Unlike its deceptively simple name, ‘Square Band’ is all about turning convention on its head, making Beethoven, Rahman, Bollywod and Carnatic music sound like something you’ve never heard

Somehow, one doesn’t associate delirium easily with classical music. But new band on the block, ‘Square’, that entertained a few hundreds in the city recently, is skilled in brewing the kind of compelling musical fare that cannot hold you in your seats.

Even as you begin to anticipate mellifluous strains emanating from the veena, the opening piece turns out to be a merry dalliance with the veena sending come-hither signs to the piano that teases equally, before the drumming majestically puts his foot into the dialogue, followed swiftly but subtly by the tabla.

Unlike its unpretentious name, ‘Square’ is not deceptively simple, capable of layering classical Indian music with western genres in beguiling ways. The eponymous quartet comprises four young musicians who make no bones about turning established conventions on their head. The anchor of the band, Rajhesh Vaidya, an artiste in his own right, is known for international collaborations and records for top film directors in the industry. The incessantly upbeat Nivas K Prasanna, who made a name with Chennai Superkings 2011 IPL anthem ‘Sixxu podu’ is a livewire on stage. In taking the mood of the performance several notches high, he is often aided by the B.S.Arunkumar, whose wizardry in the switching between classical, jazz and folk percussion, stands out. Widely travelled Chandrajit, like his tabla, is understated yet adds a rich distinctive flavour.

No one way of playing

Purists may frown at the way the instruments are played, particularly at Vaidhya whose electrically amplified strings make the veena murmur, lament and howl. “If you can play chords on a guitar, then why not on a veena?,” demands Vaidya. “There’s no one way that an instrument should or should not be played.”

Vaidya proves a point in showcasing how versatile a veena can sound, but does it eclipse the other instruments? “Our compositions are created in such a way that every instrument gets equal importance. If the tabla appeared a trifle muted, it is the technical clarity thathas to blame,” says Nivas.

Own brand of music

Yet unmistakably, the veena is both the centerpiece and the star of the show, directing the mood of the moment-ethereal one minute, excited the next. “True, we want to project how the veena can be played, that anything is possible with the veena,” agrees Prasanna, striking a spirit of camaraderie. “No one can play like Chitti Babu, no one can play like any other veteran. But this is our own brand of music,” says Vaidhya, as Arunkumar chimes in , “Perhaps we should call it the Rajhesh Vaidhya baani,”he grins.

The band’s target audience is clearly youth, who are fed nuggets of classical music with the familiar filmy music. The response at ‘Isai Kaveri’ hosted by Bharathidasan University of Management (BIM), for instance had the entire hall swaying on it’s feet, pumping hands in the air. Some numbers received a collective standing ovations, while others were accompanied by the throatiest cheers.

Is this the frenzied kind of response that a veena, tabla and piano can create? “This is nothing,” says Vaidya. “I think we need to practice more, work on original compositions,” he acknowledges. The band had little to show for original music, though the instrumental covers of popular Tamil and Hindi numbers made up for it. “We are a young band, hardly a year old. In fact, this is our second show as a foursome,” says Chandrajit as Prasanna adds. “We are each busy with our own music. But we have to concentrate on coming together. We had no set order for playing the songs; they were decided on the spur of the moment, matching the mood of the audience.”

Be it reinventing Rahman, tweaking Ilayaraja with a trendy makeover, fusing Beethoven with Hindustani or making Michael Jackson sound desi, the band seemed to enjoy every minute of it, just as the audience.