Tag Archives: Sudhakar Prabhu

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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Interview with Bourbon Street

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Bourbon Street is primarily a jam band with a vision to play and write music unbounded by genre or style. With Jerome Mascarenhas on vocals and harmonica, Bharath Kumar on the keyboards and synthesizer, Fidel D’Souza on the bass guitar and vocals, Chester Pereira on the guitar, Sudhakar Prabhu on drums and percussion and Ian Castelino on the djembe, Bourbon Street encompasses a variety of genres such as jazz, funk, blues, reggae, and good old classic rock. WTS got in touch the band and got them talking about their journey so far, the music they make and more…

WTS: When did you guys start off and how has the Bourbon Street journey been so far?

Fidel: We started off as an embryo (each) and haven’t looked back since!

Chester: We started off as a three piece band – I played the guitar, Fidel on Bass and Sudhakar on the drums. We kept adding members as time went by and we are now 6 (We call Sangeetha as a guest but she plays most concerts with us, so the total number could be considered as 7!)

Ian: I have no clue when Bourbon Street started, I met these jokers one day and they found me suitable enough a joker to join them.

Jerome: I got a call from Fidel one morning. This is an excerpt from the conversation – “Fidel: Dude, can you make it to Bangalore this weekend? Jerome: I AM in Bangalore… for good! Fidel: Cool, grab your harps, dust those rusty vocal chords and head over to a jam.” I entered the jam room and Fidel goes “He’s the guy.” Fidel, Sudhakar, Chester in chorus: Welcome to Bourbon street, our new vocalist! Jerome: Huh?” (this expression continues to this day!)

WTS: How do you approach your songwriting process? Tell us about your lyrics, the themes/concepts, where do you draw influences from?

Fidel: Trey Anastasio (Phish), Donald Fagen (Steely Dan)…

Chester: We have only one song with lyrics. Everything else is instrumental in nature. For me, music is the art of stimulating the listener’s emotions via sound; lyrics are nice to have, but I believe that they aren’t necessary – let your instrument control people’s minds and hearts and imaginations and you are a real musician. I try to incorporate new musical formulae that I learn in writing tunes. Some of them have been ‘accidental’ though – I play some random stuff on my guitar and like it and few days later, we have a new track!

Sudhakar: We all have different backgrounds in music. In most of our originals we try and include these influences at the same time keep the feel fresh and relatable. We do keep in mind that as a band that mostly plays live we are able to bring in a lot of energy into these songs.

Jerome: I’m just the vocalist!

WTS: Do you think folks in Bangalore are hung up with rock and metal or are you of the opinion that other genres are enjoying equal attention as well?

Fidel: Yes we are of that opinion.

Chester: I’d say that school and college kids are hung up on metal and the slightly older crowd are hung up on rock music. But, play anything relatively well and they will appreciate it, if not accept it. While genres like jazz and funk do not get as much attention as rock and metal, I believe it’s mainly because people haven’t been fed much of other types of music. For example, most people that frequent Legends of Rock are hard core classic-rockers. But everytime we’ve played there ( 4 or 5 times in the past one year) we have been well received by the energetic crowd.

Sudhakar: I guess again, its the energy you generate when you perform. No matter what genre it is, if the crowd is entertained, they don’t mind. That’s why we have been able to pull off a Carnatic set in the middle of blues and rock!

Jerome: Totally agree with Chester on this one. It’s largely dependent on how the band is able to capture and retain the listener’s interest.

Ian: To each his own including the clueless like me, but yes, other genres are enjoying attention. Umm,what’s a genre? Is anyone paying attention to me?

WTS: How has the line up changed from the time you started off? How did it affect your music?

Fidel: Its gotten progressively louder at each show.

Chester: We’ve grown from a 3 piece to a 6 (7) piece band. Nobody has quit the band (and nobody has been booted either) since we started.

Sudhakar: Hey, I was fired during recession. You guys hired a drummer half my size! (laughs)

Ian: I suddenly realize I was the last in the line up, so clueless again.

Jerome: At one of our gigs I saw Chester playing the drums, Fidel playing lead, and Sudhakar playing Bass – I freaked out! But I also learned one thing – we sound kickass no matter who plays what! (winks)

WTS: Do you have any favourites among your own songs?

Chester: ‘When She Smiles‘ is my favorite – it was an accidental track. ‘Opulence’ is another one of my favorites as I incorporated four different time signatures and three different Carnatic ragas into it.

Jerome: All our originals don’t feature me, so nah! (laughs) Kidding! Opulence is real neat. Varying time signatures and fusion of Carnatic scales is very nice!

WTS: What according to you is your greatest achievement so far?

Fidel: Playing to a crowd of three!

Jerome: Playing to a crowd of three AND getting them to cheer for us!

Chester: Playing our version of  Dr. Rajkumar’s song ‘If you come today’.

Ian: Being heard over the drums I suppose.

WTS: What are your plans album-wise? 

Fidel: We are album-foolish in my opinion. Our tour started at Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain and will reach the outskirts of Mysore on September 19th! (laughs)

Chester: We don’t really have plans of making albums. I guess we’re too lazy for that. We’re more suited to playing live than sitting around and recording in a studio, that’s too much work!

Jerome: Alcohol forms an integral part of our band. The more you drink, the better we sound. Now, unless we hand out booze with the albums, it ain’t gonna work for us.

WTS: What has been your biggest challenge as a band? 

Sudhakar: The biggest issue we have is getting jam time before the show. Since Fidel is from out of town and has to come only during a show, it gets difficult to get a full jam time before a concert. Most of the time we end up hurrying through songs and not really spending time as a band, refining them and structuring them. Then again, we end up jamming on stage. We mostly carry our shows through sign languages and the crowd’s inebriated state!

Jerome: Pretending to be a jazz band! We seem to be doing quite well so far! (laughs) On a serious note, it has got to be getting together for a full fledged practice session. How did we overcome this? Well, we didn’t. We just stopped practicing. To each his own!

WTS: What’s your opinion about the music scene in Bangalore?

Fidel: Yes, there appears to be one.

Chester: Getting into death metal and/or it’s gazillion sub-genres seems to be the in-thing for college kids.

Sudhakar: In general, you have to convince people that different is not always bad.

Ian: Hmmm,food for thought. Loads to improve!

Jerome: Music scene… Hmmm, it seems to be doing slightly better than the Bangalore ice hockey team!

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