Chennai-based Square Band captivates audience with film songs

When a veena and a tabla rest on the stage, what is the ambience you expect? Solemn, rapturous, perhaps even reverent. But throw in a drum, a piano and four young performers keen on reinventing everything you’ve heard before, and you get a hip-shaking, head swivelling frenzy on the lines of what newly formed Chennai-based ‘Square Band’ unleashed here recently.

They created a symphony at ‘Isai Kaveri’, hosted by Bharathidasan Institute of Management (BIM), when the melting strains of the veena embraced the pianos’ cavorting tunes, against a backdrop of flamboyant drumming contrasted with the subtle strokes of the tabla. Whether music to you has only meant Michael Jackson or Beethoven, if you’ve always rooted for Ilayaraja or A.R.Rahman, if your cup of tea was jazz or Carnatic, they all came together in new avatars in the concoction brewed by Rajhesh Vaidya on the veena, Prasanna Nivas (piano), B.S.Arunkumar on drums and Chandrajith (tabla).

Dialogue between instruments

The opening piece was a dialogue between the piano and the veena, a dalliance that grew enchanting as the veena slipped in and out between the piano’s ascending chords, later to be eclipsed by the drum and enveloped by the gentle tabla. Rajhesh Vaidya’s brilliance in coaxing, cajoling and caressing the veena proved supreme in the opening bars of the second piece, ‘seven choir’, executed in seven beats. Strumming the instrument with one hand, he created an imaginative monologue.

A sparring between the drums and tabla provided a delightful interlude of Indian and Western percussion. ‘Love’s choir’, the third piece was a gentle tip toeing of the veena and the piano, as Beethoven’s symphony no.7 gave way to a searching, soulful Hindi melody.

Though the band had only a couple of original compositions to boast of, inventiveness and pulsating energy pleased the crowd as they performed covers of popular Tamil and Hindi numbers. A perfect gem was the veena’s lament of ‘Munbe Vaa’. The chorus of ‘Kannalanae’ from ‘Bombay’ set the stage for each of the instruments to shine in turn.

What brought the young crowd to their feet was the opening bars and interlude of tumultuous ‘Rukumani, Rukumani’. Not just Rahman but Ilayaaraja could create the same spell was true with ‘Raja Kaiya Vatcha’ from ‘Agni Natchathiram’, where Arunkumar’s drumming was the hero of the piece.

Seamless transition

Oscillating between a classy ‘Ponmagal Vanthal’ remix and an ethereal ‘Ninaivo Oru Paravai’, an eloquent ‘Thoda, Thoda Malarvathu’ to a hair-raising ‘Seena Thaana’, the seamless transition made the evening remarkable.

Soulful and spirited were ‘Kal ho na ho’, ‘Chand Sifarish’, ‘Jashn-E-Baharaa’ and ‘Khwaja Mere Khwaja ensuring Bollywood’s presence. The Western tribute appeared in the form of the classic ‘My heart will go on’ on veena which impressed more than a desi avatar of Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’. ‘Uyire’, ‘Nila Kaigirathu’ and ‘Tamizha Tamizha’ performed to standing ovation, established Vaidya as the powerhouse of the quartet. ‘Aasai Nooru Vagai’ and ‘Raman Andalum’ for Superstar fans and ‘Naan Parthathile Aval Oruthi’ for MGR fans sealed the evening.

Three hours of music, devoid of words that soothed, spurred and startled a natural drumbeat on the roof as the heavens opened up by the end of the evening.