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Gig Review :: Hipnotribe :: Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai, 5th January 2012

Why would they call themselves Hipnotribe, you ask yourself, as you look up at some regular bushy-haired dudes getting their amps in order up on the bandstand, ready to play you some music.

But there is meaning implicit in most things in life, intended or not. As Paresh Kamath slung his guitar and took the mic, and the lights dimmed, it seemed like the start of hypnosis alright. Or it could’ve been all that we’d been drinking.

It was a Thursday evening, so the laidback – seated in booths, more like – atmosphere that pervaded Hard Rock Café seemed to behove the time of the week. First up was a solemn tribute paid by Paresh Kamath to Amit Saigal, founder and editor of Rock Street Journal, who had drowned off the Goan coast recently.

Tickle My Soul

The solemnity was swept away as the band kicked off with a titillating, funky composition that rolled and shook. It laid down the theme for the evening, one when the confines of Hard Rock seemed far more soothing than the chilly January night.

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A large part of the awe was down to the vortex of aural psychedellia created by the flutes and the violin, which we just loved instantly. Not to mention, the elaborate rhythm section, led by Naresh Kamath on bass, along with Sanket Naik on percussions (well, a lot more really), who were really all a melody could possibly need.

The daze got thicker as Paresh Kamath launched into an upbeat instrumental right after that sounded like Mark Knopfler gone wild in Mo’town. A lot of it was about Paresh thumbing and fingering his fret like the legend, and then have the rest just cocoon his artistry in a reverberating shell of morphed basslines and succinct rhythm.

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Dark And Delicious

Oh yeah! said we, but we said it too soon, because some guitar wheezing later, it got Dark And Delicious. It doesn’t really matter if you haven’t heard it before – and I trust a lot of those gathered there probably hadn’t – because this song is irresistible. It was irresistible when they made a music video of it, and it was irresistible when this song distended above the pedestal they performed on, and became the essence of the evening.

I hadn’t heard the song before, but it wasn’t hard to remember and recall the rhythm and the scales. Lesser bands might’ve been overwhelmed by such an awesome creation, but the rest of Hipnotribe’s set list was good enough to hold eyeballs and ears, once they’d been turned their way.

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Their innate sense of timing also revealed itself, as the band followed it up with a groovy, quasi-punk number, that rendered the foot tapping that had begun with Dark And Delicious an all out jive. Paresh Kamath belied his mild mannerisms off stage, being as raucous and throaty while grappling with wicked guitar notes on his Stratocaster.

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There was a custom-made Jim Beam guitar on offer to the most enthusiastic hotstepper in the house that night, and while the music was absolutely top notch, the crowd never took the bait – except for this foreign lady and her artist-fiance, who salsa-ed while the band broadcast relentless hooks from up there in the clouds of Hard Rock Café Mumbai.

The White Guy Named Tyagaraja

It’s weirdly exciting when you believe it can’t get better, but it does. So while we’d worked through our Kingifisher in chilled bottles and reconciled to having only the little interaction with the band left to look forward to, up stepped Tyagaraja. “He’s a Tyagaraja, but he doesn’t look like a Tyagaraja”, was Paresh Kamath’s introduction to the phenomenon, who, incidentally, just happened to be from Austin, Texas.

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No, it wasn’t the beer, and we didn’t fall prey to mix-ups. Tyagaraja played to the gallery, while he eloquently fronted the band for two songs, and also while responding to our salivating need to cop some hidden truth about him. “My real name is John, but I think I have India in my blood”, we were told by the man behind the tikka. All this was more believable than the fact that his little gig with the band had come about after only a cursory introduction and a week’s practice later.

There was a John Butler-esque air to Tyagaraja, especially in the way the percussive element in his singing and guitaring only augmented his music, without swallowing up the melody. And for a band with these many accompaniments, the set piece seem wound so tight, it almost seemed like there hadn’t been a single incorrect flick of the finger throughout.

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When We Were Fans

The perfectionism remained through, long after we’d been drunk with it – even with the encore that Paresh Kamath consented to with a smile, because of the sheer fervour of the demand forwarded by an inebriated fan. He didn’t look tired; none of them did. Almost all their hairs were as frizzed out as when they got together for soundcheck, and the tautness of the smiles all around was almost as if they’d just returned from the most refreshing little drive.

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Naresh Kamath, the younger of the Kamath brothers, and bassist for Hipnotribe, took time out after the gig to explain their musical philosophies, attributing their belief to the years they’d spent as a part of Kailasa. “We just thought that if we had independent ideas, we should put them out there”. And aren’t we glad they did?!

So entranced we were that we subconsciously followed the band out of Hard Rock Cafe, where, out by the entrance, we had the chance to finally shake hands in continuation and shoot our residual video clips. Everybody looked relaxed, inviting conversations and jokes about the teetotalling nightmare they’ll be encountering at the band’s next gig in Ahmedabad (bless the Gujjus), smiling and planning their return home on a night when everything seems far away except for joy and contentment.

Special Thanks: Reetu @ Avian-Media

Video Credits: Squyd

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