B, which make up their brand of alternative Jazz. The trumpet comes into play at just the right times, sounding mournful or cheery, depending on the song, while the (mostly) minimalist guitarwork creates interesting spaces. Their interpretation of ‘Jailer’ by Asa was very well received. It was their own compositions, however, that made for the most compelling listening. ‘Moonlighter’ has a lilting, haunting melody, a song for everyone who comes alive at night. ‘I know I’m a moonlighter, are you?’ Ditty asks, and tells you to let the night make you step out of yourself.  Since the gig, I’ve tracked this song down and it’s on repeat play. ‘Just to let you in’ has noticeable funk elements and is a very jam-worthy song. The Latin-influenced ‘Illuminated’ is about a matchstick that wants to be lit up, but is waiting for the right stroke.

Ditty & Mark at Speakeasy, Gurgaon Having regaled the audience for two hours, they announced that it was the end of their set, but the spellbound crowd clearly wanted more. Amid loud cheering, Ditty & Mark agreed to play one more song, and I was delighted that they chose ‘Music’. As they took a bow, the duo introduced their guest musicians again, and mentioned that their regular drummer had to drop out at the last moment and Nikhil had agreed to come on board on the morning of the gig. Considering how well he held the rhythm section together, one can’t help but applaud the guy, who is equally competent with the guitar. I’d first seen Nikhil at the NH7 Weekender as the guitar-toting half of Parvati and Mawkin, which was one of my favourite acts of the fest. Arpan provides brilliant low-end grunt, and is quite a charged up presence on stage.

Right. This had turned out to be a great evening. To go and watch an unknown act live, and to be totally blown away is an experience we all crave, because there isn’t nearly enough of it. Because not every band is so uncompromisingly original. Because not every band makes music from the heart, and not the head. Because not every band can entwine poetry and melody perfectly. Because not every band is Ditty & Mark.

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Deep Chakraborty

Deep Chakraborty is a guitarist and singer with The Unwind Project, based in Delhi. Whatever time he manages to salvage from his daytime management consulting job, he dedicates to analog stompboxes, his retriever Mishka, daydreaming about meeting John Frusciante someday, and attending as many gigs as he can.


The Luke Kenny Mojo Jukebox at The Blue Frog





I love the Blues. I’ve been very recently, completely immersing my self in regular doses of Buddy Guy, SRV, Hendrix and Phil Sayce. So to say I was looking forward to watching the musicians in The Luke Kenny Mojo Jukebox really is an understatement.

Having already had a long day, I was eager to get to my favorite live music venue, The Blue Frog and sit back and soak in some long bends and cold brews. I managed to convince my famous Mallu friend Sujit to accompany me and so we caught a slow train from Malad station, party packs in our bags.

We entered just as the band was starting up. I quickly spied around and saw several usual suspects around the bar and quite a sizeable crowd. Denzil Mathais was on alone showing off his super sounding custom hollowbody guitar, wailing out some warm fuzz which suspiciously sounded like Beethoven’s Symphony No.5. Vinayak Pol and Chirayu Wedekar on drums and bass joined him to start off the song with a bang which turned out to be ‘Roll over Beethoven’. Luke walked out next to a warm welcome and danced the song out. It was a bit funny to see the whole band with scarves on; guess it was some kinda style statement that I don’t get.

After a couple of songs and a Willie Nixon cover, Luke eloquently invited his first guest out, Mahesh Naidu on blues harp, while giving us a serious face and a small history on the next song. The first few notes out of the harp assured me that we were finally getting down to business and doing a real blues number. Muddy Waters’ ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ tumbled out and had the crowd grooving immediately. The harp solo was off time for some reason, but the guitar solo really made up with long sweet bends and super vibrato by Denzil. Mahesh just didn’t find his groove as he spat out some odd sounding notes during the next song on the steel flute. I don’t remember what song it was but it didn’t go well, Luke’s dancing didn’t help much.

Next up was Shilpa Rao and I was really hoping the bar would now shift upwards from the ground. She looked a little nervous to begin with but when she started singing she displayed undeniable power there. ‘Nature boy’ was the first song I think, but the impressive singing came only in the next song which was an original. ‘Romeo was in love with me’ is a cool ditty although the solo interludes were basically just Denzil bailing them out. Nice work by the band.

The next song had Luke back on vocals for a nice cover of Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’ although it still didn’t qualify as blues. I saw a couple of women jiving in front and they stole my attention. Luke decided to not care about pitching anymore in this song.

The funk version of Queen’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ was marred by a little sloppy bass playing by the young Chirayu Wedekar and completely off key vocals. The ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ line that Denzil injected a couple of times really didn’t work. Nice tone in the guitar solo though. ‘Baby you can drive my Car’ was dismal. Tight drumming but ironically the only song about driving that night just crashed and died.

Next up was Vasuda Sharma and her Loop station. Nifty device and she managed really well creating a whole section of percussion and backing vocals in all her songs which got the crowd clapping along. Although she had pitch perfect vocals, they were a bit uninspiring. All songs had the loop station build up but she apparently decided that passing off covers of folk and country songs as the blues were good enough as long as she sang some blues notes at the end. I must mention that Neil Gomes who joined her later on ‘These boots were made for walking’ has improved a lot on the violin. The Sax playing was not upto the same mark though. The version of ‘Roadhouse Blues’ really made me sad. They ended with a shoo-be-do version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ but I guess I was alone in my opinion because the end of her set brought on loud applause from everyone else. My friend Sujit remarked how she reminded him of singers in Goan restaurants with minus one tracks.

The next set saw Trumpet player Paul Rodrigues on a killer version of Prince’s ‘Kiss’. Great wah tone on the guitar, nice vibrato on the long trumpet notes. Tight song. Luke’s next offering was an original that made me wonder if I was fooled into thinking this was a blues gig. It was more of a soft rock song where he sang about how he always confides in his feelings.

I was really not looking forward to Sunidhi Chauhan. I mean anytime you hear a Hindi playback singer attempting blues is bound to make you gag. But boy did she prove me wrong! She looked HOT and she sang with amazing power, soul and feel. ‘Cry me a river’ was a lovely jazz blues number with a nice time signature change inserted a couple of times. It finally seemed like the gig was warming up. Then she blew the roof of the place with Dhruv Ghanekar joining the band onstage for the best performance of the evening. Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece of my heart’ was a great version that displayed some lusty and on purpose off time vocals and super guitar work by Dhruv.

Dhruv then stepped upto the mic to sing a Gary Moore classic, ‘Still got the blues’. I had never heard him sing before but that’s just as well as his singing was nothing to write home about, sounded like he had a bit of a cold maybe. The guitar tone had a nice delay wailing after his solos. Listening to him was a treat until he suddenly started shredding all over the place.

Luke was back after Dhruv exited the stage with a chunky riffed original called ‘Hard Loving Woman’. Very Deep Purple sounding and the band was tight. Great drumming by Vinayak. The last song of the night was Should I stay or should I go,’ a cover of The Clash’s punk anthem. The song had decent vocals and a killer solo courtesy of Dhruv who joined the band again for the last song of the night. Highlight of the song was the conversation between Denzil and Dhruv’s guitar. Denzil managed to more than hold his own displaying for the first time that blues band leader mentality, easily conducting the band as they jammed the song out.

All in all it was a disappointing night of music only because I felt we were served small portions of what was promised as the main course. The musicians on stage were all great and Luke’s band is pretty entertaining. I had earlier asked Rishu Singh whether Luke was a good singer and he mentioned that he has his good and bad nights. I hope this was a bad one.


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Howard Pereira

Howard is a guitarist with Mumbai based bands, Dischordian and Overhung. His other interests include drinking, comic books and occasional writing.