Tag Archives: The Beatles

The Hibernian Jungle at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

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Eh, who?

Some Irish band. Playing Hard Rock on Tuesday.

Irish? Isn’t Hibernian a Scottish football club? I’m pretty sure I read about the place in Trainspotting. Trainspotting is set in Glasgow, no?

Uh… maybe.

I had broadcast messages to people to get them to show up for The Hibernian Jungle show on the 18th of September, but convincing even one person was beyond me. The best or/and worst reason I received in rejection was, “Dude, this gig has been pimped on the radio – that’s a sure sign that it’s going to be awful.”

In hindsight, I’m so glad that everyone flaked on me, because I’d have felt extremely guilty to have made any of them plonk down five hundred rupees to watch this ‘concert’.

Indulge me this paragraph for expanding upon what I believe a gig should be – and, of course, feel free to disagree. In my estimation, a gig of any kind, especially one of a band from far-off lands, even if within the limited confines of Hard Rock Cafe (then again, Poets of the Fall played there too), implies that the gig/concert/rose of any name is going to be the center of attention. Fine, I’m even conceding that they need not be the center of attention – only that when entry to an establishment is ticketed, with those tickets predicated upon a performance of a musical ilk, that said performance will be given due respect. Of course, it’s not the band’s fault. Maybe it isn’t even HRC’s fault. It’s my fault for expecting it to be so.

Given that it was HRC, my expectations were low to begin with; yet, like a stupid kitten that keeps darting its tongue into hot milk, I keep going back for more. The reason I’d desperately tried to secure company for the show was that I knew that, unless it was a high-flying band like Poets of the Fall, the venue was going to do everything in its power to make itself seem as normal as possible, viz. severely antagonise anyone present to solely catch the band.

Walk into the venue and look to your left (away from the bar), and… it’s like every other day at the Hard Rock Cafe. The tables are set and the patrons are seated peacefully, sipping their cocktails and soiling their fingers while dipping into the guacamole. Walk in that direction and wear blinkers, and you’d swear that the music was canned.

Look to your right, and you can see the bar through the doorways, and seated above are three Irishmen. Only about an hour later did the surface reveal itself to contain a fourth Irishman, wholly eclipsed by the frontman, who had to take to standing on a table and gyrating to mark his territory. My initial suspicion was that he was Indian, and so was hidden behind the other three; ‘twas not to be. Anyway, who cares about seating arrangements? I’m not Jaya Bachchan in the Rajya Sabha.

Even in front of the ‘stage’, there was only a smattering of a crowd. A good barometer for a venue is to look at how comfortable it makes a free-standing individual feel. HRC fails abysmally – attending the concert alone, I took to sticking by a wall because one would have seemed utterly deranged to dare to, you know, just stand in front of the ‘stage’ (yes, I’m going to keep saying ‘stage’ and not stage – anyone who’s been to HRC, Bangalore will know the difference) and enjoy the music. Though, to be fair, there were a few people enjoying themselves (all in groups), including a bunch of Irish people who sure do seem like they know a good time, and one portly gent who I presumed was affiliated to Jameson whisky, the chaps who brought Hibernian Jungle down to India. But, apart from the loyal Irish (and their Indian friends) and capitalists, nobody really seemed to be there for the music. All others seemed like they’d just stumbled into the bar in pursuit of a good time, and just happened to stay on for the flesh jukebox.

If you’ve noticed that I’ve spent 600 words talking about various things that are not the band or the music, well done and have a cookie. Now, The Hibernian Jungle were described in the posters, to paraphrase and recall from memory, as some of the best young Irish musicians who were going to rock India with their reinterpretations of other bands (ha. ‘Reinterpretations’, it seems) and their own mix of original bluesy Irish rock.

I’m going to call the spade – they’re a bar band.

I’m sure that they’re a perfectly nice bunch of people, and they can definitely handle their instruments (specific props to the bassist), but to what end? Playing covers 8500 kms away from home? Confession – out of bitter disappointment, I walked out on them when they took their break, which came around an hour into the set. Perhaps they played the best set of originals ever, ever, ever after that (or perhaps they broke out the Thin Lizzy and U2 numbers), but they’re awful at planning their set list if they’d padded out the first hour with covers. And not just any covers, but typical covers – they actually started promisingly by kicking off with The Black Keys’ ‘Gold on the Ceiling’, but then degraded into a retro radio cesspool soup of the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, CCR and the like.

I can’t decry their intentions – if I were making my bread playing covers and Vijay Mallya told me that he’s going to take me around Ireland, I’d jump at the chance. Young Irish band given the opportunity to tour India? Why not, I ask you, why not? All of this is conjecture, of course, but I’d assume that Jameson had instructed them to shill their product every now and then, which is what passed off for banter between songs. Again, I can’t find fault with the band, but I can whine about the manner in which the night was packaged – as an evening of music, and not a live recreation of an ad-supported Winamp playlist.

I guess the red flag I should’ve heeded was the fact that they played two gigs in Bangalore. What kind of legitimate band does that? Unless they were told that Indiranagar and M.G. Road were two different cities, but you’d think that the organizers would’ve at least had the decency to switch one of those gigs to Malleshwaram then, to have a plausible explanation that, yes, they are in fact two different cities.

Still, maybe the band had a sense of irony – they’d slipped Neil Young into their set list. He’d tell you a thing or two about selling out.

Varun Rajiv

Varun Rajiv has tinnitus. The first band he adored with all his heart was Boyzone.

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Interview with Rzhude David

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Rudy David aka Rzhude is a Bangalore-based singer-songwriter, studio owner, sound engineer and producer. He is also a founder member of Thermal And A Quarter (TAAQ) with numerous singles, albums and tours to his credit. Currently, he’s a session bass player for Dr. L Subramaniam Global Fusion Group, Lucky Ali, The Raghu Dixit Project among other fusion and rock groups.

WTS: If someone were to give you an unlimited budget, what bass gear would you buy and why?

Rzhude: Well, once the stuff between your ears and your fingers are practiced, then the next point is the instrument. In an unlimited situation, I’d get the NS Design CR Series 4-String Electric Double Bass and the Warwick Infinity Bass Neck-Through 5-String. Sure there are more expensive made to order possibilities but these are off the rack instruments that make the grade quite nicely. SWR Classic Series SM-1500 1500W Bass Amp Head, SWR Goliath Senior IV 6X10 Bass Speaker Cabinet for amplification duties.

Once the signal leaves the guitar, I’d want a really good cable. I’m not so hot on active pickups, but what I really like is passive pick-ups with an active EQ. I’m not into fx processors either but the Eden WTDI World Tour Direct Box and Bass Preamp and the Roland VB-99 V-Bass System could be thrown in for fun.

WTS: What would u prefer – 4/5/6-string?

Rzhude: For me it’s the middle path again, the 5-string completes the range for me. I’m not so much of a high solo-ing kind of a person, I’m a groove-oriented bass player. It’s more like it opens up enough positions using that 5th string itself. For a time, when I started out, probably 12 years back, when I switched from 4 to 5, it took some getting used to. The B string turned out to be a nice place to rest your thumb! Once you get used to it, then you find it pretty handy, although I know that there are some bass players, including a friend of mine who says “If you can’t play it with four, you can’t play it with more”.

WTS: Do you use a signature ‘tone’ for each song or each style of music? How do you get your tones, i.e. tweaking the amp/tweaking the EQ on the bass/using a pedal or all of the above?

Rzhude: If I’m doing session work then it depends on the song. I’d most likely set it up from my Bass pre-amp head and keep it set for the session. If I’m going into a recording situation, with a ‘post effects’ scenario, I go cleaner from the amp and if required, tweak the tone and add fx at the mixing stage. But live its usually just one tone because once I’m set with the sound I like, I don’t fiddle with the amp – I might just move finger position from the bridge to the neck and maybe the mid frequencies. I flip the pick-up mix for soloing and boost the mids a notch with a parametric EQ.

WTS: Do you think a basic knowledge of sound engineering is a requisite when you set up for a gig, or can one get away by going with “what sounds best”?

Rzhude: It’s useful to know these things but I don’t think it’s essential. It will help to know what a sound person has to deal with – that is the most important job at a live gig and high-pressure as it gets. If you’re used to a sound engineer then he knows what you want so you get a good mix of everything coming back to you and it helps to know what’s going on out there and not be unrealistic about your sound demands. I think “what sounds best” is best left to a sound engineer (or two!). Because there’s one doing your front of house mix, which you aren’t going to be able to hear anyway, and there’s one doing your monitor mix which is really crucial to you. My tone I get from the amp and the instrument EQ and the level of the amp should be set according the balance coming off stage and that’s a call for the FOH engineer directly and not as loud as most guitar players want it (you can have more on your monitors!)

WTS: In your opinion, what does it take for a band to make it big in today’s scenario? Also, how do manage to keep things together for a long enough time, like TAAQ?

Rzhude: It means working out your differences and sticking together for what makes sense to you – the music and the right reasons. Keeping a band together is not an easy thing to do – first of all, even getting a band together is not a simple task. There are different definitions of success – I know bands that have been together for 20 years and are quite happy being as they are, not really bothered about who thinks what of their music, or even if anyone is listening to them. They’re probably happy to just meet up now and then and have fun playing their own stuff! If you look at a different context, where it has to make commercial sense to you, then you have to look at what kind of music you plan to play, who your target audience is and how you plan to reach them.

The 11 odd years with TAAQ involved a LOT of practice. What it does give you is chops a-plenty, you have time to work things out with guys who will accommodate you, as opposed to coming in ‘fresh’ to a session, where you have a few hours to work out a set-list. Keeping a band together means working out your personal and musical differences. The joy of being in a band itself is the camaraderie, sharing more than just music with the guys – sharing personal ups and downs. You have to take your songs out in the open in any live format. You have to grow your audience, and the only way to do that is to play, play and play. And once you break through the idea and glamour of ‘being a rockstar’ you realize it isn’t so, and it involves a lot of hard work.

On another note, in today scenario with the kind of recording gear and software we have, it’s much easier to put down your sound and cut a demo than it was, say 10 years ago. A lot of new bands get noticed this way – put up your music and a video on YouTube, if you get a couple of lakh hits, then you get more and more gigs and can command your price for the next gig!

There’s nothing like actually going out and finding that feeling of playing – you are entertaining and more than anything else if you can focus on expressing yourself with this sound and being a part of a group – that’s important and a lot of people forget that. If you are able to get into that zone where you just connect with your instrument and the music and each note at your finger- that is the zone you want to be in, like a meditative state of music. That’s what I look for now, getting into that zone and simply playing the moment.

WTS: How important is sight reading in today’s music scene?

Rzhude: Again, it depends on the kind of music you are playing and the group you are playing it with. For the most part it’s not that important, especially if you are just starting out, you could get away with knowing some theory without knowing how to read or write it. But at some point of time it does come across as the base of music itself, because it is a universal language. For a long time, the only way I could get my music out was by playing the guitar or using a recorder. If you look at any ‘literate’ musician, they don’t need an instrument. When you do that formal education, what it does for you is make you aware of a lot more than just your instrument and you can immediately start writing out different sections on your own.

But over the last few years, using technology like ProTools and Sibelius, I’ve been able to notate much faster – the computer takes that learning curve from you and does a lot of the memory work. I would say it is very important if you are getting serious about your music, if you want to just have fun, then you let the music play you.

WTS: Which artists and bands have had the most significant influence on your playing?

Rzhude: I’d say my single biggest influence, as a singer-songwriter would be James Taylor. Back in the late 80sI was completely floored by his ability to sing and write those songs and amazing production of albums like Never Die Young and Hourglass in the 90s. If I had to list them out, I’d say – James Taylor, The Beatles, Sting and Steely Dan. Today it’s much wider with singers like Abida Parveen and Dhafer Youssuf in the fray on my playlists. As a genre of music, I’m more into acoustic folk. Indian folk music, which is something I grew up listening to, has also had a big influence. As a bass player I haven’t been influenced by anyone in particular.

WTS: Which is your favourite genre for bass playing and why?

Rzhude: I’ve been playing all kinds of music, but now I prefer what you would call ‘fusion’ music. I’ve always had an inclination towards Indian (Carnatic) music which I’ve studied enough to be able to translate some of that learning into my guitar playing and from that onto my bass playing.

‘Fusion’ is such a huge space with so much to do! With this genre of music, if you are lucky you will meet maybe just once before a gig, and most likely you’ll be really working it out on stage. A lot of it is very spontaneous and that is what I like now- because you have no choice but to go into that zone where you really connect with your instrument and the musicians that you are working with. It’s like jazz, in that you have a standard format, but then you count on your musicianship to be able to break that open and make something new out of it.

WTS: Are you a bass player who composes or a composer who plays bass?

Rzhude: The myth to be busted here is that I’m known as a bass player because I’ve been associated with the instrument in a band for many years and although I completely love playing the bass, I see myself as being much broader than a bass player.

So I’d have to say the latter, because I’ve been composing since I was in school, and the way I took up bass was by default – I went to listen to a band in Chennai called Grasshopper Green, where a friend of mine was the bass player, he stopped coming soon after, and his bass was just lying there. So I was asked to play, and had fun playing the instrument, after which these guys said “Hold on to it, keep playing!” So I’d say bass is something I play because of the experience that I’ve had playing it.

My only influence as a bass player would probably be Keith Peters, since he was the bass player in my acoustic band back in 1994!

WTS: The question everyone is asking – why did you break away from TAAQ?

Rzhude: 11 years with one band was about as much as I could take, which was restrictive in the sense that I have a lot more than just one type of music to do. From both the band’s perspective and mine, it made sense – it got to be a lot more serious along the way, and fun is where it stopped for me. Personally I didn’t enjoy playing the pub-scene any more, and those were the main ‘bread and butter’ kind of gigs we were dragging ass around for. Besides, I had also crossed a certain age barrier, where I’d decided on more time for my personal life. It’s been a good thing for me and I know the band will move in a new direction too. I’m still open to session playing with TAAQ – which has happened happily enough on more than one occasion.

WTS: What are the current projects you are working on/involved in?

Rzhude: I’ve been associated more recently with artists like Dr. L Subramaniam and Kavita Krishnamurthy among a host of other great musicians in the Indian Music and Fusion scene. In the last 2 years I’ve played some of the best gigs in my life – touring places like Brazil, Africa and Europe. Besides this, I’ve been active as a producer and engineer – doing a wide variety of albums and demos across different styles and aesthetic. I run my own project studio here in Bangalore with a niche Brand and Sound Identity design service that I’m enjoying. I’m involved in projects that involve Music Education, technology, retail and production – so I’m keeping the mix busy and open to new possibilities.

WTS: What have been the major highlights in your musical career till date?

Rzhude: My first album – produced by Paul Jacob and John Anthony in Chennai 1994 – recorded on 16 track tape. Sharing stage with Deep Purple and Jethro Tull. The last album with TAAQ produced at A.R Rahman’s AM studios with Jeff Peters on the mix – this is as good as it gets anywhere in the world. Also, setting up my own studio and producing music for both TAAQ and other artists since and touring Brazil and Europe.

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Allegro Fudge at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

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Allegro Fudge – a contemporary acoustic rock band had a modest crowd gathered at The BFlat Bar in Indiranagar on the 8th of June to listen to music from their new album Maximum City. Strong influences of jazz, pop and folk music make for their unique sound. The band seemed to be enjoying every second on stage and kept the small assembly of enthusiastic listeners near the stage thoroughly engaged.

Allegro Fudge at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

The show kicked off at 9 p.m. with ‘Hear Them Say, a bluesy tune that I enjoyed a lot. The song has a nice up- tempo break in between which adds some oomph to their sound. The first thing that struck me when Allegro Fudge opened their set is that they are all individually very talented musicians. The band went on to play ‘Far Away’ and ‘Yellow by Coldplay. The keyboard forms an important part of their sound and is almost a lead instrument in itself. The keyboardist, Jason Zacharaiah, added a level of complexity to the sound which kept the music engaging. I really enjoyed the “blues face” he’d make when it was his time to jam out! The band followed with some more originals, ‘Colors Fly’, ‘Day Dreamer’ and ‘˜Waiting’. The crowd really got going by now and a few people could be seen dancing animatedly to the music. Anish’s guitar work was particularly enjoyable on the latter part of the setlist. The drummer, Kishan Balaji, also did a fantastic job throughout the set and played with a lot of feel and dynamics.

Allegro Fudge at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

Allegro Fudge then went ahead to play the classic ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ originally by Bill Withers and this proved to be an instant crowd pleaser with people joining in with the singing here and there. Vocalist Saahas Patil has a sweet choir-boy voice which is soulful and easy on the ears. They followed up with ‘Rock All Night’, their heaviest number so to speak and this was one of the more memorable moments of the night. The barefoot Shalini Mohan did a really good job on this track playing bass and the song also featured a bass-vocal duel.  They followed with ‘Adrift’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘Eye To Eye’ and ‘Time After Time‘ by Cindy Lauper. The overall sound of the band was tame and I was disappointed that they opted to play more easy-to-listen-to covers than their heavier and darker tunes like ‘City Of Sin’ and ‘Constant Paralysis.’

Allegro Fudge at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

They ended their set with ‘When We’re Gone’, ‘Maximum City‘ and ‘Hey Jude’. The Beatles cover was a good concluding track with the audience singing along and Saahas walking off the stage with his mike to egg people on to join in, to which they readily obliged. Galeej Gurus’ guitarist Ananth Menon then took over the vocal and guitar duties and played some blues for us with the remainder of Allegro Fudge helping out and at this point, the audience just didn’t seem to want to leave. Most of the tracks Allegro Fudge played can be found on their new album which is out online and is soon to be released on disk. The band still has a lot of work to do in terms of keeping their scarce live performances a little more engaging with more stage presence but Allegro Fudge is most definitely a band to watch out for!

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Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

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On their second coming to Bangalore, and after the much-acclaimed first and second albums, it was only expected that Goldspot were up for a super-gig this time around. And what happened was as uplifting as it was exciting. The incredible energy, top-notch performance, and astonishing fan-frenzy, added up to create a fantastic atmosphere. I had come across a description of Goldspot somewhere that said “This is where The Beatles meet the Golden Oldies of Bollywood” – and that is exactly what a lot of us got to witness that evening.

Goldspot has been around since 2001, and has gathered a lot of international following and critical acclaim over the years. The band has produced two studio albums and a third is in the making. Their songs have been featured on many popularity charts, television shows, commercials, movie trailers, and OSTs.

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

January 2012 saw Goldspot’s third coming to India, after their visit in February 2008 and 2009. This time their tour kicked off at IIM Lucknow after which they performed in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad, before they finally landed in Bangalore. Before the show began, I spoke to a few people and figured that not all of them were aware of Goldspot’s work – only a few of them knew about Goldspot’s earlier albums and famous singles. I’m guessing it was only later that their real fans arrived, because once the gig started, I could hear people singing along and there were constant requests for popular songs by the band.

In the past few days, I have heard both of the band’s albums thoroughly, and I came there expecting a performance that would hardly go any heavier than soft-rock, although I didn’t rule out the possibility of it drifting treacherously close to pop. However, Siddhartha Khosla (vocals), Jacob Owen (guitar and keyboard), James Gabbie II (lead guitar), Adam Chilenski (bass) and Darren Beckett (drums), created an experience that any rock concert-goer would appreciate.

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

Here’s the thing about their songs – western arrangements which may remind you of artistes such as The Beatles, REM, Coldplay, Snow Patrol are subtly combined with Kishore Kumar, Paul McCartney-style singing, and Shankar-Jaikishan, S.D. Burman-esque sensitivities and melodies (and these happen to be just a few of the influences).

Rewind’ and ‘Friday’ are two of the most popular songs by the band, and they chose to open the gig with the former, and sign off with the latter. The songs were emotionally intricate, while the tunes were still light. But then again, that is the case with most Goldspot’s songs. ‘Rewind’ also happens to be the track that has featured on How I Met Your Mother (Season 5, Episode 2). ‘Friday’ has been done in both English and Hindi and Sid performed an expected medley of the two versions.

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

‘Call Center Girl’ and ‘Paperboats’ were up next and despite the fact that the show was only three songs down, the crowd was already immersed in the band’s music, bouncing about and swaying their hands.

Emily’ has the spark and hope of youth with a wonderful level-headedness. The lyrics range from something as innocent as “a pair of fourteen year olds holding hands”, and as mature as “if we can be wise we’ll part with the pride set our egos aside”.

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

One Year Anniversary’ and ‘Tale of a Fish’ reminded me of heartaches and heartbreaks. ‘One Year Anniversary’, which posed the unanswered question “Why is this damn life so hard?” was kept light-hearted with spirited guitar work and a catchy tune.

Grocery Store’ brought cheer not just because of the xylophone notes or because of the fact that it is a lively song by nature, but also because of the repetitive “Pum pa ra ra ra” (strongly reminiscent of Kishore/Burman/The Beatles) something that Sid seemed to find a lot of joy singing and the audience found equal joy dancing to!

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

What’s Under the House’ and ‘It’s Getting Old’ followed next. ‘It’s Getting Old’ didn’t seem to move me as much as the other songs did, and in my opinion, just seemed to act as filler material. For ‘What’s Under the House’ saw Sid dancing with the people in the audience, with child-like effervescence. This is the typical rock-n-roll track, built on 2/4 beats, but only more flamboyantly arranged.

If they were running short on time, ‘It’s Getting Old’ could well have been avoided, and Sid could have obliged the screaming audience’s pleas for ‘Miss Johnson‘ but he didn’t. When the show ended, this resulted in a lot of complaints from heartbroken female fans who almost wept saying, “They didn’t play my favourite song!”

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

Clap Clap’ is a song you might recognize from the Apple iPad’s guided  tour video  (at the 00:20-00:53 mark). This, as it seems to me, is a lighthearted take on heartbreak and the subsequent moving on. Darren with his drums was undoubtedly the star for this track, as the outro for the song was made super-entertaining with his thunderous drumming, something that’s not heard on the album version.

The surprise of the evening came with ‘Jaane Kahaan Gaye Woh Din‘, from Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker. Sid showed us how with a capo on third fret, and some simple chords, a timeless classic can be brought back with a lot of psychedelic quality to it. A heart-wrenching song but a deliciously trippy cover!

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

By this time, the sound system at the venue that seemed to be delivering well beyond 3000 watts started to seem insufficient as the crowd’s screams were getting stronger with every song that was played. Increasing volume levels on the PA wasn’t the wisest solution, as the feedback that occurred was not exactly what one would expect from a place like Hard Rock Café, Bangalore. At many points this was also a problem for the band members who seemed dissatisfied with the on-stage monitors right from the start. When Sid went down dancing on the bar counter, and on the floor with the audience, it wasn’t unexpected that he’d lose track of either the beats or the key for his vocals – which almost happened when they played ‘What’s Under the House’, and finally did end up happening during ‘Ina Mina Dika’.

Goldspot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

Before signing off, Sid gave a sneak peek on the upcoming album with ‘The Abyss’ and the show concluded with the much awaited ‘Friday’. Thanks again to the PA installed, I could not decipher most of the lyrics from ‘The Abyss’.

Goldspot has managed its espousing of genres pretty well, while still not bastardising the output. They have created a sound that we can recognize, and which is not a potpourri of confused genres. Their music deserves, and has the ability to charm an audience much larger than a packed house at a pub.

Gaurrav Tiwari

Drummer at DIARCHY, and HR Manager at Genpact

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Mad Orange Fireworks and Solder at Loveshack

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Thursday evening saw me riding over the Koramangala-Indiranagar Ring road, braving the biting Bangalore cold to lay to rest a busy week and reach out to some good ol’ rock and roll. After reading a recent write up that christened our friendly band next door Solder as performing ‘Bangalore Rock’, I was eager to see what they had to  offer that evening.

I reached at half past eight and walked up the stairs of the building to find Mad Orange Fireworks halfway into their song ‘Black Hole’ – a song about a break up. I was partly glad at having caught an interesting song, and partly disappointed at having to listen to the sound in the first place, which was a tad jarring. I had listened to Mad Orange Fireworks at Strawberry Fields and was already familiar with the songs that they had on their setlist that evening.

Mad Orange Fireworks, which describes its music as ‘Orange Rock’, consists of Michael Dias on Vocals/ Guitars, Kaushik Kumar on Bass/Vocals and Shravan Bendapudi on Drums/ Vocals.

Loveshack is located on the fifth floor and has a bar and a restaurant that opens out onto a terrace. The band faces a small audience of about 25-30 and has to squirm on the stage to face the entire crowd. So the very setup of the stage isn’t very comfortable. I was also a little taken aback by the speakers, which weren’t flanking the band but were placed elsewhere.

MOF soon moved into their next set of songs, ’Kiss goodbye’, and ‘I want you’.  Unfortunately the vocalist’s voice was drowned in the bad sound system and the only lyrics I could decipher from the latter were “I want you so bad” – evidently a love song filled with longing.

‘Once I find you’ stood out among the rest for certain. An extremely groovy song, the drums and leads seemed to take their genre someplace else. ‘Empty Saturday’ followed next.

“I’m seven down the barrel,

Falling off the wagon”

– the lyrics sketched a ballad of a lonely guy on a Saturday night. Beginning with a bass intro, I doubt any band could capture the emotion as well as Mad Orange Fireworks did. However, Michael’s vocal cords seemed restrained that evening and, in my opinion, he could’ve sung better.

MOF wound up their setlist with ‘School Boy’ and ‘Don’t forget me’. The latter found the band diving headfirst into their song, their instruments exploding into a heavy outro.

Solder took to the stage next. A band much spoken about, much listened to and little written about, Solder is Sylvester Pradeep on guitar/ backing vocals, Akhilesh Kumar on guitar/backing vocals, Joel Rozario on drums/backing vocals, Samson Philip on bass/backing vocals and Siddharth Abraham on  vocals/acoustic guitar. Frontman Siddharth Abraham took to the stage, adorned with his familiar coat and hat.

I often wondered what ‘feel good’ rock meant and the answer lay in Solder. They broke into their first song, ‘Questions’, thrusting their brand of rock n’ roll over the audience. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear a word of what Siddharth sang, because of the tainted sound system.

Pushing through to their next song, ‘Save the World’, Siddharth began marching on stage with great gusto. If there’s one band that exudes spirit from every pore, it is Solder. The rhythms, drums, bass and leads were played with such cheerful unison that they blur the lines between a routine jam and a live performance.

‘Stay with Me’ followed next – a nostalgic, wistful number after which the band moved onto ‘Cookie monster’- a more fast paced and power-packed song.

Up until this point, the evening seemed rosy. Just as Solder started playing ‘Waiting for love’ the word came around that Loveshack didn’t have the license to perform so late into the night. The bouncers made an unwelcome entry, asking the band to tone down their music or wind up for the night.

Unwilling to let the spirit die down, Siddharth Abraham disappeared and walked back onto stage with a Glittering Candy Cane, marching up and down, drawing up laughter at his antics.

After a brief pause, Siddharth caught hold of his acoustic guitar and said that the next part of the show would be unplugged; resorting to the oft-quoted line “The show must go on!”

Next up, was ‘Passerby’. This song is almost a classic, heralding high pitched leads and rhythms at the intro.

Solder ended the evening with a Beatles medley, turning the damp squib by lackadaisical organizers into a power-packed lively gig that got people singing, ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Let It Be’. Siddharth threw Christmas caps into the crowd, bringing the evening to a cheerful close.

Sharath Krishnaswami

Sharath is a freelance journalist. When he's not working, he's either painting on walls, trekking, or writing short stories.

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Interview with Srinivas Rajagopal at Bangalore Bistro

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WTS had a talk with Srinivas Rajagopal about his earliest memories of live music in India and what followed was a journey through the live music scene right from the British Raj to the present day – here’s one of our best and most memorable interviews with a humble musician from Bangalore who has a lot to share from his experiences and a story to tell.

WTS: Srinivas, let’s talk about all that you know about the history of the live music scene in India. As far as you can remember, when did it all begin and how did it take shape over the years?

Srinivas: Ok, I think I should start with my own experiences… I studied in Bangalore in Clarence High School; since I went to a regular Anglo Indian school, I was always interested in western music. I come from a very Anglicized family – my father was an air force officer and my mother was very much into music and she had an MA in Indian classical music, but on the other hand she had a very wide knowledge of western music. My father joined the Royal Indian Airforce which was a very westernized air force at that time, with a lot of western music, parties and dinner dances. Both my father and mother were quite knowledgeable about music; we always had music in our house.

I remember as a small kid, our house had those old, ancient gramophones; we’d wind it up and play all these 78 rpm records. In fact, during the war my father made friends with a gentleman by the name of Spike Mulligan, who was a very famous writer and comedian in the old days. There used to be during the war a thing known as ENSA Calling which was a services entertainment kind of company, his job was to go and entertain troops all over the place and that’s how my dad came across him during his service career and later on during the early fifties Spike Mulligan had come and he gave my father a whole set of almost a hundred of these 78 rpm records of those times- jazz, be-bop, popular music of those days. Today, I still play a lot of that music which I heard as a young boy for example Danny Kay, Bill Crosby, Frank Sinatra… I still play a lot of those songs.

When I came to college was when the music scene was just getting on, people were forming bands… I joined college around 1968, but I knew that a scene like this existed way before that. In fact, I remember in 1966 just after I finished my tenth standard, I had gone to Delhi. I remember there were these Christmas jam sessions. When I went there, the first thing my sister told me was “We’re going for a jam session today”. At first I thought “What is this jam session? Maybe its some bread and butter and jam” – I didn’t know the concept of a jam session.

Then I went there and I saw two bands there one of the bands performing there was Raja Andrews and The Sisters. Raja Andrews was another gentleman who retired from the airforce, probably a musician in the airforce and he formed one of the earliest bands and probably one of the earliest recordings during those days. Raja Andrews and The Nawabs was what they used to be called and at this show he came with his sisters – their band was known as Raja Andrews and The Sisters.They did a lot of western music, the girls were also singing.

There were lots of bands. In 1973, I went to Allahabad which is a typical North Indian small town, and I went there and joined a band – an Anglo Indian band and there was this guy called Larry French who used to play saxophone in our band and his father used to play in a band and his grandmother used to sing with a band, all in India, all in Allahabad. And they had a club there called ‘The Thornhill Club’ which was this ancient old club of Anglo Indians and Larry used to tell me that my grandmother used to play in the same hall that we played in we had done quite a few shows there.

I remember a lot of bands that played during the time and I have brought them into my memoirs. I’ve been slowly plodding over it and it has already gone up to about 45-50,000 words. I’ve only come as far as 1977, and I’ve still got lots more to write. The first show that I saw was of Raja Andrews and The Sisters which was a band doing pop numbers of the time and at that show there was another band of young guys called The Beathovens and they were doing Rock n’ Roll and they were really piling into it, and the whole thing was so fascinating – it was my first experience. And that’s when I decided that this is what I want to do in life.(laughs)

Promptly, when I joined college I joined a band and then learnt to play the guitar – that was another very strange thing… I got a bass guitar and joined as a bass guitarist. In those days, the western bands they referred to as Skiffle bands – small college bands. There used to be this thing of skiffle music you know, if you see the Creedence Clearwater Revival album cover called Willie and the Poor Boys you’ll get the idea – this is how the boys used to get together with a washboard or string bass, the washboard is actually a western type rattle-board they washed clothes on – CCR used that as a percussion instrument, and then you had this string bass which is actually just a tea-chest with a stick and a single string , and then you go thump thump thump – thump like a double bass on that… I’ve played that too, very nice, we used to play that in Victoria Hotel where the Bangalore Central is now. And then I came back, I heard other bands –  I heard a band called Pebbles from Delhi, and later on I came to know those people, because one of them came to Bangalore to form a band called The Void.

WTS: So this whole culture of attending gigs was there even back then?

Srinivas: Yes, very much. In fact, I think it was around 1964-65 that the first attempt at popularizing these bands in some way started with the Simla Beat Contest, there was this thing called Simla cigarettes- it was a cigarette company which organized this Beat Contest where bands would participate and they would be selected and would go on to finals… and this used to happen in Bombay, Delhi Calcutta, and a few places like that – so that was there, and there were what later on came to be known as “discos” like Raspberry Rhinoceros in Bombay, Trincas in Calcutta, a very famous place that still exists. I remember one of the most famous singers Pam Craine was from there.

The earliest band which I came across, I used to see them practice near my grandfather’s house in Benson town, and that was The Trojans – the band that Biddu Appaiah used to play with. In 1965-66, Biddu Appaiah made his first album Under My Thumb and there were two songs in that. There was another band called The Mustangs from Chennai – it was an, instrumental band like The Ventures and The Shadows and all that, who made a record called Escape. Generally, there was a music scene going on, there weren’t many music teachers but we used to get together and hear other musicians play and slowly learn. By the time I had come to my final year in college, the Simla Beat contest didn’t happen for some reason that year but another company Estrella Batteries organized a big Beat Contest and we played for that contest, I had my own band called Stone Package from Central college, another band was from St. Josephs college, and another band from RC College.

I remember the first Simla Beat contest I went to, the bands from Bangalore were Pacesetters, Mojos, The Devil Beats – very good musicians. In fact one of the people whom I used to consider as my own inspiration, the person we learnt a lot from was a gentleman called Gussie Rickye. There was a band called Silencers which came from Chennai – they were very good, the first organized band which decided to make music a career which almost every old musician in India knows about was a band called The Human Bondage -they were very good. Super drummer, super guitarist, very good singers, a very fantastic bass guitarist who eventually went away to Israel, they were the band that laid the standard for everybody else, did a lot of rock and all the numbers that we wanted to do. This was the scene, and by the time I went from Bangalore, around 1973 there would be a band playing almost everywhere. If you went to a place like Frazer town or Austin town, on any Sunday or Saturday if you walked through these places you would find at least 3 or 4 bands practicing at home, it used to be quite a big thing.

WTS: Has it gone down over the years?

Srinivas: It has gone down in the sense that in those days there were no DJs. For example, I play in a place where people who come still want to listen to retro music, there’s a market for that kind of music because it has lasted over the years. Today’s music has not lasted – it won’t last. Six months down the line you’ll ask what happened to this singer, he’s nowhere. You should also understand that there’s a very big relationship between the music industry and the technology… as it kept growing, it just expanded exponentially and as each innovation came, it got bigger and bigger.

Edison invented the phonograph and his original phonograph lost out the market to RCA’s platters, Edison thought of cylinders but RCA said no we’ll take a platter with a spiraling groove, and put the vibrations onto that – it’s an entirely mechanical device, there’s no electronics in it – the needle goes and sits there and the vibrations are picked up and amplified… I don’t know if you have seen any of those old gramophones. And that’s when the electronics came, the radio came and then it got bigger and bigger. If you see most of the old songs are about three minutes long only because you could only put three minutes of music on that. Today it’s not the case, but that’s more or less become the thing – people are used to a 3 minutes song, people are generally not used to a 15 minute song. That came with the LPs which came round about the 50s when it went from Bakelite to Vinyl and then you got stereo and all these things that came up,then you got cassettes, then it went to CDs and from CDs to one matchbox-sized thing and you can put 4000 songs in it.

I would say the peak of it came probably in the late 70s and people were really into it. The turnout was not much, not with Indian bands. You get some vague white fellows, and put them together and say this band is from Finland, nobody’s heard of them – even in Finland nobody’s heard of them – you’ll get around 2000 people. (Smiles amusedly) But if one of the local bands is playing you’ll probably get a few hundreds, and there would be a few hundreds trying to gatecrash in, or wondering “let’s see how we can get in without buying a ticket”. We used to do that, there used to be these shows in Town Hall and we had worked out a way to scale up to the roof and come down through it and every show we used to do that. The whole gang used to go and there was this huge tree that reached over to the roof. We used to climb up the tree, get on to the roof and from the roof to one of the top windows and climb down and see shows like that.

It used to be fairly small scale. We organized a kind of a… a Woodstock event in 1972; it was called Thursday because it was on a Thursday. We used to run a magazine called Rot magazine in college, it became very famous in college – it was a one of those markers in the history of Bangalore University. Bangalore University sponsored a group of students who came up with a magazine called Retort – The Essence of Student Life so we said we’ll go against it so we came up with a magazine called Rot – The Nonsense of Student Life that generally lampooned everybody and we wrote whatever we wanted against anybody we wanted and then we put up this show – an all-day show and believe you me, we got bands from Chennai, we got bands from Bombay and we managed to keep it going the whole day from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and we charged 5 rupees per head, that’s all, which was a big figure in those days, we can’t dream of that kind of thing now. But it was okay because out of all that if a band made 500 rupees for themselves it was a big figure then.

WTS: If we had to trace the evolution of western live music in India where would we begin?

Srinivas: Western live music came as a tradition with the British, they had these dances and balls and things like that. I think the tradition more or less took off in probably the early 1800s, I think it was round about 1830s when the British government decided that too many of these British men were taking Indian wives and all kinds of complications – many of them had wives in England and all that.

So, from the 1830s apparently the British worked out a scheme – all the ships had to come from England and they used to travel on the monsoon winds, so the ships could only come during monsoons and  return during the next monsoon because they were all wind-driven. Generally they used to send out these girls, they sponsored these girls who otherwise couldn’t get themselves hitched or they didn’t have families, or the families couldn’t afford them so they sent them out to Calcutta and in Calcutta a group of local ladies organized for them to go and visit various British cantonments where there would be parties going on – they were called debutante parties, and the British officers referred to them as the ‘”fishing fleet”, they came out to fish like you know, fish for husbands and they had just these 3-4 months in the summer, so all these things used to be organized, particularly after the British decided to move the capital to Shimla, the British capital was in Calcutta and the capital used to move every summer to Shimla for 4-5 months – a big operation by itself . So they used to go to Shimla where there was a lot of dance halls and everything like that. It started like that and they used to have live musicians. Generally the live musicians were mostly from India, within India, there used to be Anglo Indians, Goans who generally played with military bands – it was usually the military bands that used to go and perform in these things. Many musicians have heir background from military bands. So it probably started with them, and at the end of the season some of these girls wouldn’t get married, they couldn’t find their husbands and they had to go back in the ships – they were known as the “Returned Empties”. This is all a bit of the Raj history. This road was very famous (referring to Brigade Road in Bangalore). I have seen for myself , there used to be a regular British inn called The Old Bull and Bush, it was here. Then there used to be a place called Boscos. Then the Deccan Herald building – it was originally a dance hall; the old building – if you go up and see it has got a full wooden floor, it was a dance hall. There were lots of places like that – Liberty Theatre used to be an old dance hall doubling as a theatre. In fact during the war, apparently some of these areas were out of bounds for Indians and only the Tommies were allowed there; there were a lot of American soldiers at that time particularly during the Burma campaign. At that time there was a lot of music, a lot of activity going on. If you look up some old Raj literature you’ll find a lot of photos of these parties. 

WTS: You have witnessed the scene unfold, what do you have to say about the way it has evolved over the years to what it is today?

Srinivas: With the way it has evolved, for the real live musicians playing western pop music maybe it’s seeing a phase of dying out; one thing is for sure – it’s not going to be easy to find musicians who know the kind of old songs that people like me know – we’re becoming a slowly vanishing breed, I know lots and lots of songs which you people would have not even heard; I get any request I say I know this and I’ll do it and of course now I’m helped with the internet and all that, so even if I don’t have the words or anything in a minute I’ll download it on my computer and I’ll do the songs. If I haven’t heard the songs at all I can’t do it but I’ve been able to do almost 95% of all requests I get. The quality of sound is definitely improving; it’s getting better and better. When we started we had some real terrible sound, we had home made guitars and we used to take apart old valve radios and use them and these days the amount of things you get on the net is amazing. Actually today everything is easy. I have been practicing a few songs since yesterday morning with a young boy who’s here, so I told him “Come on you do some of the newer songs which I’m not doing”, a lot of new songs from Green Day, and I could immediately download the MIDI file, download the words, download the chords and done, finished. When we started with our band, we used to come to Brigade road there used to be a Koshy’s which had a jukebox and that jukebox just had some hundred songs, 50 records, hundred songs and we said “OK we’ve got to learn this song, lets go and hear it” and the 5 members of the band come here, convince that fellow to give us a 3 by 5 coffee and the coffee used to cost 1 rupee 25 paise which was a huge amount those days and we used to have that and then each of us used to put together 5 paise and go and get a 25 paise coin, and go to the jukebox, insert that coin and press that button. And this thing would go slowly and pick out that record and put it in, and we’d say you listen to your part and once the song plays, 25 paise gone and at the end of it one of the fellows says no man, I didn’t get my part and we’d say yeah yeah, you put 25 paise we’ll all listen for free. (laughs) I remember going and asking, some guitarist saying “Man, teach me the chords for this song” and that guy would then hem and haw and all that and then I’d bring him out, take him to the canteen, buy him a masala dosa and all that and seriously get it like that! (laughs) Today,with a click you can download guitar tabs but what I find is – I find a lot of young musicians play some old songs, they like the songs they play it, they play it perfectly. How they do that is they have taken down the guitar tablatures from the internet and they have totally learnt it up you know, mugged the whole thing up and play it, but if you ask them to improvise they can’t, they cant just take off. You know what we call as 3 chord blues, which is basically the foundation of Rock n’ Roll and R&B and all that – it kind of comes naturally to us, it doesn’t come to a lot of younger people and they’re not able to do that. We have spent hours jamming like this.

WTS: How did you get your musical instruments back then? Where did you buy them from?

Srinivas: Oh really terrible instruments – abba! We bought some terrible local instruments; we never had the kind of money to go buy a Fender or an Ibanez or a Hofner. Those days we used to buy Calcutta made instruments. There’s this guy who owns N. Lewis and Son, a very old company – a very good friend of mine – a wonderful man but terrible guitars. But I bought my guitars from him and he has custom made guitars for me over the years, and he unbelievably still makes guitars.  I have a guitar which is over 35 years old and I’m still using it – somebody bought it and it has gone through 101 changes, some fellow tried to do some engineering, put a tremolo arm- it’s not supposed to have a tremolo, it’s actually a Les Paul semi-solid from the 1950-60s but now you get very good Chinese stuff, I don’t have any fancy Fender or an Ibanez I use all Chinese made instruments – I use a Java which is a Fender imitation – I got it for 4 grand, I use a Pluto – 12 string , mostly I use a 12 string when I sing solo – it has a richer sound you know and it cost me about 5 grand. I have owned my sound, everything. To tell you the truth, over the last 3 or 4 years I have been realizing dreams that I had when I was 19 years old, only thing it has come at this age, at the age of 59-60 but it’s OK, this is nice. Sometimes my daughters tell me “What is this you’re rocking and rolling like this!”… it’s OK, I won’t think of age. (laughs)

WTS: What made you take up music as a career and a source of livelihood?

Srinivas: To tell you the truth, I have not really taken up music a career – I have always wanted to do that. But I have done it full time also – in fact there was a time when this was the only job I had, I had lost my other job due to various problems I had. I started my career in advertising, I studied my BSc. Honorary in Physics and then I dropped out of college, then I went and did a course in journalism because of which I got into advertising which was in 1971 –  it wasn’t the industry it is now. The total billing in Bangalore in 1971 was about 50 lakhs – totally all the companies put together and about 2 dozen ad agencies had to survive on that. Ad agencies would get 15% agency commission on that billing, that’s how they survived. I was in advertising, I became the Senior Market Research Manager and then I tried to set up my own ad agency, lost a lot of money and finally thought about what to do and I decided to go and play music. Now I need to play everyday so I started playing in the night clubs, in those days there were cabaret hotels all over the place.I played in every Cabaret hotel in Bangalore – they were not very respectable. There would be strip shows and anyway it was a job to do so I just did it, for 6-7 years I played in the cabaret hotels till it closed. Then the police came and closed everything. Once they closed everything, I had to look for another job. Then somebody told me there’s a fashion and apparel college and they need somebody to take a few classes on fashion marketing. I said okay I know something about marketing; I’ll go and take those classes so I went ahead and joined that company and the gentleman there said ‘no you’re an advertising man’; I need someone to look after the company advertising so I joined there full time. Then I got involved in the apparel and garment industry, slowly started learning it up and got trained by the Japanese and today I’m some kind of an expert on that. I have written a textbook on apparel manufacturing. I even teach, at one time I was teaching in about 4 colleges in Bangalore,now I only teach in Garden City College as a visiting faculty. At this college I also became the Vice Principal. Still, about 50% of my work is on apparel. I have, for example… right now I have 12 students from Nagpur who have come here and are doing their internship in Bangalore. I’m a consultant for the university in Nagpur. I arrange the internships for them… I contact garment factories in Bangalore, I have a lot of industry-wide contacts, and I arrange their internship that they have to do as part of their course… they come here and then I take classes for 2 weeks for them, update their industry knowledge and put them in the internship and monitor them… they are doing well. Most of them get jobs too. Slowly that has also been growing the number of people in the industry who were my students… they are very grateful to me. Now they have all reached the top level of general managers and are doing well.

WTS: With regard to your music, what bands would you consider as your major influences?

Srinivas: The Beatles! The Beatles because of the chords… in the beginning, our thing was based on chords…. we used to have this thing when we started learning – we got the idea that we should be able to listen to a song and be able to work out the chords. I said, “how do you do that”, so we used to have this thing where one fellow will sit with the guitar and the other fellow would turn around… ok I’m playing this what’s the chord, so we got used to do that. Today, as the song goes I can keep playing the chords. When I play with Indian orchestras, this happens a lot – that fellow will just take off, he won’t tell you the key or if he tells you the key he’ll say 2 and a half, or he’ll say rend re, or say eraduvare. Two and a half means E flat, you have to know that then you just hold E Flat and you see minor or major you have to still figure that out. I hear the song within the second bar I know how the progression goes and I’m playing. Many songs I’ve haven’t even heard – I play everything, Indian movies, western, classical… I play everything.

WTS: When you compare the time you started playing music first to now, what are the main differences, positive or negative?

Srinivas: Well the positive thing is there are more and more places to perform, there is more money being paid for it, it’s reasonable now it wasn’t reasonable in those days, you know the first show we played was for my grandfather’s tenant who was upstairs and he had a baby naming ceremony and then we somehow conned him and told him “Sir, we’ll play with the band” and he agreed and said, “I’ll pay you 50 rupees” “ this was supposed to be for the sound system and the transport. So, promptly we agreed to that and we caught hold of one of our friends, borrowed a sound system, borrowed the guitar, loaded it into our cycles and scooters brought it to the venue and then we got 50 rupees, we felt very great about ourselves (laughs) and we went out and had our own little party after that.  If you’ve got 40-50 rupees each it was considered good. The negatives are that there has been a lot of hard work, a lot of struggle, lot of dreams being broken in a way and in another way when you really get down to it you realize, you’ll find that a lot of young people who play music will get into bad ways, drugs etc. Two reasons for that – one reason is that music is supposed to be associated with all this. The second thing is that the frustration which sets in, the average young fellow these days thinks that he can buy a guitar, learn three chords today and tomorrow he’ll become a rockstar. It doesn’t work that way. That’s what I had to learn in my whole life. Today I’m very satisfied with what I’m doing. I have played 245 shows this year, today I think it’s the 353rd day of the year that makes it more than 2 shows in 3 days, I’m very happy. I’m not a great musician, I’m not a great guitarist, I could have become one, I also went to sleep for a long time, I played in the night clubs and there instead of improving my music I went completely into debauchery, that’s all I can say. Because everything was available – booze was flowing like water. I got out of all this; it has been about 6-7 years now.

WTS: Was there ever a point when you thought you should give up music?

Srinivas: No I didn’t want to give up; my family was against it they still haven’t reconciled. Now it’s successful but they haven’t reconciled to it. Their point was that because of this you’ll go drink, get into all these problems. I have had a full life with its ups, downs, joys, sorrows everything. Mostly musicians these days will give up. There are two things: if they don’t set their targets too high and they take what is coming, they will do well if they are realistic not only about what they can play but about what the market can take… they will do well… this is where a lot of young people think “Oh that fellow is getting 3000 rupees per night so I should also get 3000 rupees per night.” Why? “Because I play better than him”. That’s not the criteria;there are at least a thousand guitarists in Bangalore much better than me but I have got the shows- why? Because people know they can depend on me – I have built that up slowly. They know I don’t drink, many of them know I used to drink but they know that now I don’t. I’m very dependable – I come on time, I come nicely dressed, I do my show. Two to three principles I have set for myself. One is go on time, start on time. Go early, set up, check everything out and start. For me now, just to play solo takes me about 40 minutes to connect up, I have to connect my guitar, my guitar gadget, my mixer, my laptop, the output speakers, all the power supply connections, cables running all around, and balance everything, tune up everything and be ready – it takes about 35-40 minutes to set up, and if I have to set up with a bigger band then its even more important. Then finish playing, roll up all the cables – each cable separately. If you just quickly roll them all up, within two days something will give way and at the show it will give trouble – they are all electronic stuff you know – something, a small thing goes wrong and it will give out a weird howl or a weird buzz. I’ve got used to it… I do it all by myself. I do my own soldering, I know my whole technology that is involved. A lot of young people don’t want to learn, they think “Playing is important, it’s not important to do it myself. I’ll leave it to the other fellows.” Then where will you go? Over the last three years I decided not to hire any sound, I must have my own sound. Now I have acquired more than enough.

Second thing is go properly dressed, go nicely dressed. Most of the places we play in are good A-class restaurants, 5 star hotels where you’re expected to go formally. Go dressed for the occasion. “I must look freaky.” Why? “I’m a rock musician, I must look freaky. So I’ll wear some chains, buttons and all those things, some torn jean and go.” –  No I don’t need that. I can wear the most formal dress and still look freaky – I have got my long hair. I look freaky enough! Today this long hair is no heavy Goa beach philosophy or anything it’s just a part of my image, that’s one thing and the other thing is that I still have my own hair. Whenever my wife’s asked me I tell her you look at your two son-in-laws they both are losing their hair! (laughs)

The third principle is very important, now with so many shows coming obviously you’ll get a chance to perform somewhere and some other show will come up – never give up one show, when you’re committed, go and do that show. Just because some other show is giving more money, don’t go for that. I won’t do that. Many times I used to play with these Indian band orchestras – these roadside orchestras where you get 700-800 rupees just to play bass guitar. Suddenly somebody says “No man, I want a solo guitarist. I’ll pay you 2500, I’ll pay 3000 rupees”. I’d say “No boss, I’m booked. I’ll give you my friend’s contact”. Having these principles is very important and it has paid off. The other thing is people ask me, “How much do you charge per hour?” I don’t charge per hour, I charge per show. You get me a show, I’ll come for that show and charge for that show. Now you tell me show that the show is going to start from 8:00 p.m. and will be over by 10:00 p.m. And then everyone’s enjoying the music – at 10:00 p.m they are getting higher and higher and the thing goes on till 11:30 -12:00 p.m. till the cops come and close the place down. I’m not going to charge you anything I’m just going to consider it as a compliment to my music, and I’m telling you at least in town, the cops are going to show up at 10:00 p.m. because some neighbor will complain.

WTS: Which are the best venues in the city where you have played?

Srinivas: As far as regular restaurants go, I like this place (referring to Bangalore Bistro), there is not much of a crowd but he crowd that comes wants old music. In this place you get the old, traditional Bangaloreans who really like old music. Another place is Italia – that’s always full I don’t know how. That’s a vegetarian Italian restaurant and you may ask me what is a vegetarian Italian restaurant you know (laughs) but it is always full I don’t know how… they’ve got a waiting room like you have in MTR.

WTS: What message do you have for all the young musicians these days?

Srinivas: There’s a reason why I’ve been writing my memoirs – I started writing my memoirs to bring it back home to younger people. For a typical youngster these days who wants to pick up a guitar, learn three chords and wants to become a rockstar. And tell him it’s not like that, it’s not how it works. See my own life how it has gone through. So you have to be a little realistic. I’ll tell you for example, my daughter is with Balaji Telefilms she’s a Vice President Production or something like that, both my daughters are very terrific career women.  And before that when she was with Rakesh Mehra during the filming of Rang De Basanti, she was the Casting Director at that time and she had to interact a lot with A.R. Rahman and I believe he asked her “How come you know so much about old music of the 70s?” She said that my father is some kind of a guitarist, so her asked her where does your father play and she said he used to play in the cabaret hotels. A few days later, when they were going together she came across Siva Mani and Rahman told Siva Mani “Siva see this girl, her father used to play in the cabaret and I think you must be knowing her father”. So he asked her what’s your father name and my daughter told him and he said yes I know him and he told her don’t look down upon it that your father played in the cabaret. He said, “Like me there may be hundreds of very good percussionists but that I have made it is a matter of luck”. Not everybody can become a superstar and it’s very important for people to realize. Sometimes you have to be satisfied with whatever you do, I’m satisfied that I can make a livelihood out of this. I learnt this when I was in the cabaret… whatever it is I’m playing every night. Several other things I learnt in the cabaret, particularly, you’ll be surprised – I learnt to respect women there because they were our colleagues. They used to dance, they used to strip and we used to play but then we got to know them as people you know. It’s a profession – at that time my daughters could not go and tell in the school what is their dad doing, and my daughters have gone to my school where everybody knew what my profession was, so sometimes it becomes something to be looked down upon. I never felt bad. I have always been very honest with myself. At least I can do this, you know.

I have no illusions – I don’t compose music or write my own songs, I have no illusions about that. I have no illusions about making my own album and making it a bestseller and all that – no. I have a job to do, it’s just another job. Like you are doing your job, like a bank manager does his job, like a train ticket collector does his job. Many people start making airs about it – “Oh I’m different. I’m from Mars the rest of the people are from the earth.” It becomes like that. It’s very easy for musicians to become like that. But in my own experience, I have seen that the best musicians from India – I’ve known some of them personally, the really good and great musicians are very, very humble people. Like Siva Mani, like A.R. Rahman also, personally if you meet him and talk to him, a very humble person. Take someone like Kadri Gopinath, the saxophonist – they are very nice people to meet. I really appreciate that.

WTS: What was the highest moment of your journey?

Srinivas: I suppose it’s still coming! I must confess some of my misdemeanors but please don’t read too much into that, OK? There was a show we did in Kanpur… I was in Allahabad and my friend called me and said “Come, I have got a show in Kanpur”. So I caught a train and went to Kanpur – that fellow was in the railways so I called his uncle who told the train driver “Take this fellow and bring him to Kanpur”. So I got into the engine and came to Kanpur. it was a steam engine and by the time I landed in Kanpur I was fully black! I went to his house, took a bath and everything and on the way to the show, it was getting late so I didn’t eat anything. I came across one of these bhang thekas… in those days bhang was legal and you’d get it in government kind of thekas. So I said “I must have some bhaang!” Then what happened was that I went to the show and I had had this big glass of bhang and started the first song – I have heard that LP so many times you know. I started the first song and then I blanked out, I didn’t know what I was doing and believe you me, I played the whole LP – song after song because that was in my subconscious, I knew all the songs, I knew all the chords!

I played for about almost for an hour you know and suddenly I came out of it – cold sweat and everything, and that fellow said “Okay, Okay… go relax. We’ll do something”. I came down, I was shaking, the energy got completely drained and I asked “What did I do ya?”, and he said “Man, you played the whole LP ya!” And I asked “Did it come out OK?” And he said “No it came out mast like!” (laughs)The drummer guy, he’s in touch with me and he’s as old as I am and he also remembers the incident – it was crazy. That was a “high” point but really to see my highest point, I’m hoping it will come around.

I must do my magnum opus show. I have kept this guitar, an old guitar, the same one I told you about. My ambition is that on my magnum opus show, I must set it on fire and smash it – that is what I want to do. (laughs) I have a little bit of advice for guitarists – one thing I want to tell them is – don’t get drowned into the quagmire of technique. Keep your soul. Music is about soul, it must come from your soul not from your fingertips… don’t worry about technique. The guitar is a very personalized instrument – your guitar playing is like your handwriting, everybody’s handwriting is different. You know, me and a lot of us guitarists when we come across a place where somebody’s playing the guitar – from outside we can say it’s this person because you know his style. Have your own style; style doesn’t come out of perfection. Style comes out of your imperfections, how you play that song, that’s very important. There’s no such thing as correct chords, if you are comfortable with that chord, it’s OK.

There are too many of these dyed in the wool jazz fellows who will come and tell me, ‘man you should have played this you should have played that’, but the song came out, no? That’s important, that’s the way I do it. That’s very important to understand, do it in your own way. It’s a way of expressing yourself. You don’t want to express like Eric Clapton because you’re not Eric Clapton. At one point of time, I thought I should play like Eric Clapton. Worked out everything, Clapton uses only his three fingers; he doesn’t use his little finger!

WTS: Any message do you have for our team?

Srinivas: You know I think I don’t need to give any advice to you guys because you’re already doing what I would have advised you. I have been trying to tell people – come and cover musicians like me. I call myself a bread and butter musician, we’re the ordinary musicians – see I’m playing 245 shows in a year already and I’ll end this year with 260 shows you know. Raghu Dixit doesn’t do so many shows, but his name is all over the place! But I cannot deny that he has become a commercial success, I’m not a commercial success but it doesn’t make me feel bad. I’m very happy with all that I have. I have become very spiritual over these 5-6 years. There is a higher power above, which has given me something, maybe it has come at a late stage in life but it has come – I’m happy. There’s a band called The Unknowns, you must go and talk to Mr. Sridhar, he is one of the most fantastic guitarists in India. I had a band called Feedback and then the first thing you’d get when you switched everything on was horrible feedback! (laughs) That’s how the show would start you know! So I told him “Why did you call your band The Unknowns? You are still unknown”. It’s good to go and see these musicians who are making a livelihood out of this. There are session musicians – drummers, singers who play with whoever calls them. They are making some kind of a livelihood.

Photo Credits: Uday Shanker

Priyanka Shetty

Priyanka Shetty is the founder of What's The Scene? Follow Priyanka on Twitter @priyanka_shetty

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Four Strokes – Tribute to The Beatles at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

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It was a Thursday evening and Four Strokes was all set to play a tribute to The Beatles, the fathers of rock music, at Hard Rock Café , Bangalore. The place was filled with avid Beatles fans and funny as it may seem, we had raised our expectations nearly to the sky but what unfolded was quite unsatisfactory.

When I walked into the venue, the band was halfway into ‘From Me to You.’ The vocals were the first thing that caught my attention. It wasn’t pleasing and almost overpowered the instruments. It was disappointing to see how the vocalist didn’t make even the slightest effort at subtlety considering The Beatles didn’t really endorse a punch-your-face kind of vocals.

Four Strokes - Tribute to The Beatles at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

I thought it was a one-off track and let it be. ‘Love Me Do’ was up next. The vocals, again, were jarring, the harmonies rather inaccurate, and the guitar tones completely off. The only element that was spot-on throughout the song was the harmonica (played by the vocalist). The vocalist was much better with the harmonica than the vocals.

This was followed by ‘Hey Jude’ which was below par as well. If not anything, the patches should have been taken care of in order to sound, if not the same, atleast similar to The Beatles. Although they got the crowd singing along, the drum work was slightly scrappy and the band shared almost no chemistry. The saving grace was the bassist who kept the groove going with his occasional licks.

Four Strokes - Tribute to The Beatles at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

The band took a much needed break after this song which lasted for a while and unexpectedly returned to the stage with ‘Help’. The first few seconds of the song sounded like an impromptu jam but in due course, they pulled up their socks. Although the drummer couldn’t maintain the pace of the song, it still sounded a lot better than the songs from the first half of their set. However, the vocalist’s falsetto did not blend with his natural voice which was a letdown.

I Should Have Known Better’, was one of the better songs, which got one section of the audience singing along intently. ‘All My Loving’ followed and brought the band back to square one. There was little or no connection between the band and the audience, a little between the song and the band members and none whatsoever between the band members.

Four Strokes - Tribute to The Beatles at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

Daytripper’ was up next. Even though the guitars sounded fine through the song, there were no vocal harmonies due to which the charm of the song was completely lost. The drummer, yet again, was loose with no sync with the rest of the band. The band improved slightly after this as they covered ‘Twist and Shout’ which wasn’t half bad. The audience had a good time listening and danced along. ‘She Loves You’ which followed, proved to be a nice listen. The tones were blending in quite well and the drummer, too, kept the band sounding tight. It seemed like the band had finally got their act together.

I Saw Her Standing There’ wasn’t the best way to finish their set but their rendition of this song was pleasant. They teased the audience for a while after their set, asking them if they wanted an encore. After that, they started off with a medley that included most of their set-list from the evening, which I felt was rather strange.

Four Strokes - Tribute to The Beatles at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

The vocalist was the weakest link with his voice being a complete disappointment. The guitarist was good, though his tones were not even close to the sound that The Beatles produced with the limited technology more than four decades ago. The bassist was incredibly groovy. His bass lines were perfect and his stage presence clearly ensured he had a good time on stage. The drummer, on the other hand, has a lot of work to do with his skills and rhythm. The Four Strokes possess a lot of potential which can be harnessed with a good number of practice sessions, but in the interest of Beatles lovers, they need to get a few things right before attempting a Beatles tribute show again.

Aditya Vishwanathan

Aditya Vishwanathan is a creative photographer from Bangalore. After being actively involved with multiple bands in the music circuit, he now documents gigs in and around town. In his free time, he loves to play with kids while listening to an old Michael Jackson album.

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Parvaaz and Mad Orange Fireworks at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

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Sunday evening brought two immensely talented bands Parvaaz and Mad Orange Fireworks to the same stage at The Kyra Theatre. I was expecting an odd combination of genres since both bands have very different influences. Two odds make it even and on that note, I entered Kyra to find the place quite empty, which would not remain that way towards the end of the show.

Parvaaz was up first with a one-of-a-kind genre that they call ‘Psychedelic Sufi Blues’. I had witnessed the band perform a couple of years back when they had just started out and they seemed to have a lot of potential back then,and it felt great to see them once again after so long with a lot of noteworthy improvements. They started off with a song called ‘Marika’, which helped set the tone for a fabulous evening.

‘Blue Space’, an instrumental, was rightly placed in the core of their set. The band got to showcase their abilities and surely, did not fail. The stops and the sudden off-time signature starts merged very well without any hiccups.The vocalist and the drummer deserve special mention as they simply stole the show. The vocalist sang with pure panache, hitting extremely high notes in many of the songs. The drummer was splendid with the clarity of his ghost notes and accents.A lot of strange percussion and wind instruments such as a Bell Bowl and Spring Drums were incorporated. This, along with brilliant patches and lights, through the show, made it ‘psychedelic’ in its true sense.

Other songs such as ‘Behosh’, ‘Itne Arase ke Baad’, ‘Loli Matti Laii’ (Kashmiri for caring) were spaced evenly so as to provide their set with just the right balance. It was great to see Khalid, the vocalist, bring along a lot of Kashmiri influences into the songs. Folks in the audience were singing along to most of the songs that the band played and seemed to be having a very good time. ‘Azadi’, one of the band’s first songs, was a fine choice to finish their set; there were a lot of notable improvements with respect to the structure of the song, apart from adding an acoustic guitar, which made it the finest out of the lot. Starting off with the Bell Bowl, ‘Azadi’ progressed into a Sufi-Psychedelic mix. The amount of effort gone into bettering the song was very evident through the small impromptu jam with which they wound up the song.

There were a few minor things that the band could improve – for instance, the snare wasn’t audible amidst the vocals, guitars and bass which could either be attributed to volume issues or the lack of energy.The band’s front-man could have introduced all the songs, rather than the guitarist introducing a few of them in between. However, their performance on the whole was remarkable.

Mad Orange Fireworks took to the stage after Parvaaz and the crowd was quite thrilled to find out what was in store. I had seen them perform earlier as well and was quite impressed with their songs and their onstage chemistry. They had a bit of starting trouble and took a good 10 minutes for their soundcheck. However, the band had some great material up their sleeve and seemed to have mellowed down a lot since the last time I saw them.Their set was extremely tight with almost no flaws. Their rendition of Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ instantly energized the crowd. The bassist, in particular, was very groovy with his bass lines, keeping the song in rhythm. The guitarist, as well, was splendid with his progressions and chord solos. The drummer did what he was supposed to -give foundation to the song making it rock-solid and taut.

‘Empty Saturday’, one of their originals, started off with a superb bass drill. The guitar tone blended perfectly with the bass. The drummer with his hi-hat work made the song perfect. It was watertight, barring the occasional sloppiness of the drummer with his sticks.

‘Confusing State’, another original, was quite catchy at first, but later on, it started to become a tad monotonous and the drums and bass became very repetitive after a while. The highlight of the evening was their version of ‘I Want You’ by The Beatles which was very jazz-influenced. They jumped into a spontaneous jam after the song which was surely the best jam I have heard. They were flawless. Other songs such as ‘It’s Just Me’, ‘Cool Boy’, and ‘Who Did You Think I Was’ by the John Mayer Trio were songs that were rather enjoyable.

The only flipside to their set was the lack of energy. The songs sounded a bit dry though their material was amazing. Their vocal harmonies were inaudible for most songs; although in ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ they were spot on. The trio as a whole shared terrific chemistry and was super tight. Rather than just playing for the audience, it was evident that they have a good deal of fun on stage as well. They also lived up to their “Orange Rock” genre, which I assume refers to joyful and happy songs.

All in all, it was great to watch Parvaaz and Mad Orange Fireworks perform together and they really gave the crowd their money’s worth. Without doubt, these two bands should feature on your ‘must attend’ list!

Aditya Vishwanathan

Aditya Vishwanathan is a creative photographer from Bangalore. After being actively involved with multiple bands in the music circuit, he now documents gigs in and around town. In his free time, he loves to play with kids while listening to an old Michael Jackson album.

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Indian Blue at The BFlat Bar

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Indian Blue

An auspicious month like this calls for some extraordinary classical music festivals and performances all over India. For us Bangaloreans, we had the city of joy brought down to us with the guys from Indian Blue. They’ve been touring Bangalore for the festive season and were playing their last show before heading back home.

Led by Shiraz Ali Khan, grandson of the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan on Sarod, their music is a continuum of rich classical Indian melody crossing over with some groovy funk-blues for some contemporary sounding world fusion. The lineup included Dishari Chakraborty on Persian Santoor; Arindam Bhattacharya on Vocals; Ranjan De on Bangla Dhol, Tabla; Shovon Mukherjee on Bass guitar; Santonu Borah on Electric guitar and Avijit Sarkar on Drums.

The show kicked off with an impromptu drum+bass jam on John Coltranes ‘Mr. PC’, this is where Avijit and Shovon set the precedent for the rest of the show outlining the mastery that each of the instrumentalists commands.

‘Journey’ was the first track, a nice happy instrumental track lead in the motif by the Sarod. I noticed some crisp hi-hat work and some outstanding bass runs – a feature I will emphasize for the remainder of the review. ’Anticipation’ followed on with the same energy. Some tight little synchronized sections  gave me a nice taste of things to come.  Arindam joined the band on stage to sing the next song, what I recognised as ‘Kesariya Baalam’ a Rajasthani folk song that’s been covered by scores of legends over the years.Measurably slower to suit some delicate harkats, Raag Mand is but one flavor to the Rajasthani Folk sound. Toned bass fills and tabla flourishes filled up the ether along with some delectable bass harmonics. The next track maintained the same mellow feel. Since the levels were a bit lower the tabla was noticeably loud and sharp. This was the time when conversations resumed on tables and people were murmuring amongst themselves and I got the feeling that the audience was slowly slipping away, but then, one transition and drumroll changed everything. The music peaked and crescendo-ed, the energy rose breaking into a crunchy guitar solo. Dishari showed us what a Santoor was capable of with a small interlude, playing down the energy to finish in style.

The next song was interesting; a funky guitar riff set the motif in meter with a time signature in 14/8. It took me quite a few cycles to figure that one out. Launch guitar solo, and resolve to the motif while Avijit Sarkar soloed inside and outside the time boundary with some smooth syncopation. Everyone dropped out for Ranjans Bangla Dhol solo, very Phish-like in giving space to cut loose for a solo spot, while the drum and bass hold on tight to that meter for a groove right in the pocket.

Next up was a dissonant sounding vocal track, Arindam sounded melancholic and yet contemptful with some ornate alaaps, imitated, teased and replied to on the tabla. And when the warm feeling was full of itself, the mood transitioned, heavier and louder with a rock style driving the song into a finality for the set.

Whilst the band took a break, Ranjan entertained the audience with an innovative comical score interpreting a ‘conversation between a husband and wife’ as performed by Taufiq Qureshi. The band got back on stage to resume regular programming after Ranjan’s mouth percussion act and a durga puja-esque dhol solo.

There was a request for a Bengali song and Indian Blue obliged. Simply in melody, light sugam vocals made for a nostalgic Bengali song.  Sidenote – It is worth a mention that the best original music modern for its times in the 70s was always from Calcutta. My recommendation to non-Bengalis would be to listen to the forerunner of the movement – Mohiner Ghoraguli.

The highlight of the evening would have to be their rendition of the classic Beatles track ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ with a light bossa nova beat, those humble chords, the Santoor and Sarod flavoring the melody with a teaspoon of Hindustani classicism. The song simply flowed out from an alternate universe where peace and love unites all humanity. I loved how they presented this song.

They ended the show with an original track dedicated to the gods of the monsoon, a ‘Saawan Barse’ track that had a tremendous build up with some guitar-delay effects and Ranjan on the mike, creating a sinister vocal texture, brooding like an imminent thundercloud, covering the dry earth with rain as Arindam sang with the joy that abounds in the hearts of people in relief from the sun and in gratitude to the heavens – a powerful way to end a fantastic show and leave a very happy crowd shouting for more.

My key takeaways from this gig were Avijit’s drumming style – crisp, neat and really attentive to dynamics in levels. Shovon is currently in my Top 3 bass guitarists list. Indian Blue has a sound distinct in this upcoming niche of fusion bands and with some impressive lineage on their side, coupled with their sheer talent- Indian Blue has a long way to go, please await the release of their new album in the coming months.

Fidel Dsouza

Fidel Dsouza is a Journalist/Editor at WTS

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