Chennai band Oxygen brings back terrace jamming

Chennai's live fusion band, Oxygen, kickstarts its terrace jamming sessions today with its new single ‘TSO’

January 15, 2019 02:10 pm | Updated 02:10 pm IST



C Girinandh, keyboard player and member of city-based fusion music band Oxygen, steps on to a tarpaulin-covered wooden floorboard set up at the terrace of a building in T Nagar. Along with him are drummer Prithvi Kumar and bass guitarist Bumon Kashyap. The day is almost ending, and sunlight blinks at sections of the stage. The surrounding coconut and Sterculia trees are just about tall enough to peep in, not unlike a curious old man at the adjoining terrace. “This,” Girinandh waves a hand in the air, motioning to the stage, the neon-graffitied walls, and the potted plants, “is where we will jam”.

This Pongal, members of the genre-defying band — that blends Carnatic, Irish, folk, Hindustani, pop and rock — are planning to revive their terrace jamming concept. In metropolises that have new constructions crawling all over, there is often the question of accessible spaces for artistes. So instead of thinking horizontally, the band, is thinking vertically, choosing the motta maadi as a converging point for all music-related arts.

“This building is where our studio is, and since May last year, we have been using the terrace as a place to perform while shooting our videos. This year, we want to throw it open to the public and invite amateur artists, and anyone passionate about music, to jam together,” says Girinandh.

Though the terrace jamming concept is not new to the band — it was started by them a few years ago — the members had to briefly shut it down due to problems with the police. “Now, we have decided to streamline it, with more control over the venue, the hours, as well as the crowd. We plan to continue these jam sessions at least once every month,” he says.

In intimacy with artistes, the concept is similar to the Sofar shows. However, “the main thing for us is talent discovery and interaction among musicians to better develop the form,” says Prithvi. In fact the sessions are also for dancers, and performers. The band, which was founded in 2003, has worked with AR Rahman and Santhosh Narayanan.

Talking about how technology and social media has changed the game in the music industry, Prithvi points out that even though it has become easier to make music, listen to new forms of music, and have better access to music education, as well as audiences, the real-life interaction between musicians and audiences is on the decline. For its part, Oxygen, primarily plays live. “We evolve organically through jamming,” adds Girinandh.

New sounds

At the Pongal terrace jamming session, the genre-defying band that blends Carnatic, Irish, folk, Hindustani, pop and rock, will be debuting their new work, ‘TSO’. It is innovative in a dual way.

First, in its use of 11/8 time signature: a signature also incidentally used by The Beatles in the bridge of ‘Here Comes the Sun’, for which George Harrison employed Indian influences. “We will use traditional instruments, however, their sounds will be synthesised to render new tones. You will not realise that this is the sound of a violin, or a guitar,” explains Bumon.

It will be released on YouTube soon, where — and here is the second innovation — they be will be in VR format, and also employ ambisonic 360 degree sound instead of regular stereo. “When you put on earphones, it will sound as if the music is coming from all around you,” he says.

For their upcoming project Oxygen Ensemble, the band will also be collaborateing with singers like Sathyaprakash and Vandana Srinivasan for to do covers of songs by AR Rahman.

The terrace jamming session will be held on January 15, 6 pm onwards, at 17, Yogambal Street, Padmagiri Apartments, T Nagar. Contact 9940219341 or 9840300078. Entry is free.

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