Kartick and Gotam's concert “Business Class Refugees” kept the audience captivated

The pseudonyms of Israeli musicians Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam — Kartick and Gotam — can be misconstrued as a device to attract attention. With a pervasive Indian flavour, “Business Class Refugees” (BCG) — their first project — controverts any such misconceptions. The themes encompassed by this music album show the duo is fascinated with India as a whole.

This 2010 album is ruled by images of folk artistes, a meditating yogi, an Indian classical dancer, and contains clear references to long-cherished belief systems. Washed with a mix of Indian classical and electronic music, these distinctly Indian images convey a cultural eclecticism and an East-West oneness that are right up the alley of most Western audiences.

Tour to France

Armed with these advantages, Kartick and Gotam (K&G) are out to conquer France. With their team of well-known musicians, the duo is on a French tour to promote BCR, which shot long ago to the status of a project that is open for fresh collaborations. The tour being a natural outcome of a cultural exchange programme, Alliance Française de Madras announced it with a K&G concert conducted on its College Road campus.

With vocalist Mahesh Vinayakram, sarod player Pratik Shrivastava and tabla player Chiranjit Mukherjee teaming up with Kartick and Gotam — operating a panoply of electronic music synthesisers — and Shalini Mohan on the bass guitar, even those listeners oblivious to the character of BCR knew what to expect.

The concert got under way with one song that seeks to define meditation. The next song was preceded by an announcement that was strikingly out-of-place. A disembodied voice talks about flying from Kolkata to Chennai for two hours and five minutes and recites the standard “dos and don'ts” of a flight trip.

Every song that follows is preceded by a flight announcement, a charming reminder of the fact that BCR was conceived when Kartick and Gotam were stranded in the Singapore airport for three days.

Led by Mahesh's voice, which travelled effortlessly over a long range of classical notes, the group presented ‘Tamil Bossa', ‘Boye Boye' and ‘Door Open Door' that have given the album an evident marketing advantage. At times Mahesh had to adjust his singing to the timing of vocal tracks, and he was spotlessly good at it.

Pratik and Chiranjit seized opportunities to lead the group with their skillful play. They drew shouts of appreciation from Mahesh, so did bass guitarist Shalini. Mahesh was often playing an imaginary bass guitar, pretending to strike notes on it.

The nimble feet of flamenco dancer Fatima provided variety to the concert. This Spanish dancer was provided with her own dancing space — a raised wooden plank in front of the stage — and, when the music instruments fell silent for a short period, Fatima's shoes tapped against the wood to produce a captivating rhythm.


Prince FrederickMay 11, 2012