MySpace India launch party brought together 4 musical acts. Great or not, I’ll decide that a bit later in this post. The acts for the evening:- Them Clones from Delhi, Swarathma from Bangalore and The Raghu Dixit Project- also from Bangalore. The gig was organised as a launch party of MySpace India- yet another Social Networking website. And as I reached the venue (Soul, Koregaon Park, Pune), I realised that we were very late for the show. Them Clones had already started their set, and were almost nearing the end of their playlist. I had plans of slurping my favorite Chicken Classic Soup, but I couldn’t find any waiters. All I could see around me were people with their heads directed towards the stage. The crowd had some familiar faces- Bobby, bassist of Zero, P-Man, bassist of PDV and well, the other performing artistes. I came in late hoping Swarathma would open and well, Them Clones would be the second act, if not the closing act. But then it didn’t happen so.
Them Clones:- They were in the middle of their song (which I hadn’t heard before, and so couldn’t recognise). Surprisingly, they were doing an Unplugged-ish acoustic set, with the candles lit in the mini-glass chimneys et al. I had seen them before in the very first LaunchPad concert of Channel V, and for that matter I only one song of theirs- Bomb Song. Don’t know if they performed it or not. And so, I had this notion that these guys would be hard hitting rock. But it was a welcome change from the usual stuff we get to listen. Prithwish on the vocals and the Keyboards belted out one song after the other , which would remind you of a British romantic soundtrack. And I could definitely picture Julia Roberts running in her white bridal wear. :). That means it wasn’t bad. It was good. The song arrangements was perfect and the song felt complete. The two tracks on the Keyboard gave me a Coldplay-Goo Goo Dolls vibe bordering on the lines of (previously mentioned) Brit pop-rock arrangement which I love. It certainly made me feel happy. The next two tracks were very upbeat, catchy and Prithwish had left the Keyboards and had joined the Jumping League. I can only remember their final track- Syndrome -coz he made the audience remember the chorus lines. Joseph on the lead guitars gave an acoustic guitar solo. All I could want more on their tracks was prominent harmonies. Apart from that, the show-stealer was Nitin on the sound console. Perfect sound! Them Clones definitely nailed the four originals and had set the perfect tone for the night.
Up Next: Swarathma
P-Man came in with his speech of Fuck Bollywood, Fuck Bhangra and Fuck-they are bringing Bollywood to Cricket. And then, he announces the arrival of Swarathma.
Swarathma:- This band had made a conscious decision that everyone would be dressed completely different- no costume matching stuff. Bassist in red pathani, Violinist- dressed in a Jockey pants (as in those who ride horses) with a violet shirt to compliment. Best part, the Vocalist had put in a lot of work in raising his baby-ie the follicles on his head-his hair. It was a cross between the Moustache of Veerappan and an Afro on the head of any 70’s guy. All I needed was either a lighter or a match-stick to ruin his “mehnat”. I couldn’t stop thinking about his shampoo bills etc etc. Anyway, first song- Jaana Mujhe Hai Kaha- the vocals are very much on the verge of sounding similar to Rahman with a hint of Kailash Kher. But the lyrics are pretty ordinary.The music felt like pretty run-of-the-mill and just another addition to the “different” formula. The other songs that followed were equally forgettable. The only plus point being able to make the crowd sway to the supposed “folk” groove. There was only one thing good about this band. And that was Mr. Sanjeev Naik on the violin. The guy knew what he was doing , and boy did he do it right! Other than that, everything else from the lyrics to the music was pretty much like a College band set out to conquer the world music scene. This is at best average which poses to be different and dares to tread upon the territory ruled by the likes of “Indian Ocean” and Trilok Gurtu and Taufiq Qureshi. Far from even getting close.
P-Man comes again to the microphone. Some more swearing. This time a mention of the sponsors and self-publicity of the P-Man show on MySpace. And then, the P-Man “I have a dream” speech. The dream here meant of bringing Metal to the stage of Soul. Next up- as P-Man puts it, authentic North Eastern Sound from the guy in Manipur.
The audience anticipation had already risen to a zenith. Curiosity levels were already as high as Mr.Performer’s shortage of clothes. His junior had his glasses on, and was on the “tong tong” aka percussions.
Mr. Performer went first with his Flute Like Wind instrument. It sounded like someone was struggling tomake some sound, and we could hear two sounds from one blow. Whether it was meant to be so remains a mystery.And then he took out his Ektara-isque string instrument and sang to it in a local language. I couldn’t make out anything out of it, neither the lyrics nor the music. I could only imagine such music to be played as a background score in some Doordarshan late night documentary on the North-east India. The good thing is no one boo-ed the old man and his junior. Partly because there was an intense enigma surrounding his performance and people were all anxious about what was gonna happen next. All that surely boiled down to nothing, but it really takes guts to perform in front of a crowd with a song that no one can relate to, with your son by your side, and with instruments that sound as raw as nature itself. I can say Bravo for the attempt.
Next up- P-Man says- The Baap of all Fusion acts.The Raghu Dixit Project.
To me, I’d rather say, Raghu Dixit released his LP. By LP , I could mean a lot of things- Lower Parel, Lower Primary, or an LP record as in the Long Play Vinyl.You wish! Here it means – Lungi Project.
The official sponsors of this band seem to be the “tie n’ dye Lungi Company” from ‘I-donno-where”. Costumes aside, what pissed my friend Abhishek most was the sight of Raghu Dixit with his ghungroos tied to his feet. Did this make him look like a cross between a Bhaand and Umrao Jaan? Poll results in the comments section please. The entire band was in Lungi, but only the violinist seemed true to his element. This raised another question. What could be the disadvantages of wearing a Lungi on a stage performance? I can think of some really dirty ones which I’d rather not share. The advantages – umm…you look different, people might consider you as a bit of psychedelic gurus, especially firangs who get excited by the slightest Taste of India. Anyway, get the music playing, Soundcheck over. First track, Hey Bhagwaan. Yeah, the track being repeatedly played all over MTV. (Raghu Dixit even appeared on MTV Super Select in the same attire, the lungi and the ghungru. Shame Shame!) This track starts much like any other fusion-Indian rock song with the vocals and the acosutic guitars.And then, it picks up a reggae groove. I had just heard bits n pieces of the song on TV but really didn’t dig it then. And now I know why.Coz, I just don’t get it. The song is so much a wannabe. It wants to get included in the “different” genre that every move looks like a conscious attempt at being folksy and yet infusing elements of reggae. The groove is very much similar to “Mustafa Mustafa” by AR Rahman. And the vocals, if Simon Cowell would’ve to put it,it would be,” Raghu, that was on the verge of shouting and a very angry performance. It seemed you were screaming at times, and at best it is just a club performance. No one would buy your records. I just didn’t like it”. The crowd was definitely sucking on it, probably because of the MTV publicity etc. Second track begins, and I step out thinking of this band, which really managed to release an Album, get enough publicity and also shoot a video. What a Shame!
A band like Them Clones, who have such a polished sound and a very marked out sound, do not get their deserved adulation and record sales just because it is in English and stands opposite to other English international acts. The problem is that there are far too many bands who are as good if not better than Them Clones. The count of fusion bands seem to be restricted for sure, and these bands seem to bank upon it. I have no problem with it, only if the final product is not lame, wanna-be, and serves the purpose of bringing good music to the stage. Which is not the case here. But then, this gig was better than Wyclef Jean serving as the inaugarating act of Hard Rock Cafe, Pune. Pffft!!! WTF! So, if you still want the verdict on the show which I promised at the beginning of the show, I will say, NO IT WASN’T.