Monthly Archives: June 2011

Brothers weave Mysore magic in city

Classical music lovers of Guwahati were in for a treat earlier this week. The reason was a violin recital by the acclaimed Mysore Brothers which was held in the auditorium of the Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture at Uzanbazar. Organized by the Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture amongst the Youth (SPICMACAY), this was one of the rare instances where music lovers got to enjoy a Carnatic classical music performance in the city.

The Mysore Brothers is made up of the amazingly gifted brothers Mysore Nagaraj and Dr. Manjunath, who are both regarded as violin maestros in the annals of Carnatic Classical Music. Making a formidable violin duet team, the brothers have created an unrivalled reputation as star performers in prestigious organizations the world over. Their performances feature an extraordinary range of musical expressions from the deepest meditations to astonishing virtuosity with outstanding artistic imagination. As critics admit, their concerts are filled with peace, tranquillity and exhilaration – the result of superb fingering and bowing techniques that create breathtakingly beautiful melodies. Their award list runs long and the same includes prestigious commemorations and titles like the prestigious Rajyothsav Award by the Government of Karnataka, Excellence award from American Institute of World culture, honors from the American Arts council, Sangeetha Samrat, Sangeetha Rathna, Ganakalashree, Sathyashri, Aryabhata honors, Meritorious Award from University of Oklahoma-USA etc.

In their performance in Guwahati last Tuesday, the brothers were accompanied by another virtuoso musician Arjun Kumar – one of the most respected Mridangam players of the world today. The group was accompanied by S Manjunath on the Ghatam – the musical clay pot that is used as a percussion instrument in Southern India.

The performance that evening began with the rendition of the somewhat Raag Bukhari, which exemplified the technical mastery of the brothers over their instrument as also their intellectual sophistication and strict adherence to classicism. This was then followed by a marching tone played on the western scale of A Major which the brothers have titled ‘The English Note’.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the jugalbandi between the violinists and Arjun Kumar which can, at best, be described as a thrilling compendium of virtuosic technical mastery by the musicians over their instruments. With Arjun Kumar’s fine aesthetics and precision in creating unabated rhythm patterns through his Mridangam and the focused demeanour of Mysore Nagaraj and Dr Manjunath – both of whom are amazingly rich in imagination and virtuosity, the group ensured that the small gathering was kept spellbound throughout.

The initiative of Spicmacay to organize the evening in association with the Vivekananda Institute of Culture is really commendable. For many of today’s youth who are slowly being weaned away from the diverse culture of our country, the organization has been playing a stellar role. I personally remember the musical performances organized at the behest of this organization while we were in school. SPICMACAY coordinator Maushumi Barooah, who was also present that evening, said, “The performance of Mysore Brothers was organized basically to introduce the students and youth of the city to the rich world of Carnatic classical music.”

Even last Tuesday, for many of today’s present generation it was an amazing sight to see the ghatam being played by S Manjunath. Watching him use his fingers, thumbs, palms and heels of the hands to strike the outer surface of the ghatam in order to create sounds, particularly the low-pitch bass sound, which compliment the mridangam was truly a beautiful experience.

Mysore truly weaved its magic on Guwahati last Tuesday. A beautiful evening and I look forward to more such initiatives.

Collaborative online endeavour invites entries from NE for seventh album

UNITED IN MUSIC

Collaborating with other musicians to produce an album is surely a tough job, involving hours of face-to-face interaction and practice. Or so we thought, at least until the internet and music blogging came into the picture. Though music blogging in the country is still at a very nascent stage, the ever-evolving Blogswara is now inviting entries for its seventh online music album.

For those of you who have no idea of what I am talking about, Blogswara, a website for free downloadable original music, is one of the most valuable contributions to the music blogging scene of the country. It is basically an internet music community which acts as a common platform for musicians (a majority of whom are amateurs) to showcase their talent before the world by producing original music and sharing it over the internet in order to collaborate with other likeminded musicians. A concept which became highly popular in the southern part of the country where it has its genesis, Blogswara is now expanding rapidly, vying for a pan India presence.

Talking about the birth of Blogswara, the founder Joseph Thomas recollects, “An amateur musician based in the US once wrote and composed a song called Vaazhvu Chezhikka and sent it to me. I sang the song and sent it to an IIT Chennai student for orchestration. That was the first venture. Thanks to the wonderful blogging grapevine, other musicians heard about it and soon we started developing the concept to bring music bloggers across the globe together. Thus, began the concept of BlogSwara, a collaborative internet music album.”

Six albums have been released till date and the portal is presently working on the seventh album, Trunk Call. Though the music on BlogSwara has till now been restricted to four languages — Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and Kannada, the multi-lingual web portal is embracing more and more new languages and is also trying to touch base among the musicians of the Northeast.

The best part of working with Blogswara is that in the entire production process the bloggers manage everything — lyrics, music, orchestration, vocals, recording, and mixing. Thomas explains, “Blogswara is an entirely new concept. In this domain, boundaries blur. All the work is done online. Recording, lyric-writing and singing are done by bloggers in their respective home computers and the material transmitted to each other through e-mail. With everything that goes into the process of making a music album done by us, the music is an interesting mix of rawness and finesse, and of tradition and modernism and post modernism, and of our loves, hopes and desires. We are driven by our love of music and the joy in collaboration to create our own sound. We are not dictated by any commercial goals and pressures. We haven’t met physically, but here we are: United in Music.”

Talking about the seventh album, for which they are inviting entries, Thomas says, “Blogswara has just announced the new album and is inviting entries. This time we are planning on a bi-lingual/multi-lingual album and have titled the album as ‘Trunk Call’. Our aim is to include as many new artists and languages as possible. The rules and conditions for the new album remain the same as the previous ones although we are laying stress on two points. The song entries should be bi-lingual/multi-lingual and the participant has to provide the organizers the best possible translation of the song lyrics while submitting the song.”

Interested participants can choose their own theme for the song. So just run your imagination wild and let the trunk calls begin! The first deadline is on June 10 next and if you need more details, they are just a mouse click away.

Birthday fest for 70-year old Dylan turns 39 in Northeast

Guwahati too joins tribute brigade along with Lou’s annual fest in Shillong


Unless he has a fascination for travel to lesser known destinations or has heard about the north-eastern corner of India, Robert Zimmerman, in all probability, has not even heard about Shillong. Or Guwahati for that matter. And if he has, or the day he comes to know about the existence of this remote corner on the world map, he surely will be in for one of the biggest surprises of his life. I am talking about the tribute fest dedicated to this man and which has carried on in Shillong for almost four decades now.

A first-timer might call it strange. Maybe even crazy. But whatever he decides on in the end, the fact remains that one cannot ignore the intensity of the tributes being paid in Shillong to this man who continues to occupy centre-stage in the global music map for half a century now under the adopted name of Bob Dylan. Led by Khasi guitarist-singer Lou Majaw, the Bob Dylan tribute fest in Shillong has carried on without interruption ever since it started, irrespective of whether it rains or whether there is a crowd, attaining national and global popularity as a one-of-its-kind festival.

One-of-a-kind, this festival surely is. After all, how often is it that you get to hear about a musician organizing a tribute festival for the greater part of his whole life simply as a mark of respect for his idol – a person whom he has never seen perform and whom he had heard only on the radio. The Bob Dylan tribute fest in Shillong is the perfect example of how one man’s respect for his favourite musician has slowly engulfed the hearts and minds of all the people in the city and State he lives in. The fest traces its humble beginnings to the Assam Club of Shillong where it was first held on May 24, 1972.

Bob Dylan is no stranger to fame. In a life spanning the trademark rollercoaster rise of a true artist, he has attained legendary status for the lyrical content of his songs and his firebrand form of protest, accentuated by the nasal twinge in his voice. His six-minute single ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ in 1965 had revolutionised popular music by altering popular attitudes regarding pop. Winner of numerous awards including Grammy, Golden Globe, and the Academy Award, he also has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

But more than his induction into any hall of fame, the rich legacy and fan base that Dylan has created along his journey to give voice to protest through words and music should be seen to be believed. And what better example can anybody find than the celebrations in Shillong?

Every year, hundreds of his fans in the Northeast and other parts of the country join Lou as he and other musicians celebrate the poet-troubadour’s birthday by singing his songs. The celebration is nothing elaborate and usually has Lou and other musicians singing popular Dylan songs and cutting a birthday cake, besides performances in schools and on the streets of the hill station. The only defining factor being the unfailing regularity with which the celebration is held.

Classic rock n roll band STAGS


Yet Lou, when asked about his yearly tribute, always has a single word for all the queries. Respect. “It’s just cos of the respect I have for Dylan. I respect him as a lyricist, as a writer of songs and poetry. His songs lit up my life and gave it a lot of meaning,” says the 64-year old, who is always found dressed in his trademark shorts and colourful socks, and who is also popularly referred to as Shillong’s own Dylan.

The Dylan celebration in Shillong this year was billed to be corporatised. This would have been a far cry from the impromptu sessions that usually marks the Dylan tribute. But unfortunately, the plan did not work out and the fest was held at the usual sports club.

Despite the hiccups in the corporatization of the Dylan dest, Lou’s devotion towards his idol however did inspire the birth of another round of celebrations, albeit this time in Guwahati. Some die-hard Dylan fans and regular visitors to the yearly celebration in Shillong got together to form the Guwahati chapter of the Great Dylan society in a bid to make up for their inability to go to Shillong on May 24. Led by Dr. Nandan Phukan, Navajeet Das, Sanjeev Gogoi and Mrityunjoi Borkotoki, a number of musicians and artists participated in the celebrations held at Cafe Hendrix.

“Shillong, which used to be just a couple of hours away earlier, seems to be very far these days on account of the ongoing road expansion. So we thought it would be much more easier for us fans if we started a simultaneous celebration in Guwahati as well,” says Dr. Nandan Phukan. A number of prominent musicians landed up in the evening at the cafe to jam along with city-based classic rock ‘n’ roll band Stags. Comprising Abhijit Das on drums, Jagadish on lead guitar, Peter Alex on rhythm and Katan on vocals, the group ensured that the merriment quotient was kept high throughout the evening.

Bob Dylan should certainly be proud to see his legacy in the Northeast. And to finish off, just like the fests here did, Happy Birthday Dylan, wherever you are!

Aiyushman Dutta
aiyushmandutta@gmail.com