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Unchained melody

(Edited by Latha Anantharaman)
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CHATLINE OLYMPIA SHILPA GERALD meets local band ‘Saintly Orange' who play on and on to keep the love for music alive.

TEAM BEAM City's own band Photos (Cover and Centrespread) : M. Moorthy
TEAM BEAM City's own band Photos (Cover and Centrespread) : M. Moorthy

T hey could give Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a run for their money. On weekdays, they are easy to overlook - a student preparing for the Board exams, a social worker, and three suits. But come weekends, they morph into Tiruchi's only independent contemporary western music band – Saintly Orange.

The very name raises eyebrows. “It is a tribute to yesteryear local community band Saints and we added Orange to lend it an Indian ethos,” says band leader Nicholas Paul.

Saintly Orange is the last word for Western music aficionados in a city that is yet to catch up with the mushrooming band phenomenon in metros. Not an out-an-out professional troupe, the ensemble reach out to varied audiences to keep Tiruchi's western music front alive. Though it is an all–Anglo Indian band, it has evolved from being a representative of its dwindling but strongly knit community at their events, balls and weddings, to entertain at fetes and reunions and in hotels. “Saintly Orange is getting better with time,” says Dalton Jeremiah, who notches up the tempo with his drums. “Our last show was supposed to wind up at ten but went much beyond midnight. We were flooded with requests and encores. It was tiring, but fun.”

Soul and spirit

They can bring on the noise, as rhythm guitarist William puts it, but Saintly Orange is more comfortable in the realm of country, pop, waltz and blues, keeping in tune with the conservative tastes of the city.

“The occasions we play for, like weddings and balls, call for country and ballroom music. Though there's quick-step, foxtrot, jive and reggae, there's not much demand for heavy rock or metal,” adds William dryly.

The band prefers to play close to home, as all members are committed to full-time jobs. “We'd rather stay local and play more music here,” admits Tyrone Hawes, the old hand in the band, His son Tandon Hawes, the youngest of the lot, explains, “We are generally a weekend band. Time is a huge constraint but living in close proximity helps us to get together at least twice week.”

Their jamming sessions usually start after sundown. They generally play covers, sticking to authentic versions for classic hits and tweaking numbers whenever they can.

“We altered ‘Christmas in Dixie' as ‘Christmas in Tiruchi' and it was a huge hit,” grins Nicholas, who has also composed a couple of original numbers.

Genesis

So how did it all begin? Nicholas, William and Dalton, in their mid-30s, were all members of The Wanderers and The Meadows, community bands that played gospel and western music.

“I always wanted to start my own band. When Dalton returned to Tiruchi after a short break, we formed Saintly Orange in 2007,” says Nicholas. The childhood friends roped in William and started scouting for new talent.

“We ushered in the new order as far as community bands go,” says William. “Most of the yesteryear bands comprised senior and experienced players. Ours was the first community band focusing on youth.”

“We always batted for young blood. We knew we were taking a huge risk when we took in Tandon, barely in his teens, but it paid off,” pitches in Nicholas.

Indeed, the lead guitar is Saintly Orange's scoring point and the budding artiste has uncommon talent.

Comfortably bound

The band is a charming mix of the serious and funny. Wearing stetsons and casual shirts, these ‘backstreet boys' are down-to-earth and share a camaraderie that is spontaneous and delightful.

“There has hardly been any friction in the group,” says Dalton proudly. Tyrone adds, “We all are very open and take in each other's suggestions.” “Still, I do boss around,” chimes in Nicholas with a wicked grin.

Tyrone and Tandon stand at two ends of the spectrum of experience and youth that the band manifests.

“Playing with the band is an opportunity to relive the good old days,” says Tyrone, who was part of several local bands in the 1960s and 70s. Tandon feels it is a bonus to play alongside his father.

As the resident whiz kid, he has boosted the popularity of the band by creating an active online profile. “I regularly update information on the shows, and post videos and photos of our performances on Facebook and YouTube. Going online has helped me learn a lot by interacting with bands from across the world.”Whether it's Elvis' affecting ‘Love Me Tender' or the spirited ‘Goodbye Mary Lou' or Billy Cyrus's signature number ‘Achy-Breaky Heart', Saintly Orange is bound to keep rocking.

And, to draw a leaf from the popular Eagles number, love will keep them alive.

(Edited by Latha Anantharaman)

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