Singer-composer Devdaas on his band ‘Taraana’ and the tutelage of Devarajan Master
Devdaas has been singing and composing for more than 25 years. He is now fronting his own band, ‘Taraana: The Melo Band’, which will stage its first public performance at the Durbar Hall Ground on October 14 at 6.45 p.m.
Heavily inspired by the songs of G. Devarajan, with whom Devdaas shared a strong bond, Taraana will primarily focus on melodies. “We sing film songs from 1960-2013 but only melody. It is not the usual old is gold selection. We have songs for everyone, every age. We have not gone for the very popular songs. Instead we have selected generally popular tracks not usually sung live on stage. We have attempted to give these songs a different back-up, a new punch, without taking away anything from the original melodies. Also, we have an unplugged session, especially when we perform in an auditorium or a chamber concert,” explains Devdaas.
The eight-member band includes singers Anoop B. Menon, Jyothi Menon, Chitra Arun and professional musicians as back-up.
Not formally trained in music, Devdaas considers Devarajan and M. B. Sreenivasan as his gurus, who taught him the basics and more importantly instilled in him the subtleties of stage singing. “While studying at Sacred Heart College, Thevara, I was fortunate to be part of the Mahatma Gandhi University choral group. There was this joint choral group with members from the Kerala University, 50-60 of us, all trained by MBS. We had our rehearsals at the University Centre and performed at many venues. After MBS’ death, Devarajan was in charge of the MGU choral group. Our rehearsal camp was at the St. Teresa’s College. This was when I came to know Devarajan Master more closely.”
Devdaas began singing professionally with Thoppil Anto’s group, Cochin Bandore. “That’s where I started off. I sang for this group for a few years. Another group I was associated with was Sound of Music, in Bangalore. I was studying for my LLB then. It was owned by Manjula Gururaj, a popular Kannada playback singer. I used to sing Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam songs for this group. Then, in 1998, I started my own group Raaga Pournami and then Devasangeetham.”
Devdaas has also composed and sung for numerous albums, and television serials. “My first attempt at composing was in the early 80s. It was a promotional film for Cochin Refineries, on the need to conserve and protect nature. The lyrics were by R. K. Damodaran. The music for the Doordarshan serial Pranayam was also noticed,” he says.
Despite all these years of professional stage experience Devdaas has never sung in films. “The reason is simple; I have never gone behind people asking for opportunities. But I will be happy if something comes my way.”
In all his time singing at different venues, with different audiences and different responses, one incident stands out in Devdaas’ memory. “Our choral group was to sing at a huge function at Kottayam. The chief guest for the day was M. S. Subbulakshmi. I saw her move towards the stage when on an impulse I ran to her and touched her feet, even as the security men looked at me in wonder. MS amma put her hand on my head and blessed me. I think I’m going on only because of this,” says Devdaas.