Members of Chennai-based band Staccato are going to the London Olympics — not as spectators, but performers. On July 30 and August 2, they will occupy the coveted main band stand and perform a string of their compositions. In an invitation to this Indian contemporary-classical group, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has requested them to also perform at various other parts of the Olympic Park on these days.
“Staccato is one of the two bands selected from Asia. The other one is from China,” says its percussionist P.D. Balasubramanian. “These bands were chosen ahead of hundreds of others that had sent in their compositions.”
The judges were sent two of Staccato’s songs, ‘Sounds Of Air’ and ‘Salsa’, and a set of sample tapes that included percussion grooves. ‘Sounds of Air’ is led by the flute play of Sruthi Saagar, the band’s key player. The violin-heavy ‘Salsa’ is a product of the group’s interaction with musicians from across the world during their visit to Rio De Janeiro in 2011 for the finals of an out-of-the-box percussion event, ‘Tum Tum Pa’ that was staged across 30 countries.
The band is likely to go in full strength, as they would be required to perform in front of 2,50,000 spectators and on a stage that can accommodate around 40 musicians. It consists of Sruthi Saagar, Vikram Sarathy, P.D. Balasubramanian, Ajay Gnanasekaran, Tapas Naresh, Kaashif Rafiq, Rohit Krishnamoorthy, Vandana Srinivasan, Aishwarya, Manoj Kumar and Shallu Varun.
“We were told our tracks appealed to Danny Boyle (director of Slumdog Millionaire), who was one of the judges,” says Balasubramanian. Members of Staccato believe the appeal of their music derives largely from a contemporary treatment of Indian ragas and talas. Balasubramanian recalls how they played to their strengths and bested their opponents in the national finals of ‘Tum Tum Pa’. In contrast to the other finalists, they avoided westernised sounds and relied on traditional Indian rhythms, including the 6/8, which drives koothu.
The trip to Brazil had done wonders for this young group, which originated as a school band from Chettinad Vidyashram. Above all, it had boosted their confidence levels. Despite their growing self-assurance, the youngsters were surprised by the call from the organisers of the London Olympics.
“Kaashif Rafiq, the youngest member of our band, took the initiative to send the tracks to the selection panel. The rest of the band did not know this, and when the news of our selection reached us, we were taken by surprise,” says Balasubramanian.
The young musicians were thrilled by one more surprise: close on the heels of their selection came an announcement that the organising committee has arranged for them to participate in the Aberdeen Music Festival. Given the grandeur of the stages they would occupy, the group is working overtime to finish a special song, an ambitious attempt that will heavily use Indian music traditions to convey a message on world peace.
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