NH7 Weekender, one of the countrys largest music festivals, finally made it to Kolkata, much to the delight of the citys music-hungry population. The fourth and final leg of this event was to be held on the 14th and 15th of December, and with the completion of exams at most of the citys educational institutions, the organizers seemed confident of wooing the huge student community to the venue grounds. In fact the Kolkata leg had a lot going for the citys music lovers. With the highly discounted ticket prices when compared to the three other NH7 Weekender venues, the tickets rates for the City of Joy were a complete steal! And for the student population there was even an under-21 ticket to add to the bouquet of benefits.
The mouth-watering lineup comprising of more than 40 artistes, spread over 6 stages was surely enough to whet the appetite of even the most cynical music-lover in town. However, the venue chosen to host the 2 days of musical madness left many disappointed. Ibiza Resort, located on the outer fringes of the city in South 24 Parganas, was indeed almost in the middle of nowhere. Not only the distance, but the traffic jams and shitty roads were also a big downer, and due to these factors there were many who ultimately decided to skip the NH7s debut in the east zone. The organizers too, must have had sleepless nights, owing to the initial negative feedback about the venue. But finally on the day of the event, the Kolkata music-lovers did not disappoint and the massive turnout on days 1 and 2 was enough indication that despite all odds, Kolkatas love for music would always prevail over long distances, bad roads and traffic jams.
The action on the Day 1 started approximately at 3:30 PM. The layout for the 6 stages in the festival grounds was well thought out by the NH7 team and thankfully most attendees were spared the long-distance-run between the various stages. In fact the biggest conundrum for gig goers was trying to prioritize which artistes performance to watch, since many performances would be going on simultaneously at different locations in the venue. The timings of performances at the Dewarists stage and at the Bacardi Arena were the ones that caused the most consternation and those not too adept in time-management had a trying time juggling their schedules.
Many music-lovers from the North-East turned up in huge numbers to catch Shillongs blues giants Soulmate up on the Dewarists stage at 4:30 PM. This gig pulled in huge crowds, and having always been a favorite among the blues lovers in the city, Soulmate went all out to impress one and all with a virtuoso performance. And there was no getting away from the mesmerizing vocals of Tipriti Kharbangar that literally blew the crowd away.
Mumbai metallers Demonic Resurrection were already getting proceedings underway at the Bacardi Arena the first of three back-to-back metal bands to be performing on Day 1. Demonic Resurrection were hell-bent on bringing brutality to a new level, and in their allotted 40 minutes this veteran metal act managed to captivate the crowd with songs both old and new, including ‘The Unrelenting Surge of Vengeance’, ‘The Warriors Return’ and ‘Bound by Blood, Fire and Stone’ all tracks from their last album A Return To Darkness. The crowd loved every minute of their performance but 40 minutes were hardly enough to satisfy the metal hungry crowd. It would be approximately another hour until the Bacardi Arena lit up with the second metal act of the evening.
In the meantime, over on the MTS Other Stage, local boys Ifs n Buts were having a ball playing their brand of indie music with the help of a few friends. Unfortunately this particular stage was plagued by music over-flowing from the adjacent music arenas and it was not really the best way to take in the bands acoustic set. While Ifs n Buts were busy enthralling their faithful fans, city heavy weights and NH7 veterans Pink Noise on the Dewarists stage and Mumbais Zero over at the Red Bull Tour Bus were both getting ready to up the volume. Choosing which act to catch that evening was indeed a painful decision. The veritable flip of the coin seemed to be the only way to decide which bands performance to watch.
Zeros energy and verve on stage belied the fact that the band was making a comeback and playing in the City Of Joy after almost 10 years. In fact, it almost made it seem like they had never been on a break! For 40 odd minutes the band dished out a host of evergreen favorites like ‘PSP’, ‘Hate In Em’, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Mariachi’ and for those 40 minutes the Kolkata crowd was in a complete state of trance. Zero easily delivered one of the best performances of the day and those who attended their gig at the Red Bull Tour Bus stage, left fully satisfied.
Amidst the Zero mayhem, another local musician and singer-songwriter, Tajdar Junaid, was getting ready for his performance at the MTS Other Stage. Tajdars recently released album What Colour is Your Raindrop has received critical acclaim from most musical quarters, and for fans of his mellow, lounge-influenced acoustic style of music, it was indeed a treat to see him perform in his hometown more so since it was his first performance in Kolkata after the release of his album. Tajdar did not disappoint the crowd with his set that included tracks like ‘Aisle’, ‘What Colour Is Your Raindrop’, ‘Though I Know’ and ‘Dastaan’. One of the highlights of this gig was when ace guitarist Warren Mendonsa came up on stage to collaborate with Tajdar. All in all, this was a most satisfying performance.
Day 1 was mostly about the metal mayhem that was to take place at the Bacardi Arena. Judging by the number of metal-heads who had lined up in front of the stage and also taken up strategic positions in and around the vicinity, it was definitely not an advisable place for the faint-hearted to be. After Demonic Resurrections early evening assault, the next act to occupy the Bacardi Arena was Delhis masters of disaster Undying Inc. Right from their first song, these metal mongers were relentless and they forced the crowd into submission with their raw and powerful aggression. Front-man Shashank Bhatnagar was indeed in his elements that evening, and he had the crowd roaring with approval with his crowd-surfing antics. Shashank was like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, and he expertly orchestrated the crowd into one bloody moshpit after the other and his efforts culminated in a massive wall-of-death during the song ‘Ironclad’. The fetsival had momentarily turned into a war-zone, and the number of injuries and blood stained faces around the pit area bore testament to this fact. Undying Incs setlist included the popular ‘Manimal’ and ‘Contagion’ from their album Aggressive World Dynasty and also their new single ‘Pit Mechanics’ from their new EP Ironclad and their performance and stage presence that evening left an indelible mark on the minds of every metal lover in attendance. The band certainly upped the ante as far as performance standards go, that many Indian metal bands would find difficult to meet.
Meanwhile comedy rock band Vir Das Alien Chutney was over at the MTS Other Stage, busy regaling the crowd with their trademark sense of humor. It was the bands debut performance in the City of Joy, but the huge cheers that followed each song they played would certainly have made it seem like they were Kolkata veterans. The biggest cheers were of course reserved for the song ‘Manboobs’, no surprises there! Vir Das on-stage banter, especially about the political leaders of West Bengal also had the crowd in splits.
Day 1 was nearing its end, but there were two huge artistes left before the day finally came to a close. Over at the Dewarists stage, Papon and The East India Company were facing some technical difficulties which delayed their show for approximately twenty minutes. Papon was on the check-list of most music lovers since many of them had never seen him perform live before. And true to their expectations, he and his troupe did not disappoint. This was one artiste who could sell out shows and still remain original and true to his music and he demonstrated this by enthralling the huge crowd with songs from his album The Story So Far and tracks like ‘Boitha Maro Re’ and the popular ‘Banao’. Papon and The East India Company were indeed a class act and hopefully they will be in town soon for more shows.
About 10-15 minutes before Papon and his band of merry men had started wowing the crowd at the Dewarists stage, over at the Bacardi Arena, the sea of black-tee clad metal maniacs had again started to huddle around the arena area. For the Kolkata metal community, THIS was the event they had been waiting for finally, a metal band of international repute would be performing in the City of Joy, finally Kolkata would get to be on the international metal map.
Dutch metal giants Textures had previously been to India three times and having previously performed in the south (Bangalore, 2009), the north (Delhi, 2010) and the west (Pune, ) in past tours, it was befitting that the band finally completed their Bharat yatra by being named as one of the headliners of Kolkatas NH7 Weekender leg. And they gave to the citys ardent metal fans a performance that they would not forget in a long time. The show began with the slow melodic instrumental ‘Surreal State Of Enlightenment’ but once this completed the band launched themselves into a set-list which pulverized the crowd with its sheer brutality. ‘Messengers’, ‘Old Days Born Anew’, ‘The Suns Architect’, ‘Laments Of An Icarus’, ‘Black Horses Stampede’ and ‘Sanguine Draws The Oath’ were just some of the songs that regaled the crowd that evening. However with the mosh-pits getting more brutal by the minute and with the metal-heads baying for blood, it took two of the bands more popular compositions, ‘Awake’ and ‘Reaching Home’ to finally appease the crowd. Textures were truly majestic that evening and they won the hearts and minds of everyone who was fortunate enough to attend their power-packed performance.
And so Day 1 of the Kolkata NH7 Weekender ended with a bang and there was not a single unhappy soul at the end of the days proceedings. Even the bunch of young metal-heads who were feuding over Textures drum sticks went home happy when the band finally resolved the situation by offering a plectrum to each of the aggrieved parties.
Another bright and sunny December day, and the expectations of the crowd were sky-high after the success of Day 1. There were some very big names scheduled for Day 2, including a few young acts from Kolkata. And in fact two of the days openings acts were The Monkey In Me on the Red Bull Tour Bus and Ganesh Talkies on the Dewarists Stage, the latter opening their set with the song ‘Style’. The bands flashy style of music was accentuated by their colorful but loud outfits. Their catchy music had the crowd dancing, jumping and doing all sorts of crazy stuff, especially when the vocalist Suyasha Sengupta requested the audience to show some Bappi Lahiri moves. Their set included ‘Roadside Romeo’, ‘Pyaar Ka Tohfa’ from their EP Three Tier Non AC and some new material like ‘Dancing, Dancing’ and ‘Brother From Another Mother’. A fun band, especially if you arent allergic to the Bollywood style of music.
Day 2s opening act on the Bacardi Arena was New Delhis The Ska Vengers. This 8-piece band was making their Kolkata debut and they were easily one of the best acts of this two-day music fest. Right from the word go, these merchants of ska got the crowd dancing to their compositions which included set regulars like ‘Rough And Mean’, ‘Bam Intifada’ and The Velvet Underground rendition of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. The Ska Vengers had a great gig, and special mention must be made of their female vocalist Miss Samara C whose charismatic stage presence hypnotized the Kolkata crowd.
Over on the MTS Other Stage fans of Gangtoks Girish Pradhan were busy being enthralled by this singer-songwriters set-list that comprised of originals and classic rock covers. Girish started his set by playing an instrumental version of ‘Hotel California’, and followed this up with a string of originals that included ‘Loaded’ and the ever popular ‘Angel’. The set also included ‘Hey You’ and a brilliant cover of Led Zeppelins ‘Rock and Roll’. Girish Pradhans amazing voice and vocal range stunned the crowd and he easily won over the hearts of those in attendance.
As soon as Girish ended his set, it was back to the Dewarists stage because Swarathma was the next act to be performing. Their set included popular originals like ‘Duur Kinara’, ‘Topiwalleh’, ‘Kooraney’ and ‘Ee Bhoomi’. During the performance of their song ‘Pyaar ke Rang’ vocalist Vasu Dixit came off stage right in the middle of the audience, which got the crowd going. Despite the obvious language barrier in some songs, Swarathmas gig was indeed a fun one and there was no doubt that the crowd would be remembering the bands performance for a long time.
And over at the Red Bull Tour Bus, local lads Write In Stereo were getting the crowd to groove to their indie dance music. Heavily influenced by the band Mutemath, this quartet impressed the crowd with their compositions that were mainly instrumentals and included ‘Tokyo Kyoto’, a composition influenced by their love for anime, space and sci-fi.
The Bacardi Arena in the meantime was fast filling up, for Mumbais electro-rockers Pentagram, who were soon to start their set. It has been a while since this band has performed in Kolkata, and their fans were on tenterhooks waiting for the show to begin. But once it did, a huge roar erupted from the crowd. Pentagram began proceedings with their track ‘Identify’, and their set-list also included tracks like ‘Lovedrug Climbdown’, ‘Drive’, ‘Mental Zero’, ‘Tomorrows Decided’ and the popular ‘Voices’. The crowd had a ball, and this was evident from the number of bean bags being thrown up in the air and bouncing all over the arena area. Vishal Dadlanis showmanship and Randolph Correias guitars were stand-outs in the bands performance with Randolphs guitaring especially sounding raw and powerful throughout Pentagrams electronica blended grunge set.
It was time for The Supersonics to join the Kolkata NH7 party and right from the word go this Kolkata quartet let fly a host of popular tracks both new and old much to the delight of their faithful fan following, who were attending in huge numbers. The Supersonics were playing in their home-town after a very long time, and not being familiar with their new material, their home support cheered the most for their older originals ‘Hey Aloha’, ‘We Are We Are’, ‘In Memory Of’, ‘Fable Of A Lonely Fish’, ‘Have A Drink’ and the crowd favorite ‘Yeah Whatever’ were just some of the songs on their set-list for the evening. All said and done, this was a pretty good performance by these Kolkata homeboys.
The event was fast approaching its climax after twp days of non-stop walking, jumping up-and-down, standing and head-banging, our legs were starting to feel a wee bit heavy and we also had this constant buzz in our heads. So running around the venue to catch the different performing artistes was turning out to be a tad bit difficult for our weary souls. In the final hours we kind of parked ourselves in front of the Red Bull Tour Bus area, which was pretty empty but it also gave us a good view of the Bacardi Arena as well, where Delhi classic rock veterans Parikrama were already in the midst of their NH7 gig. Like Pentagram, Parikrama too were performing in Kolkata after ages and these Delhi rockers were successful in wowing the crowd with a set-list that seemed to comprise of originals only. Quite a surprise, this, since the band have rarely played a set-list of predominantly original numbers in Kolkata. It was almost like they were playing a greatest hits compilation and for a change, the Kolkata crowd had the chance to savor their originals like ‘Am I Dreaming?’, ‘Vaporize’ and the ever popular ‘But It Rained’, which was the bands closing number.
Kolkatas Nishchay Parekh was up on the MTS Other Stage during Parikramas assault, and being one of the rising stars of the current indie explosion in the country, most people at the venue wanted to check him out. Nishchays music has a certain freshness about it, which adds to its cool quotient and it was these two factors which helped him to win over his audience that evening. His set-list which had the songs ‘Ocean and ‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’ were extremely well appreciated.
Back at the Red Bull Tour Bus Mumbais hard-core kings Scribe were busy causing mayhem and promoting the pleasures of moshing. Front-man Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy was in his usual over-the-top mood making the crowd laugh with his outrageous comments, although for the most part he let the bands music do the talking. This was in fact quite a tame show as per the usual high Scribe standards and the sound was also a bit muffled at times, although most listeners didnt seem to be too bothered with the sound aspect since they were either too busy moshing or playing around with the beach balls that the band had thrown down from the stage. Scribes set-list was interesting but was well short of being amazing and apart from the crowd favorites ‘I Love You Pav Bhaji’, ‘1234 Dracula’, ‘R.S.V.P.’, ‘Calender Khana Lao’ and ‘Cops! Cops! Cops!’ the band played a cover of the Fear Factory song ‘Edgecrusher’.
After two days of non-stop music, the Kolkata NH7 Weekender was about to come to a close. There was not a single unhappy soul at the venue, and Indias Happiest Music Festival had lived up to its reputation. As Karsh Kale Collective + The NH7 All Stars lit up the Bacardi Arena for the final time, the crowd totally lost themselves to the music, and the dancing and cheering seemed to go on and on. It was truly a wonderful conclusion to a festival that having promised so much was successful in delivering on all counts. To say that NH7 Kolkata did well would be an under-statement this event was a rip-roaring success and for once everyone, including the fan, the organizer and the artiste, would seem to be unanimous about this fact. One can only hope that the success of the NH7 Weekender Kolkata leg will encourage other event organizers to allow this city to host similar such events in the near future. But if for some reason this fails to happen, well, we always have NH7 Weekender Kolkata 2014 to look forward to!
Prasanna Singh and Joy Chakraborty
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Ooty and happy people in colorful attire strolled about while others lay in the grass, looking up at the blue sky. The Shakey Rays were the first band to play the Calaloo stage which turned out to be a bane. The sound was completely messed up as the start of the gig delayed was delayed by an hour. The Shakeys, who we were really looking forward to, had massive sound issues throughout their set. The long-delay also meant that there were only a handful of people who stayed back to watch them perform. Those who did were treated to some tracks from their sleeper-hit debut album Tunes from the Big Belly – Im Gonna Catch That Train. Queen bee on the radio etc. The trademark harmonies though were missing (again, thanks to the terrible sound) and so was the bands enthusiasm. They sleepwalked through the rest of their set which also included an interesting yet-unreleased track called Animals Dancing. We cannot stress how eagerly we await their sophomore album!
An eclectic act from Trivandrum, Vidwans early slot on day 3 meant that they didnt have a huge crowd around when they began. That made no difference to their enthusiasm as they played a setlist filled with infectious grooves and excellent melodies. While they took a song to warm up, ‘Ellaelo’ had the sparse crowd jumping and dancing in no time at all. The percussion section especially the Thayil lent a very interesting touch to Vidwans sound. ‘Thaiyae’, a women empowerment song was pulled off nicely, a great arrangement adding to the overall vibe of the song. The pick of their setlist was ‘Kaithola’, a folksy song with a really catchy hook that got the audience singing along as well. Anoop Mohandass vocals were top notch while the other lead singer Neha Nairs voice sounded a bit strained. The drum and percussion elements were strong when required and understated and just right otherwise, the bass work eminently enjoyable and a strong keys and guitar section created a full, rich sound. The last song of their setlist was a dubstep infused number with a great jam section with the thayil. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable act that could have done with a little more of an audience.
Virginia Martinez, a blues singer from the faraway land of Uruguay was a rather bizarre interlude on the Calaloo stage between The Shakey Rays and Emergence. Putting together a temporary band that included the spectacular Mishko Mba on the bass and Aman Mahajan on the keys, she performed a set of blues standards such as ‘Summertime’, ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ (Girl in Ms. Martinezs rendition), ‘House of the Rising Sun’, ‘Master of the Universe’, and ‘Superstition’. The lack of a guitarist however, made the sound a little hollow.The standout aspect of the act was Mishkos bass solos and how he made up in places for the lack of a guitar, especially on ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Aman Mahajans solos were great, but nothing spectacular. The drum work though was rather muted and disappointing. A rather annoying aspect of the set was Ms Martinez annoying talking over the solos and otherwise (although one might attribute this to cultural differences), especially apparent when the superb guest violin bits of Karthik Iyer were drowned out towards the end of the setlist.
Bevar Sea, Bangalore based Doom-metal outfit unleashed their brand of old fashioned Black Sabbathy Doom & Gloom upon the unsuspecting audience. Being the only Doom band on the lineup, we guess they are the first Doom band to perform in Ooty. As oxymoronic as Doom Metal in Ooty may sound, Bevar Sea did an amazing job with the time they had reminding everyone once again that they were Bevar Sea, and so were we. ‘Smiler’, the track that got the crowd banging their heads, was followed up with a doomy rendition of Pink Floyds ‘Astronomy Domine’. Not only was it much heavier but frontman Ganesh also threw in some deft modulation work using a Korg Monotron. Adding Doom elements to a great psychedelic song can yield amazing results. ‘Where there is smoke, There is a pyre’ was a faster than usual song punctuated throughout with some great drum fills by Deepak Raghu. They ended the set with crowd favorite ‘Abishtu’. Ganesh, consummate in his white Saint Vitus t-shirt jumped down from the stage to let crowd members yell the infamous Oy Abishtu chant into the mic. Some badges were thrown to fans and we were also informed that the band would be entering the studio to record an album come mid 2014. That is something to look forward to.
Inner Sanctum, in true Inner Sanctum fashion managed to galvanize a sleepy Sunday crowd into moshing and mayhem. Vocalist Gaurav Basu, in true Gaurav Basu form, ran around the stage whilst trying to (unsuccessfully) avoid the electronic equipment strewn on the floor. Drummer Abhinav Yogesh, in true Abhinav Yogesh style sported a Gojira t-shirt and absolutely nailed every blastbeat through their 10 song set. It was exactly the Inner Sanctum set that everyone expected and for that we were thankful. Also, some Inner Sanctu\m/ stats from Ooty:
Number of moshpits: 3
Walls of Death: 1
Number of times motherf***er was uttered on the mic: 27
Adopting a clean, no-frills sound setup, Emergence sang multilingual pop songs advocating the use of organic farming and the advantages of growing your own food. Bassist Mishko Mba was clearly the star of the band as he, with his lovely bass tone dazzled the relaxed crowd at the Blubaloo stage.
Lagori’s set began with Ni Re Sa a powerful song that is optimistic and sings of hope. This was followed by Darbari an old-timey piece made wonderfully contemporary with a catchy riff and a great solo. Through their performances of Duniya re and Pardesi, the crowd participated by singing along and tapping their feet energetically. However, what really got them riled up was the bands self-titled piece, Lagori! Even a stranger to the Indian music scene will tell you that professionalism has always graced every performance Lagori has ever given.
How can you go wrong with an electric violin, really? As soon as violinist Bala Bhaskar played the first few notes on his beautiful sounding instrument, everybody stood up and took notice. Sounding like a cross between a Carnatic violinist and Dream Theater, their fusion prog-rock was high-energy, intense and tight. One small grouse with the programming though. Immediately following Bala Bhasker on stage were Carnatic rockers Agam who have a very similar sound.
The legendary Agam occupied the stage next, and wasted no time after the soundcheck to start things off with Brahmas Dance. Their second song, The Seventh Ocean starts out with a great riff and switches mid-way to another. Listening to this one was like being on a rollercoaster, complete with all the turns and twists and the temporary melodic lull that one should not get used to too quickly. As they progressed to play Dhanashree Thillana, you could tell that nothing could go wrong with Agam. Particularly fantastic was a little match between Harishs vocal acrobatics and Praveens follow-up response with excellent guitar playing. The to-and-fro went on for a while, and then the song resumed to end on a particularly ecstatic high note. However, what truly grasped the listener in awe was Agams performance of Rudra an obeisance to Lord Shiva the Destroyer. The piercing riff matched the mood of the evening, with some brilliant lighting adding to the reverence brewing in every listeners mind.
Tritha Electric hasn’t played at too many festivals but going by their energetic performance that was belted out to an expectant, packed crowd, one would be convinced that they totally should. Needless to say, Tritha has an amazing voice and looks nothing short of a goddess on stage. Their out of the ordinary performance was quite a different experience – a queer amalgamation of Bengali lyrics and a danceable groovy music makes this band quite a treat to watch live.
The blazing sun was a mellow crimson as the darkness slowly began to engulf the surroundings of the Fernhills Royal Palace. Distant notes of ‘Ek Omkaar‘ made the evening unbelievably magical and enchanting and a lonely star shone bright as we were drawn to the Calaloo stage. Sonam Kalra and The Sufi Gospel Project induced a dream-like experience with the beautiful sound of the sarangi, tabla and of course Sonam’s ethereal voice. Their own version of ‘Hallelujah‘ followed as the crowd let out a collective sigh. The slow realization that the evening and three days of the festival was about to end made us slightly melancholic and there was a sudden urge to drink in every detail.
Parting is indeed a sweet sorrow. 3 days of music, arts and dance were coming to an end. Rather aptly, Veronica Nunes and Ricardo Vogt – a ridiculously good-looking pair, were bringing proceedings to an end with their intimate, samba-jazz stylings. Veronica on ukulele and vocals complimented Ricardo who played guitar and occasionally sang. Thier music had a Joao Gilberto feel and it mesmerized the crowd who had gathered under the cool, blue lights at the Calaloo stage. While their set mostly consisted of originals they also did a delightful cover of Sergio Mendes popular Mas Que Nada. A fitting way to bring the curtains down on MAD .
Dressed nattily in white and black formal attire, The Ska Vengers mingled with the crowd and the venue looked as though it had been infiltrated by genial members of the MIB! But as soon as they got onto the elevated stage, the picture fit. Belting out song after song, the image they carefully cultured through the process of the show was powerful and lasting. They looked like snazzy harbingers of social change, pointing out the difficult truths and gently gibing at the inconsistencies in society with their complex lyrical style managing to look cool throughout.
Shobna Dance Company -When Shobana, ResulPookutty, A.R Rehman, Shabana Azmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Radhika, Nandita Das, Prabhu, Milind Soman and Surya along with world class musicians, technicians, come together in a production it has to be a spectacle in every way. Story of the Blue God was re-told in a two and a half hour musical titled Krishna. English dialogues were used to reach out to a wider audience. Music from classical Carnatic idiom and Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam movies was strung together to again give the story a pan Indian feel. Exotic sets and multimedia presentation created different landscapes as the story moved from Vrindavan, Mathura and finally to the battle ground of Kurukshetra. Not only were classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Bharata Nrityam, Kuchipudi, Odissi used but folk movements were also incorporated to add the flavour of village setting. Excellently trained dancers under the able guidance of Shobana braved the chill winds of Ooty to put a show which was a visual and aural treat . Dancers in exotic costumes and beautiful make-up effortlessly moved across the stage in kaleidoscopic patterns. Events in the story were linked with dialogue passages which were sometimes aesthetic especially those which expressed the divine love of Radha and Krishna but at other times they were loud and garish. The group sequences- be it the joyous dances or the battles between Krishna and his opponents were excellently choreographed, extremely well-co-ordinated and rehearsed. Shobana did complete justice to the character by bringing out both the strength and subtlety of a multi-dimensional icon like Krishna.
Why should a story that has been told so many times be presented again? Because Krishna is a icon who is difficult to understand as he is a combination of contrasts. One has to revisit His legends again and again in order to understand the hidden meanings between the different episodes which seem like a play at a superficial level. Shobana in an interview with Yogesh Pawar expressed “ there are only certain facets of him that appeal to people. They take the aspect they feel most comfortable with and leave out the rest. While children love his stories about the butter thief, young adults harp on the sringara aspect. In fact an attempt is made to often strait-jacket him into the role of the eternal Romeo of sorts.But once you delve deeply into the subject, all this takes on spiritual connotations. It was rather difficult to unshackle Krishnas image from His popular forms. It is indeed a challenge to encapsulate the spirit of this philosopher, teacher, negotiator and lover in a production.”
Sohan Maheshwar, Uday Shankar, Rohan Arthur, Purva Dhanashree and Priyanka Shetty
Time check – it was 18 o clock. Was I going to make it on time for the JD rock awards? At around 7-ish as I was zooming on the highway, I was mentally preparing myself for what the entire evening was going to be like. I got to the venue at sharp 7:30 and was mighty pleased to see that the entrance was nicely decked up with sweet signage complete with a desk of folks from Rolling Stones magazine/JD to check invites and sort out the invitees. They had setup a neat-looking JD/Rolling Stones magazine backdrop for photo-ops with a dozen photographers trying to squeeze out glamour shots for their respective publications. It all looked a lot like an elite fashion event.
This was the first time that I had entered this stage at Mehboob Studios and as I later found out this was the first time they were doing a live music event at this particular studio. It was huge with an incredibly high ceiling and the minute I got in, I was immediately enveloped by the smell of expensive alcohol and the sound of general last-minute sound check noises. I got in just in time to hear Luke Kenny start to rev up the crowd to get the Rock Awards going after introducing himself as the host. The turnout for the rock awards was modest at first but the place got crowded later, not uncomfortably so at any point. Furthermore, the place had long bars on both sides serving unlimited JD on the house!
Sky Rabbit or the erstwhile Medusa played a tight set of their tracks in spite of the odd sounding PA mix which I would largely attribute to the high ceiling and room in general. The Sky Rabbit sound, if I were to describe it from the few songs I heard them do in that particular setting, was a mix of post-punk and electronica, which for some might be pretty reminiscent of early Coldplay. However, it was packed with enough new ideas to still be quite distinct sounding.
Indus Creed was up next and they played a long set. I liked quite a few of their songs, but I certainly would want to hear the album that’s coming out soon so I can listen to them without having to put up with spectacular room reverb. They were quite energetic on stage, were groovy and had interesting bass lines and harmonic modulation throughout, which I quite love in a band.
Next up was Ankur and the Ghalat family. Since the first time I heard these guys at Blue Frog when we were all doing a mixed singer-songwriter set, I’ve always liked their downright earthy sound and honest songwriting. Moreover, their sound has always retained its simplicity and has a nice clarity in the way the songs are arranged and the harmonies are brought out.
For the most part, I expected this to be a lot like the splendid party thrown by the nice people over at The Blue Frog, a few months ago. Except at the end of it, maybe there would be a good old fashioned fist fight over who deserved to win best award for a three legged drummer. This certainly was at par and done on a much a larger scale apart from being an awards event. However in retrospect, I figure that one of the nicer things about the Bombay music scene is that nearly everybody has played with everybody and shares a healthy mix of camaraderie and the Bohemian spirit of I-don’t-really-f**king-care which leaves little or no place for any kind of angst or I-know-where-you-live type of behaviour. Bombay is certainly a great place to be a musician.
Amongst mixed reactions, knowing nods and downright ‘What the Frankenstein’ reactions the winners for this years JD Rock Awards were announced. Bombay Bassment won Best Emerging Act which I suppose was well deserved. They have acquired quite a following in the past year and their live act is very entertaining. Bassist Ruell Baretto was nominated for Best Bass Player at the last JD Awards and the band was ecstatic when they found out they had won this year. It would be great to see where and how this band evolves and where they go with their sound. Dischordian won the award for Album Art of the Year designed by Hemant Kumar for the album The Feni Farm Riot. Pentagram won several awards some of which were for Best Vocalist, Best Guitarist, Best Video and Best Album. Shiraz and Vishal were pretty much on a marathon to collect the plethora of awards that they picked up. Best Vocalist (Female) went to Subhadra Kamath from Fire Exit. Best Drummer went to Vibhas Venkatram from Eccentric Pendulum.Stefan Kaye from The Ska Vengers picked up Best Keyboardist. Best Bassist went to Abhinav Chaudhary from The Circus. Best Producer went to Miti Adhikari for his work on Menwhopause album Easy. Best Venue went to Blue Frog which couldn’t really have gone any other way! A special award for Years of Excellence went to Lou Majaw.
The party continued for quite a while even after the awards were done and host Luke Kenny had signed off. The alcohol kept flowing and people seemed to be having a good time too. The place had a steady influx of a lot of familiar faces from television and movies who didnt really have much to do with the rock awards or rock in particular but certainly contributed to the overall eye candy. I think that purely for the great setup, the copiously flowing alcohol and the abundance of legs, the JD rock awards was certainly a smashing night.