Puducherry

Masala Coffee brews musical magic

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The eight-member band stole the show and audience’s heart with their soulful performance

At the moment, no one in these parts can perhaps relate to a sense of déjà vu as much as the Masala Coffee band’s front men — Varun Sunil, producer and multi-percussionist, and Sooraj Santhosh, lead vocalist.

For all the life-changing events they have experienced the past year, there has been a perplexing constant in their visits as performers to this former French enclave — the only two times they have been here for a concert, bone-dry weather has shape-shifted to thunderstorm activity just ahead of show time.

Between the last time the band played in the coastal town and when they recently took the stage for AURA’17, the campus festival of the Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Sooraj Santhosh has won the Kerala State Award for Best Playback Singer (for the film Guppy), while Varun Sunil has expanded his musical horizon by providing cajon assist to the likes of Hariharan and other maestros at the famed Varanasi Music Festival.

Rain no deterrent

Déjà vu set in again on Saturday, as the band was prepping the stage arrangements for a regular concert slot at 7.30 p.m., when the hot and humid conditions of the afternoon gave way to a spell of heavy rains and strong winds — a virtual repeat of the sudden onslaught of thunderstorms the last time the band was here (for Jipmer’s Spandan festival).

And, after what seemed like eternity to the impatient fans and nervous organisers at the PIMS venue — with the concert even looking to be washout at one point — the gloom lifted as soon as the band eventually appeared on stage, a good three hours behind schedule.

After belting out a couple of songs for starters, Sooraj was pouring heart and soul into Munbe Vaa, which is the band’s nuanced nod to A.R. Rahman.

And, hardly had the audience stopped crooning along than, a shift of musical gears begins. Varun Sunil decides to get the crowd of medicos more involved — he is “looking for more reciprocal energy”.

After some banter with the audience, he regales them with a pulsating solo on the cajon — which from the band’s experience across venues in India and abroad is a sure-fire way to stir things up.

Next up was a rollicking version of Dil Se with electrifying bass guitar (Paul) backing up the vocalist’s forays all around the core of the song before jousting with keyboard and violin in an almost 20-minute exposition.

Agnikunjondru kanden from the Tamil film, Uriyadi followed where the band adds a hard rock-cut diamond to the many classical renditions of the fiery Bharathiar composition.

Fans would then get the first taste of an upcoming original track by Masala Coffee, a folk-rock song titled Arival (sickle).

And, then the inevitable happened. After resisting repeated calls from the crowd, Masala Coffee delivers the song that perhaps announced their arrival, Kaantha.

Out came the kazoo, and Sooraj, in what looked like an attempt to set the pitch and tone of the song plays the notes of an evergreen Malayalam number Ambalakkulangare kulikkan chennapol before setting the tone for Kaantha, which is a sort of signature for the band whose music is marked by eclectic blend of folk and rock.

Ode to Mozart of Madras

The band signed off with a medley of compositions of the Mozart of Madras which included Usilampatti.., Kadhalin Sangeethame.., a stirring cover of Endendrum Punnagai, and then the Pistah song Neram leaving the audience wide awake and abuzz approaching midnight.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 7:52:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/masala-coffee-brews-musical-magic/article19504072.ece

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