Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

Archive for the ‘Concerts in Mumbai’ Category

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.


A weekend of nostalgia


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.

Back to the blog


Upcoming talent: Sushant Divgikar

FOR those wondering why I hadn’t posted a new blog in the past two months, the reason was: acute spondylitis. Of course, I had other writing commitments for Rolling Stone magazine, Mid-Day, Hindustan Times and Absolute India newspapers, which I fulfilled. But typing was a bit painful, and I avoided it wherever I could – namely, writing blogs.

During the on-and-off break from work, there were times when I just couldn’t make it for concerts. Over the past three months or so, I missed the Alan Parsons show, the February season of the Symphony Orchestra of India, flautist Rajeev Raja’s gig at Blue Frog, the Ronu Majumdar-Rekha Bhardwaj show at Nehru Centre and Nandu Bhende’s Beatles tribute at D’Bell, Lower Parel. The last miss will be a regret forever as Nandu, a dear friend, passed away on April 11.

There were some shows that I managed to attend, despite some level of physical discomfort. In late January, I caught Rakesh Chaurasia & Friends at the Fine Arts Society, Chembur. Featuring Rakesh on flute, Gino Banks on drums, Sheldon D’Silva on bass, Sangeet Haldipur on keyboards, Satyajeet Talwakar on tabla and Sanjoy Das on guitar, the group played some good, classical-based fusion.

Next was the Abbaji Barsi at the Shanmukhananda Hall on February 3, held every year to mark the death anniversary of tabla great Ustad Allarakha. As usual, Zaklr Hussain spearheaded the show. Violinist N Rajam’s rendition of Ahir Bhairav and Carnatic vocalist Abhishek Raghuram were the highlights of the morning session. The afternoon had its share of solo percussion recitals, and the evening had a jam session with Zakir, drummer Lil John Roberts, members of the Gipsy Kings and an array of Indian musicians.

On February 4, the country outfit Bellamy Brothers played at the Willingdon Catholic Club, Santa Cruz. The show has been earlier reviewed on this blog.

Mid-February, and the Mahindra Blues Festival comes to town. This year’s highlights at the Mehboob Studio, Bandra, were the outstanding guitarist Derek Trucks, who played with wife Susan Tedeschi and special guest Doyle Bramhall II. The second day witnessed the well-known Jimmie Ray Vaughan, brother of the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan. Another performance worth mentioning was Shillong band Soulmate, clearly the best Indian blues band around.

In early April, one had the pleasure of seeing the amazing jazz guitarist John McLaughlin with his band 4th dimension, featuring keyboardist Gary Husband, bassist Etienne M’bappe and drummer Ranjit Barot. The show at Bandra’s St Andrew’s auditorium was memorable, as what they played was tight, energetic jazz-rock.

The following day at St Andrew’s, one attended a pop show with a difference. What’s special about Mumbai-based Sushant Divgikar is that he sings falsetto, in a female voice. Thus, he sang hits by Adele, Beyonce and Barbra Streisand with effortless ease, hitting the high notes perfectly.

On the Titanic song ‘My heart will go on’, he was joined by Auxilla. Popular singer Rekha Bhardwaj made a guest appearance on the 7 Khoon Maaf song ‘Darling’. The winner of many karaoke contests, Sushant is a bundle of talent. A voice to watch.

That, then, was a quick summary of shows attended in the past two months. One, of course, missed many classical concerts, and some fusion shows. Hopefully something brilliant will come up over the next few weeks.

Concert time in Mumbai

AMONG all the Indian cities, Mumbai probably has the most happening concert scene, specially between October and March. Yes, Bangalore is better known for hosting the bigger rock acts, Chennai has a wonderful season of Carnatic music (the south Indian classical form), Delhi produces some of the best bands from the country, and Kolkata attracts the more serious listeners. But talk of Mumbai, and during this period of the year, it boasts of the largest chunk of Hindustani classical, film music, western classical and jazz shows.

Returning to Mumbai after a five-month work stint in Bangalore, I must consider myself lucky to have come here at the beginning of what promises to be another exciting music season. In the space of barely a week, I attended three fantastic concerts—two in the Indo-jazz fusion space, and one in the ghazal genre. And the actual Hindustani classical season is just about to begin, with the well-known Gunidas Sangeet Sammelan scheduled next week, and tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain commencing his annual back-to-back Indian schedule soon.

The first of these concerts, held at the Shanmukhananda Hall, Sion, on November 17, was titled ‘Beats & Winds’. It was the debut venture of Madhyam Entertainment, an event management company floated by an old friend Vaibhav Patil, a well-known name in public relations. The line-up was spectacular – Trilok Gurtu on drums, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on Mohan Veena (an Indianised version of the slide guitar), Ronu Majumdar on Indian bamboo flute, George Brooks on saxophone, Roopkumar Rathod on vocals, Atul Raninga on keyboards and Vijay Chavan on dholki, an Indian percussion instrument. Keeping that in mind, the concert should have been titled ‘Beats, Winds, Strings, Keys & Voice’!

Strangely, it was marketed as a ‘unique classical music concert’. In truth, it wasn’t classical in the real sense, but a good, high-energy amalgam of Indian classical, jazz, world music, folk and Sufiana music. Some brilliant performances by all the musicians made it memorable.

Concert Number 2 was a private gathering, held at Ajivasan hall in Juhu on November 20 in memory of the great ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, who passed away on October 10. Featuring singers Ghansham Vaswani and Tauseef Akhtar, it propelled the audience into nostalgia mode, with renditions of popular songs like ‘Baat Niklegi To Phir’, ‘Sarakhti Jaaye Rukh Se Naqab’, ‘Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar’, ‘Woh Kaagiz Ki Kashti’ and ‘Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi’.

Finally, there was a brilliant show by BuJazzO—short for the German group Bundesjazzorchester— which collaborated with Carnatic singer Rama Mani, and percussionists TAS Mani, Ramesh Shotham and Karthik Mani at the St Andrew’s auditorium, Bandra, on November 23. Conducted by Mike Herting, it was a unique mix of large ensemble jazz, Carnatic music and vocal choruses, with some amazing rearrangements of compositions by Charlie Mariano and Louis Banks.

There was, of course, a lot more happening over the past week, mainly in the suburb of Bandra which is hosting some wonderful open-air concerts as part of the Bandra festival. Missed attending them, but am sure there will be so much more over the next few weeks.

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