Narendra Kusnur's music musings …


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Nandu Bhende

FOR music lovers, nothing’s more satisfying than a round of pure nostalgia. And over the weekend, one got that feeling at not one or two but three western music events. From jazz to classic rock to Hollywood numbers, it was a trip down melody lane.

Beginning the proceedings on Saturday evening was an interactive jazz workshop conducted by flautist Rajeev Raja at the National Centre for the Performing Arts’ Experimental Theatre. The objective was simple: to take the audience through the history of the musical genre in such a way that they understood the meaning of different styles like Dixieland, swing, bebop, cool jazz, fusion, Latino and modern jazz.

The best thing was that after information of each decade and style was shared through a PowerPoint presentation, a live band comprising faculty of the True School of Music played some representational numbers. With Rajeev joining them on some pieces, the band consisted of vocalist Jocelyn Medina, saxophonist Pawan Benjamin, guitarist Hideaki Tokunaga, bassist Marko Zenini, keyboardist Aki Spadaro and drummer Michael Mitchell.

The session was held in association with Jazz Addicts. The repertoire included popular fare like the Louis Armstrong-popularised ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, the Billy Strayhorn-composed and Duke Ellington-rendered ‘Take The A Train’, Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’, Sonny Rollins’ ‘St Thomas’, Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Desafinado’, John Coltrane’s version of ‘My Favourite Things’, a jazz rendition of the Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ and Herbie Hancock’s ‘Cantaloupe Island’.

For those new to jazz, that list provided a great starting point. And for the aficionados, it was a great nostalgia session. Many people, including those who consciously listen to jazz, are unaware or have limited knowledge of the technicalities involved with each style. For them, such sessions come as an eye-opener, and help demystify the art form.

A few kilometres away, later on Saturday night, Bombay Gymkhana hosted a tribute to Mumbai’s iconic rock vocalist Nandu Bhende, who passed away on April 11 after a sudden heart attack. It was the second show dedicated to him during the week, as on Thursday, an event was held at Blue Frog, Lower Parel.

The line-up for both shows had many common musicians, but since the basic crowd was different, it made little difference. Leslie Lewis did two songs at Frog – ‘Krishna’ and a special number for Nandu – but didn’t play at the Gym. The band Hoodwink Circle did a short set, and Nandu’s son Akshay did the Moody Blues favourite ‘Nights in White Satin’.

A highlight at Frog was the performance by Debashish Banerjee, aka Babu, who had played with Nandu and his band Velvette Fogg back in the 1970s. Now, this blogger has seen Babu innumerable times at private gatherings and residence sessions, and he is probably the best voice-acoustic guitar package in town. It was thus a delight to see him front an electric band, after some 40 years, and play classics like the Doors’ ‘Soul Kitchen’, Jethro Tull’s ‘Locomotive Breath’ and Cream’s ‘Crossroads’, ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine of your Love’ Supremely talented guitarist Keith Viegas, a regular with Nandu, gave him excellent company.

Bashir Sheikh, formerly of the 1970s band Savages and who later played with Nandu in the Savage Encounter, dazzled at both shows on the Rolling Stones’ anthem ‘Satisfaction’ and Steppenwolf’s famous biker song ‘Born To Be Wild’. The Awesome Foursome stuck to Beatles covers, and were excellent on their harmonies and presentation. Their set list included ‘In My Life’, a song Nandu loved.

Also playing at both outings were 2Blue, vocalist of the band Zedde, singer Mihir Joshi, who also compered the shows, and Nandu’s daughter Amrita, who sang the Beatles hit ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. Those who performed at the Bombay Gym included singer Gary Lawyer (who did ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and ‘Mustang Sally’), vocal powerhouse Joe Alvares, keyboardist Louis Banks, drummer Gino Banks and bassist Sheldon D’Silva. Mehmood Curmally, who manages the Rhythm House music store, Prasad Salian, Anushka Jagtiani and Zameer Vahanvaty sang too.

Both shows were organised by the Bhende family, with Nandu’s wife Usha spearheading the preparations. A great job it was, and a perfect tribute to Nandu, who had attained fame in the 1970s playing Judas in Alyque Padamsee’s version of the stage rock opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. With a good dose of the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Eagles, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin, the music was a great throwback on the 1960s and 1970s. One must of course mention that the sound at Frog was much better.

After jazz and classic rock, it was the turn for some of Hollywood’s biggest hit songs the next morning. Organised by Samantha Edwards’ school Muzicworks at Bandra’s St Andrew’s auditorium, the show’s theme was ‘A Day At The Movies’. Students of the school, mostly teenagers, sang incredibly well, and many of them didn’t seem they were appearing in front of a large audience for the first time.

Some of the classics included ‘Edelweiss’ and ‘My Favourite Things’ from ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ from ‘Rocky III’, ‘Stayin’ Alive’ from ‘Saturday Night Fever’, the ‘Born Free’ title track, ‘Spice Up Your Life’ from ‘Spice World’, ‘Lady Marmalade’ from ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘I see you’ from ‘Avatar’.

Dale Edwards, Samantha’s husband, compered the show, and the back-up band included bassist Karl Peters, guitarist Sanjay Divecha, drummer Gino Banks and keyboardist Garth D’Mello. As for Samantha, she’s doing a remarkable job training youngsters in vocal music. There was loads of future talent at this show.

So there it was. Quite a musical weekend for those who love old or even relatively new English songs. One normally finds a lot of concerts featuring old Hindi film music over the weekends, but last Saturday and Sunday were special.

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Comments on: "A weekend of nostalgia" (2)

  1. Navin salian said:

    I agree with Naren,Mumbai may not have witnessed such a major musical tribute for Nandu. Hats off to his family and friends who made this possible and without hitches.

    Thumbs up to DEBASHISH Banerjee, AKA Babu, an original member of Nandus’s band
    ‘ VELVETTE FOG’ who was called in last minute to perform for the tribute at Blue Frog ,Mumbai .

    I would call this a sincere tribute as the last time Babu was on stage may have been somewhere in 1974′. To my surprise ,he really hit it with Eric Clapton , Tull covers.
    This also goes put to BASHIR Sheik the original promotor owner of the band ‘ The Savages’ which I see , that you have already mentioned.

    Rock on Nandu!!!!!

  2. Being present at one of the two tributes organised for Nandu Bhende, it was befitting that several musicians who had performed with him through the years were present and, of course, performed selections that Nandu had as part of his set list. More importantly, though, is to ensure that Nandu’s legacy is not forgotten as he was a musician from the past who remains present in spirit for the future of Indian rock.

    Meanwhile, the write-up on vocal music school MuzikWorks was welcome too as it went to prove that there exist not only professionals that drive music talent of students with passion [notably, promoters Samantha with her husband, Dale Edwards], but the annual event clearly reiterated that the bright future for Western singing in India just got brighter.

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