On your marks, get set…
I was heading to the EA grounds in Royapettah for the final day of the Chennai Global Music Festival. While my iPod played RATM’s Bulls on Parade (its ironic I was listening to the song while men in Madurai were readily getting themselves mauled in Jallikattu at about the same time), I could hear the crunching Drop D riff being played as I approached the venue…
Up on stage were the boys from Chennai – Null Friction. Playing after a gap of two years, these hardrockers have improved leaps and bounds since I last saw them. The guitar tones were better while bass and drums locked in-sync. As a 3 piece band, each member has his own sonic space. Alas, I was late and I watched just one song by them.
Next up on stage were Groove #3; they sure did live up to their name (no, that does NOT mean ‘third class,’ quite the contrary!). Fronted by the man with many hats (literally and metaphorically) Benny Dayal, the band played an all-cover set including a funk version of Bob Marley’s timeless classic Redemption Song. Some of the other artists they covered were Louis Armstrong, Jamiroquai and Stevie Wonder. The drums and percussion created deep groove pockets. Keyboards and guitars filled these groove pockets with amazing melodies. Benny’s soaring vocals and the occasional jig ensured the audience nod their heads all the way through.
Groove #3 gave way to Living Colour from Hyderabad. They were an amalgamation of Hindustani and Carnatic styles of music. Armed with an assortment of flutes, the flautist covered the Carnatic style while the sitar brought out the Hindustani elements. The jugalbandi was ably backed by tabla and kanjira. An interesting aspect of their performance was the keyboard player with his subtle use of bass lines akin to Ray Manzarek from The Doors.
The colossal stage had 2 sets of equipment including amps and a drum kit. This arrangement may have been made to save time, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. The folks behind the sound systems had a horrid day.
Mesparrow took a while to set up on stage. In the meantime, I decided to greet some of the known faces in the audience and grab a quick bite. After what seemed to be an eternity, Mesparrow took the stage. It was a one-girl-band from France and she was equipped with everything – a bright red Korg keyboard,–a trumpet, beat-boxing mics and choir. With judicious use of the loop machine, she mesmerized the audience with her hauntingly beautiful voice. There were quite a few French people among the audience cheering her.
And another lap begins:
Joint Family Orchestra featuring Paul Jacob and Mukhtiyar Ali started off with the track Migration. Hailing from the deserts of Thar, Mukhtiyar Ali’s voice is something that can only be experienced. Donan Murray’s subtle use of the flanger effect on the guitar along with the thundering dholak and tabla, it was a stunning performance. I caught up with Mukhtiyar Ali after their performance. Nonchalant and unassuming, he gave me an insight into the difference between Rajasthani folk music and the dying art of Sufiana Qalam. Amidst the globalization and economic hardships as a folk singer, he continues to do
what he does best.
Bud McMUFFIN, a solo artist from France played some blues as the lights on stage came on. He sings, strums the guitar, plays the bass drum with his left foot and snare with his right foot – all at once! It was certainly overwhelming to watch one guy to do all this. His snare seemed off time and soon he told the audience he was having trouble with the pedal. My favorite track was Strong.
Next up on stage on was Ghatam Umashankar along with Gino Banks and troupe. What ensued was a power packed performance by all the members of the band. The crowd went wild upon witnessing a bass solo by the legendary Keith Peters, followed by the duet between Gino Banks on drums and Umashankar on Ghatam. From Dappankuthu to Jazz and all the genres in between, they covered everything.
The final lap:
The most anticipated act of the evening, Indus Creed arrived on stage next. They enthralled the crowd with a sonic wall. With an album out next month, most of the songs they played were from their upcoming album. My favorite tracks from the setlist were Fireflies and Bulletproof. For a band with members in their 40’s, their energy on stage was infectious.
Indus Creed gave way to El Manos, a jazz band from France. Their extended play on the track It’s Life with solos from the saxophone and guitars were the best part. By now, the crowd had dwindled to a handful.
The last performance on stage was that of Ranjit Barot along with Selvaganesh. What had promised to be headlining act of the festival turned out to be a total dampener. The policemen asked the organizers to pull the plug as it was past 10 PM (bah! Chennai is such a humbug at times!). The band was visibly quite upset and rightly so. Urged by the few remaining loyal audience, they agreed to jam for about 5 minutes. On electric bass was the 15 year old Mohini Dey. This girl, no taller than the electric bass, was playing jazz licks as if it were child’s play. The influence of Jaco Pastorius was evident in her style of playing.
Personally, the event was not marketed at all, as the turnout was abysmal. Barring a few photographers and journalists, the audience was made up primarily of friends and family of the artists playing. Sadly but truly, THIS was the inaugural version of Chennai Global Music Festival. Mike, behind the sound console, had a rough day with diverse artists and varied sound requirements Nonetheless, he took his time and ensured the sound from the PA’s was world class.
The venue reminded me of Ground Zero except this place still had leveled debris. With a coastline of close to 80 kms, I wonder if the organizers can organize the next music festival on a beach?! I’m hopeful that in the coming years the crowd numbers would increase and we would get other renowned international acts to play for us in Chennai.
Photo Credits: PRAVEEN SR
More of his AWESOME work here!
ALSO, catch more photos from the 2012 edition of The Chennai Global Music Festival HERE!