An evening with the Monsorate Brothers recreated all the old-fashioned magic of a big brass band and its rich sounds

It isn’t often that someone with the voice and stature of a Kishore Kumar is relegated to the backdrop. Perhaps Kishore da himself, an ardent admirer of musicians, would not have minded the brass band stealing the show at Geet Gaata Hoon Main, the full-house finale of the Chennai edition of The Hindu Friday Review November Fest 2013. The evening’s indisputable heroes were the Monsorate Brothers.

For two-and-a-half-hours, with a script that merely introduced the composer and the singer on stage, the troupe’s performance was all about recreating the magic of music from an era gone by. It was about discovering the ingenuity, innovation and modernity that went into the creation of music by the Burmans, both S.D. and R.D., and the complexity of styles and arrangements in the music of Rajesh Roshan. It was about the poets and song-writers who once penned pieces laced with romance and longing, songs that continue to sparkle long after they were written. If you were in the audience, you would have noticed how many listeners hummed along, especially to old favourites like ‘Zindagi Ke Safar Mein’ or ‘Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai’.

The performance was also about remembering the stars who hummed these songs on the silver screen, making it their own, whether Rajesh Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, or Amitabh Bachchan. In fact, one of the singers did a charming little Dev Anand mimicry while singing the timeless ‘Gata Rahe Mera Dil’ from Guide. The show was about nostalgia; it was about memories. If like me you belonged to the television era, it was about picturing these songs in the mind’s eye and reliving the moments.

Kishore da was one of the many elements that made this performance a whole. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a die-hard Kishore Kumar aficionado, which is why the concert tugged at my heart but not for the ability of the three male singers — who tried and earnestly so — but could not recreate the magic of that legendary voice. Who can blame them? Kishore da came and went in bits and pieces — in the singer Sandeep’s zesty rendering of ‘Chala Jaata Hoon’ from Meere Jeevan Saathi, in Dr. Ajit’s romantic rendering of ‘O Hansini’ (from Zehreela Insaan),in Kiran’s flirty recreation of ‘Haal Kaisa Hai Janaab Ka’ (with Ananya’s excellent voice for company). In Sandeep’s treatment of ‘Dilbar Mere’ (from Satte Pe Satta) Amitabh sashayed in my head but unfortunately Kishore da didn’t.

What did though make an impact in almost every song that unfolded, journeying through the 60s and 70s, was the ensemble — the trumpets (Joseph and Bosco Monsorate) and the trombone (Blasco Monsorate) sequences and interludes that were recreated with poise and perfection by the Bosco Brothers, a few among them having recorded the originals with Pancham da and Kishore da. At one point, as all eyes were glued to the stage, Bosco Monsorate and his shiny brass trumpet suddenly made an entrance from behind the audience, playing the magnificent introductory trumpet solo in ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’ (Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin) much to the audiences’ delight. Incidentally, the brothers’ father, Peter Monsorate had played the original.

In an era where collaborations are commonplace, the concert was also reflective of the depth and complexity of collaboration during an era when technology was still young and where musical labour and dexterity could not be replaced by computer tricks. More importantly, it reinstated one’s belief that it is possible perhaps — the way the Monsorate Brothers did — to recreate music and its musical complexities. But the voice of Kishore Kumar will always be undoubtedly his own.