Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

Archive for January, 2016

The cream of Clapton


Mike Hall, the man behind the Classic Clapton tribute

RETRO is king. Exactly a week after the previously-reviewed Elvis Presley tribute by Garry J Foley at the Bandra Fort Amphitheatre, we had Mike Hall doing an Eric Clapton tribute.

This was on January 17, when the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana, Santa Cruz, was packed to capacity. Part of the MLA Ashish Shelar Neighbourhood Winter Festival, the event ‘Classic Clapton’ was coordinated by Dereyk Talker.

Guitarist-vocalist Clapton has had thousands of followers in India. After all, he has done some great work over the years, right from bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek & The Dominos, to almost four decades of solo work.

Well, why are we repeating what everyone knows? Let’s suffice it to say that Hall, who hails from Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, did a stupendous job. His guitarwork was first-rate throughout, and though his vocal timbre was slightly different from the legend’s, he had the crowd singing along.

Hall had come to Mumbai in 2009. But while that was at Bandra’s St Andrew’s Auditorium, the open-air environment of WCG gave a completely different feel. It was a half-seating, half-standing arrangement for a mixed crowd, with people of all ages. While the youngsters just listened to and admired the ongoings, the middle-aged and even older people sang along and danced.

The previous day, this blogger missed Hall’s performance at Phoenix Marketcity in Kurla. At WCG, after the opening act Rebecca Nazz, he came on and did a string of Clapton hits. One of his early numbers was JJ Cale’s ‘After Midnight’, which had the audience on their feet. Other gems included the brilliant ‘Lay Down Sally’, the Willie Dixon-penned and Muddy Waters-popularised ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (Clapton played guitar on that, uncredited on the original album) and the Freddie King classic ‘Hideaway’.

The Cream masterpiece ‘White Room’ was done perfectly, specially the famous wah-wah coda. On a more romantic note came ‘Wonderful Tonight’, which Clapton had written for ex-wife Pattie Boyd. Other electric numbers were Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ (which Clapton had covered) and the Cream version of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.

The show also had an unplugged set, including Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’, the acoustic version of ‘Layla’, and ‘Tears In Heaven’, which Hall dedicated to the late David Bowie – the song was originally written by Clapton for his four-year-old son Conor, who died after falling from the 53rd floor.

Extra-popular songs like JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ and the electric version of ‘Layla’ were kept for the latter part. All in all, the fans were thrilled by the fabulous selection, the quality of musicianship and the sheer liveliness of the show. For those who’ve had ‘blind faith’ in bluesbreaker Clapton, this was his ‘cream’.

See also


Three evenings of melody



WE had three days of music, featuring three different genres. From Friday, January 22, to Sunday, January 24, The Hindu group organised the ‘Mumbai for Chennai’ series to support Bhoomika Trust, which has been helping out in flood relief efforts in the Tamil Nadu capital. The event was presented by YES Bank and powered by Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund.

The venue was G5A, the new location on Shakti Mills Lane in Mahalaxmi. It was a very intimate set-up, with a natural, mic-less sound that only used a couple of Omnis. As such, the artistes could be heard at their purest.

On the opening evening, vocalist Aruna Sairam presented abhangs, and explained the link between Maharashtrian and Carnatic music. Day 2 had a north-south jugalbandi between ace flautists Ronu Majumdar and Shashank Subrahmanyam, and on the final night, singer Hariharan gave a ghazal recital.

The newspaper assigned this blogger to cover the three evenings. For those who missed the reports, the links of all three write-ups are pasted below.

Treat for ghazal lovers


FOR the third successive year, the Ghazal Bahaar festival was enjoyed by the genre’s followers in Mumbai. After the two-day festival in 2014, it was cut short to one day last year. This time, it returned in its two-day format, on January 15 and 16.

There was a change in venue too, as the fiesta moved from Rangsharda in Bandra to Veer Savarkar auditorium, Shivaji Park. The quality of music, of course, remained as good as it was in the earlier episodes, as the line-up was a mix of established and young artistes. The festival was held in aid of SBMS Vriddh Anand Ashram, a Pune-based old age home.

Both evenings had their highlights. Day One began with senior artiste Ghansham Vaswani, who rendered four ghazals, including the popular ‘Uske Dushman Hain Bahut, Aadmi Achha Hoga’. His daughter Shivani Vaswani presented two. The evergreen Chandan Das came on next with the brilliant ‘Khuda Ka Zikr Karein Ya Tumhari Baat Karein’ and followed it up with three more, including ‘Na Jee Bhar Ke Dekha’.

Other high points were Malini Awasthi’s rendition of Amir Khusro’s ‘Kaahi Ko Byaahi Bides’ and an Awadhi folk song, Jazim Sharma’s performance of the Ghulam Ali-popularised ‘Faasle’ and Sraboni Chaudhuri’s excellent presentation of Shakeel Badayuni’s ‘Mere Humnafas Mere Hum Humnawa’, immortalised by Begum Akhtar. Anup Jalota was next, and his set’s high points were ‘Tumhare Shahar Ka Mausam and ‘Chand Angdaaiyan Le Raha Hai’.

If anything, the opening night had a few limitations. To begin with, probably because it was Sankranti, one saw quite a few empty seats, and the overall attendance may have been around 70 per cent. Secondly, the time management went awry, as some singers took 35 or 45 minutes, while Jazim was restricted to two songs and Sraboni only one. One missed Aditya Saraswat, who was scheduled, as he was unwell. When there are many performers, it’s essential to ensure everyone gets a fair chance, and youngsters should in fact be encouraged even more.

Thankfully, the second night made up for these drawbacks. The attendance was much higher and the crowd enthusiasm even more. Even though the programme ended around 11.30 pm, the singers got good time. Pooja Gaitonde, down with w high temperature and hurt ankle, sang three numbers, including Faiyyaz Hashmi’s ‘Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo’, made famous by Farida Khanum. Anurag Sharma, who often enthralls with Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh compositions, did a new set, including pieces written by Farhat Shahzad and Shiv Kumar Batalvi.

Tauseef Akhtar impressed on ‘Yeh Rang Ashkon Ka’, ‘Ishq Karo’ and the Veer Savarkar-penned ‘Yeh Hindustan Mera’. Delhi-based Radhika Chopra was simply charming on ‘Deewana Banaana Hai Toh’ and ‘Yun Na Reh Reh Kar Humein Tarsaaiye’, whereas Ashok Khosla impressed on his evergreen ‘Ajnabi Shehar Ke Ajnabee Raaste’. Bhupinder and Mitali rendered film ghazals like ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’, ‘Beti Na Beetayi Raina’ and ‘Huzoor Is Kadar Se’.

For the grand finale, the participants got together and rendered the ‘Haqeeqat’ hit ‘Hoke Majboor’. One of its antaras was brilliantly sung by Bangalore-based Biju Nair, who had come as a guest. It was an emotional moment for both singers and the audience.

All in all, it was a two-day treat. One wishes there are more festivals like this one and Khazana, spearheaded by Pankaj Udhas at the Trident hotel In July. Compared to Hindustani classical and film music-based shows, the number of ghazal events is very low. Hopefully, Khazana and Ghazal Bahaar may inspire more organisers to enter the fray.

A date with Elvis


Garry J Foley poses with fans after the show

BLUE suede shoes made way for white leather ones. The bell-bottoms were straight out of the swinging sixties, and the thick designer belt was a retro fashion statement. The hairstyle, face cut, gait and, body language were the same. The smile was worth a million dollars, the dancing phenomenal and the voice a marvelous photocopy.

How on earth did Elvis Presley land up at the Bandra Fort Amphitheatre on Sunday night? I mean, didn’t he die some 38 years ago? Obviously, something was fishy.

Ladies and gents, shake hands with Garry J Foley, award-winning Elvis impersonator who gave Mumbai one of its most memorable evenings in recent memory. We have all seen tribute bands, playing music of the Beatles, Eagles, ABBA and Cliff Richard, but the Elvis show was the closest one could get to the King. We rocked, we rolled and we reeled.

Garry came from Las Vegas, with a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer. And from the moment he walked on stage around 730 pm till he finished around 945 pm – a very long break excluded – he just stunned the audience. The men were zapped, the women went ga-ga, and the kids wondered what their current generation might be missing.

As expected, Garry played a mix of rock ‘n’ roll and ballads, with some blues and standards thrown in. An outstanding performance with an-extra-tight backing band, but before we mention what all he played, one serious objection. How could he dare skip ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ – two songs that everyone loves, fan or not?

Yes, the other hits kept flowing. ‘It’s Now Or Never’ was one of the early choices, followed by a brilliant medley of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘All Shook Up’. Versions of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Proud Mary’, Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and the Righteous Brothers’ ‘You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ were done to perfection. So were old rock n’ roll classics like Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’ and Carl Perkins’ ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.

For blueshounds, it was ‘Steamroller Blues’. For the romantic types, he had ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ and ‘Always On My Mind’. And for those who wanted vintage Elvis, there were ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. But the two highlights were ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’, done with supreme charm. There were many gooseflesh moments, but these two numbers topped them all.

There was plenty of showmanship too. Often, Garry walked up the steps of the amphitheatre to shake hands with the audience and even kiss their fingers. At times, he called them in front and exchanged the mic, or just joined them in a dance step or two. He would often address the crowd with ‘Ladies and Gents’, and move the same way as Elvis did.

There were emotional moments too, as two minutes of silence was observed in memory of Ramesh Walunj, who lost his life last week trying to save three girls from drowning at Bandstand. A token contribution for his family was also collected from the audience.

The show was part of the MLA Ashish Shelar Neighbourhood Winter Festival, and was coordinated and compered by Dereyk Talker. On January 17, as part of the series, the Classic Clapton tribute gig will feature Mike Hall at the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana. It promises to be a second super-Sunday in a row, though it doesn’t seem like we will get over Mr Elvis Foley so easily.

Memories of PG Burde


Prakash G Burde outside Karnataka Sangha, Mahim

AGES ago, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Mumbai edition of The Times of India had an arts page. Published four times a week, it was headed by arts editor Shanta Gokhale, and would cover serious topics related to art, music, dance, literature, theatre and even (extra-)parallel cinema. I did a six-month stint there from March to September 1989, on deputation as my main employer Times Jaipur was on a labour shutdown. That’s when I first met Prakash G Burde.

Bespectacled, avuncular and friendly, Burde was one of the three Hindustani classical music critics who regularly wrote for the page – the others being Mohan Nadkarni and Batuk Dewanji. My memory fails to recall who contributed on Carnatic concerts, but they were far fewer in number (*see note). Likewise, western classical was covered by Sheryar Ookerji and Parag Trivedi, but the pages didn’t touch jazz.

All reviewers would come separately, with typewritten copies of concert reviews pre-assigned by Shanta, who would later edit them slightly, if necessary. My job was to coordinate with the typesetting team, compare printed white strips called bromides with originals, read for spelling and grammar accuracy, and supervise page-making. No rocket science, it seemed like a mechanical job. But it was an education in many ways, as these bromides gave me an idea of how reviews and culture-related features should be written.

Memories of these interactions have been flashing by since yesterday morning, when I heard of Burde’s demise at the age of 77. While my own connection with him goes back to his days as an established critic, when I was a senior sub-editor who never dared write an article on classical music, many Mumbaikars also knew him for his close association with the Kala Bharti wing of Karnataka Sangha, Mahim. Thanks to his efforts, a cultural event – mainly a classical concert – would be held at the venue every Sunday morning. Very often, he would invite upcoming and lesser-known artistes, thus giving them a good platform in front of a small but discerning audience.

After those 1989 interactions, I met Burde only after 1995 when I started handling the music beat for Mid-Day. Many critics and music journalists would get invitations for classical concerts, and often, all of them had to sit in the same row. I was one of the two or three younger people, sitting with seasoned critics like Nadkarni, Burde, Dewanji, Madanlal Vyas of Navbharat Times, Sumit Savur of Indian Express, and freelance reviewers Amarendra Dhaneshwar and Vasant Karnad (Girish’s elder brother). The great musicologist Ashok Da Ranade, researcher and critic Deepak Raja, multi-cultural columnist Shanta Gokhale and hardcore music buffs like Kishor Merchant would be at other corners. Post-concert, everyone would express their opinion, respecting each other’s views.

Often, specially when I was new to covering classical music, I would have a doubt in terms of the artiste’s gharana or guru’s name, or would sometimes head to interview a musician I wasn’t familiar with. I just had to ring up Burde, and my queries would be answered immediately. There were others I contacted in case I couldn’t reach him, but he was always the first choice. I specially remember calling him before meeting the great vocalist Pandit Manikbua Thakurdas. I had zero information on him, but in a 10-minute chat, Burde told me all I needed to know about his style which represented Bhaskarbuva Bakhle gayaki.

Another meeting ground was the monthly Music Forum gathering initiated by sitar player and businessman Pt Arvind Parikh, where musicians, concert organisers, radio and TV personalities and critics would discuss various happenings in classical music, plan seminars, highlight problems faced by artistes, so on and so forth. Here too, Burde would express his views frankly and fearlessly, whether or not they went with the general consensus.

Burde displayed a complete passion for not only music, but many other things cultural and literary, right from dance to theatre to languages. His last stint as president of Karnataka Sangha, Mumbai, led to many functions that helped the local Kannadiga community interact. And it wasn’t only Hindustani music that he was involved in, as he would promote Carnatic music, Marathi natya sangeet and abhang, and theatre from various states too.

Till a few months ago, I would meet Burde at the Karnataka Sangha concerts, and his smile and warmth displayed no variance from the past. Most often, he would introduce the artiste and announce future programmes. The last time I visited the place on December 13, I asked one of the regulars his whereabouts, to be told he had been unwell.

As a critic, Burde represented the golden era of Hindustani music writing, when most concerts were reviewed in detail, and not just previewed, as is the current norm. Both as a writer and a promoter, he played a commendable role. His death marks a huge loss to Mumbai’s music fraternity.

(* Note: Mr Burde’s daughter Aparna, whose comment has been published below, reminds me that the Carnatic music writers were Mr Hariharan and Rajan Sadasivan. I now recollect their names. Thanks Aparna)

Let’s play Panchamakshari


RAHUL and Dev have been named for obvious reasons. Their fathers have been the best of friends, and both grew up on Rahul Dev Burman. The age gap between the two is five months, with Rahul being elder. And both of them have been fans of Pancham, or RD, since childhood.

Now in their early 30s, Rahul and Dev stay in different corners of Mumbai. Yet, they meet at least twice a year – on June 27, RD’s birthday, and January 4, his death anniversary. Each time, they choose a different theme, and play those songs on the music system. On his birthday last year, they tripped on RD’s songs with lyricist Anand Bakshi. In the session before that, they covered his songs with Kishore.

This year, on RD’s death anniversary today, they wonder what to do. They meet at Dev’s place in Belapur, Navi Mumbai. Rahul had a business appointment in Vashi, but has to leave early to catch a flight. Since time is limited, Dev suggests a quick antakshri of a maximum of 20 songs, preferably only the first line or mukhda. As all antakshris begin with the letter ‘M’, he asks Rahul to begin. This is how it goes:

Rahul: One of my favourites from Kishore. Mere naina saaawan bhaadon, phir bhi mera man pyaasa, phir bhi mera man pyaasa. Dev, start with ‘S’.

Dev: Saagar kinaare, dil yeh pukaare, tu jo nahin hai mera, koi nahin hai.. Aah, Dimple looked gorgeous. But I am Rishi, and you are Kamal. The letter ‘H’.

Rahul (playing an air guitar): Humne tumko dekha, tumne humko dekha, kaise? Hum tum sanam, saaton janam, milte rahenge, aise. ‘S’ again’

Dev (clears throat to sound like four people singing together): Saare ke saare ga ma ko lekar gaate chale, saare ke saare ga ma ko lekar gaate chale… (hums dhi-jhi-jhin-jhin-jhi-jhin jhin for the music).. Sing with ‘L’

Rahul: I loved the Yaadon Ki Baaraat music. (Begins dancing) Lekar hum deewana dil, phirte hain manzil manzil, kahin toh pyaare, kisi kinare, mil jaao tum andhere ujale, ta-ra-tar lekar hum. Start with ‘M’

Dev: Remember Jalal Agha and Helen? (clears throat to deepen his voice) Mehbooba mehbooba, mehbooba mehbooba, ooo-oooo, gulshan mein phool khilte hain, jab sehra mein milte hain, mein ur tu. Of course, the song was lifted from Demis Roussos’ ‘Say you love me’. (Sings that too to prove it) Your chance ‘T’, from ‘tu’

Rahul (showing his mastery over an imaginary sitar): Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahin, shikwa nahin, shikwa nahin, tere bina zindagi bhi lekin, zindagi toh nahin, zindagi nahin, zindagi nahin.. It’s ‘nahin’. So take either ‘H’ or ‘N’.

Dev: Humein tumse pyaar kitna, yeh hum nahin jaante, magar jee nahin sakte tumhare bina-a-a, yeh dil beqarar kita yeh hum nahin jaante, magar jee nahin sakte tumhare bina… Tumhein koi aur dekhe… I wish I could sing the whole song, but take ‘N’ for ‘tumhare bina’

Rahul: Nadiya se dariya, ta-tang, ta-tang, Dariya se saagar, doo-do-doo-do, saagar se gehra jaam, oh ho ho jaa-aam mein doo-oob gayee hai yaaron jeevan ki har shaam.. ‘M’ for you, Dev. (Still humming ‘Kisiko daulat ka nasha..’)

Dev: Mere saamne waali khidki mein ek chaand ka tukda rehta hai, afsos yeh hai ko woh humse kuch ukhda ukhda rehta hai.. Your turn for ‘H’.

Rahul: Hum donon do premee duniya chhod chale, jeevan ki hum saari rasmein tod chale, babul ki aaye mohe yaad, jaane kya ho ab uske baad… Too much ‘H’ and M’ so far. Try ‘D’.

Dev: (Continuing with ‘jhumna jhumna’ from the previous song and mimicking a train whistle) Stop dreaming of Zeenat, Rahul. You’re my friend, na? Diye jalte hain, phool khilte hain, badi mushkil se magar, duniya mein dost milte hain, aahaha, diye jalte hain.. There we go again.. ‘H’ or N’.

Rahul: Huzoor is kadar bhi na itaraate chaliye, khule aam aanchal na lehraa ke chaliye.. ‘Y’ for you

Dev: This song was written for the two of us, so sing it with me. I Kishore, you Manna De.. for me, always easier to sing Kishore than Manna. Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge, todenge dum magar, tera saath na chhodenge.. (Produces mouth organ sound) Sing in ‘G’. The letter, not the key

Rahul: You get all the dosti songs. I get the Rekha songs. Ghum ho kisike pyaar mein, dil subah shaa-aa-am, par tumhe nahin likh paaon, mein uska naam, haay Ram, haay Ram… too-roo-doo, too-roo-doo.. ‘M’

Dev: A classic. (clearing his voice to sound like Asha Bhosle) Mera kucch saaman tumhare paas pada hai, o o saawan ke kuch bheege bheege din rakhe hain, aur ek khat mein ik liptee raat padee hai, woh raat bhula do, mera kuch saamaan lauta do. Under one lonely umbrella, when we were getting half-half wet, half-wet, half-dry, I had got the dryness to you. Start with ‘D’. Four songs to go.

Rahul: I will sing, but can you explain the meaning of the Ijaazat song first? That ‘Ek akeli chhatri mein’ line you just translated. Apparently, even RD didn’t know what it meant when he composed it. Ha ha, or even the one I am about to sing with ‘D’. Anyway, here goes.. Do naina aur ek kahaani, thoda sa baadal, thoda sa paani, aur ek kahaani. ‘N’ for you

Dev: Ni sultana re, pyaar ka mausam aaya. Bolo na bolo mukh se gori chudee tumhaar bole, Yahee batiya sun sunke jeeya mora dole, o ni sultana re.. But I prefer ‘Tum bin jaaon kahan’ from this film. For the last round, you have ‘R’

Rahul (pretending to ride a motorcycle): Rote huye aate hain sab, hanstaa hua jo jaayega, woh muqaddar ka sikandar

Dev: Stop cheating. That’s Kalyanji-Anandji, not Pancham

Rahul: (trying to cover up the fact that he had goofed up). Hahaha. Was just testing your alertness. Roz roz ankhon tale, ek hi sapna chale, raat bhar kaajal jale, aankh mein, jis tarah khwaab ka diya jale-e-e-e, Roz roz ankhon tale.. Yup final song,.. In ‘L’

Dev (clears throat to make his voice sound childlike): Lakdi ki kaathi, kaathi pe ghoda, ghode ki doomb pe maara hathoda, dauda dauda dauda ghoda doomb utha ke dauda. Hurrrr! Wow! What a game we played..

The game over, another round of tea is ordered. The two friends continue talking.

Rahul: What a time we had. And guess what! Main bach gaya. If you had sung ‘Lakdi ki kaathi’ earlier, you’d have asked me to sing in ‘Da’. And the only two songs I know in ‘Da’ are ‘Dum dum diga diga’ by Kalyanji-Anandji and ‘Dafli waale’ by Laxmikant Pyarelal.

Dev: I wouldn’t even remember those. But know what? Most music directors composed tunes using the ‘da-da-dee-da’ style. So I would sing ‘Da da dee da, dee dee da da, dada dee dee dee dee daa dey’ to the tune of ‘Panna ki tamanna hai ke Heera mujhe mil jaaye’

Rahul: Heera toh pehle hi kisi aur ka ho chukka, kisiki madbharee aankhon mein kho chuka…

Dev: Yaadon ki dastoor, ban chuka dil ka phoo-oo-ool.. (Banging the table like bongos).. Da da dee da, dee dee da da, dada dee dee dee dee daa dey

Rahul: Dee dee daa dee, de de de da… But lots of letters never came. I was waiting for ‘O’ to sing ‘O mere dil ke chain’, ‘O meri soni meri tamanna’, ‘O hansini’ and ‘O Maria’

Dev: I wanted ‘K’. ‘Kuch toh log kahenge’, ‘Kiska raasta dekhe’, ‘Karwate badalte rahein’, ‘Khulam khula pyaar karenge’, ‘Katra katra’

Rahul: You got ‘M’ so many times. Was worried you would sing ‘Main shaayar badnaam’. I adore the song, but when you sing it, you just don’t stop.

Dev: Aaah, I remember it only after a few drinks down. (Clearing his throat to get the Kishore pathos timbre) Rasta rok rahi hai, thodi jaan hai baaki, jaane toote dil mein, kya armaan…

Rahul: Okay, okay, okay, Got it. Ab tumko mera salaam. Main chala, main chala. We covered quite a bit. Time to leave for the airport. See you on June 27.

Dev: Yes see you. Have a great trip. You have a long drive. Hope you have some good music to play.

Rahul: Don’t worry. Stay online. We shall continue our Panchamakshari on WhatsApp. Today we can do anything with our mobile phones. Why not do something constructive for Pancham-da?

Dev: Hahaha: Jai Pancham… Let’s continue with the game. But instead of starting with ‘Ma’, let’s start with ‘Pa’. ‘Pa’ for Pancham. Don’t start with ‘Panna ki tamanna’.. we just sang that. And please don’t cheat using Google! Bye!

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