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The razzle dazzle of raags

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ROCKING WITH RAAGS The Raagapella singers
ROCKING WITH RAAGS The Raagapella singers

Raagapella, comprising students from Stanford University, entertained a select audience with an eclectic mix of songs

It was time for a little razzle dazzle from the Ivy League boys from Stanford University. An hour that went too fast at the mini hall in New Woodlands recently. The male voice ensemble Raagapella presented a package of popular music one could scarcely turn away from. The songs, choreo and the varied fare ensured that the small, select audience was thoroughly entertained.

Though Raagapella started in 2002, every now and then the members change; the present group has been together for barely two years, according to the music director, Sunthar Premakumar from Sri Lanka. “We hope to kindle appreciation for the rich culture and music of South Asia through performances at Stanford and across the U.S.”

First India tour

This is their first tour of India. After having performed in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, though mostly to private audiences, eight of the 15-strong ensemble put up two shows in Chennai, the second for a few local musicians and friends, the first one being for Infosys.

The a cappella group, all students of Stanford University, sang 14 songs in all — an eclectic mix of Tamil and Hindi film hits, Punjabi, Carnatic, Western and fusion. It was a first rate presentation; and the rendition, top-bracket. The opening number from the film “Ghajini” ‘Oru maalai pozhuthinilae’ was by far the best, diction inclusive! Their voices had energy and the choreo movements were more than apt and fluid, mostly rhythmic. The songs were arranged to intricate harmony ranging from the bepop style of the 60s to the style of the Backstreet Boys or Boyz to Men. Doing percussion sounds with voice right through is not easy any day. The lone Chinese, Alex Ji, provided the bass for the ensemble to build the harmony on. Almost all the numbers had harmony of a high order. Creative and imaginative arrangement marked every song presented. Mostly the songs were rendered by a soloist, occasionally by two, ably backed by the rest.

Eighteen-year-old Prasanna Vasudevan from Maryland says his long term music plan is to win American Idol. The songs from “Om Shanthi Om” and “Alai Paayuthae” were lapped up by the appreciative audience. Siddhartha said, “I play the piano and the guitar sometimes and the fool at other times.”

Nikhil Kamat, president, dedicated a song to Chennai’s own versatile singer, Tanvi Sha, who was solely responsible for organising the show on June 28. The Sri Lankan love song “Surangeena” was lilting and Jayaraman’s classic nuances of Carnatic isai shone in the fusion pieces. Raagapella rounded off the evening with a salute to A. R. Rahman and his version of “Vande Mataram”, and received a standing ovation.

In the theme song of the small screen mega serial, “Mahabharat”, as in most other numbers of the evening, the varied cultural strands of our land were sensitively portrayed. It is perhaps an India seen through the eyes of the young and brilliant living in a far off land.

SELINE AUGUSTINE

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