The Hindu November Fest

Staccato and IndoSoul: Sounds like Chennai

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In one evening, two bands delve into their Carnatic roots, then spin fresh, spirited melodies

What happens when an evening plays host to two bands — both from Chennai, both with roots in Carnatic music and influences from a slew of genres — back-to-back?

You start to compare; you think about similarities and differences in arrangement and aesthetics, sound and soul, character and personality, and their collective culmination to create for each of the bands, a unique identity which is, in a sense, a storehouse of many identities.

The opening act of Day Two of the 14th edition of The Hindu November Fest was Staccato, a nine-piece band whose journey has evolved over nearly 10 long years of an association that began way back when some of the band members were in school.

IndoSoul, the second act, is a five-piece band that has gradually evolved for itself a sound that is Carnatic-global. From a content perspective, both bands drew from their training in the Carnatic medium. If Staccato was all about an unfussy minimalism, sparkling with a sense of the earthy, IndoSoul was all about making a statement with layers and textures that flirted with pace and complexities in riff and rhythm.

Many sounds, one city

Staccato played to the audience, designing a set that instantly tugged at the two things Chennai identifies with — cinema and Carnatic music.

IndoSoul, on the other hand, had the audience playing to them, drawing them into their music, letting them travel their own Carnatic-inspired journey fused with the blues, lounge, rock and sometimes pop.

Staccato curated its hour-long act and interestingly pegged it on the metaphor of a journey. It opened its set with ‘Maathe Malayadhwaja’, a composition by Muthiah Bhagavathar in raga Khamas, sung by Niranjana Ramanan, initially with diffidence, and warming up thereafter into the skin of the raga, the stage and the audience.

‘Maathe’ tugged at Chennai’s heart for reasons more than one. Niranjana’s music was layered with a film on the LED screen; in it, against the backdrop of the sea, dancer Sudharma Vaidhyanathan captured Khamas’ sringara rasa with her gestures and expression.

Gotham Bharadwaj’s rendering of ‘Saawan’, an original composition by Staccato, also raised the tempo of the performance, giving audiences an insight into the range of Staccato’s creativity; folk in its form and with interesting possibilities in rhythm, the track was perfect for a November evening, with the promise of rain and no sign of it.

The claps came naturally for Staccato’s tribute to K Balachander, reinforcing one’s faith in cinema and its music. The track that sparkled though was Staccato’s electronic re-interpretation of the famous javali, ‘Nee Maatale Mayanura’, meaning “your words are magic”.

Playing with voice, the microphone, the keys, and percussion, this arrangement was a celebration of Staccato’s imagination and the possibility of Carnatic music in finding expressions that are cutting-edge.

Staccato’s signature song, ‘Yaatriga’, was stark and philosophical, and literally in your face, thanks to its visuals, shot perhaps in Benares, tracing our own journey from birth to death, and reinforcing life’s fragility and impermanence.

Fusion of genres

When the curtains opened after 15 minutes for IndoSoul, Sumesh Narayanan and his mridangam set the tone for what was to come.

And then the band’s lead Karthick Iyer and guitarist Vikram Vivekanand had a conversation with each other — violin and the guitar — Shanmughapriya said hello to some metal riffs and from thereon, it was a different kind of a journey. ‘Saramathi’, the band’s track from their album Two Sides of Karma, had a sense of seduction — of voice and instruments, poetry and music, celebrating the idea of duality, the poetry of a Chennai-based Tamil composer and the words of a poem in Portuguese, unfolding in Tamil and English, becoming a signature of sorts for what IndoSoul stands for — melding and fusing genres, instruments and aesthetics, looking within and looking beyond.

The statement piece of IndoSoul’s act ‘Varali’s Vice’, a song about falling in love with the wrong kind of person, was deep and groovy, celebrating the raga itself, tapping into the potential of all the artistes on stage, and treating the content of the poetry in a way that you imagine someone who is really caught in a maze, and lost his way. The song goes straight to your head, and stays there.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 1:58:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/november-fest/staccato-and-indosoul-sounds-like-chennai/article25538296.ece

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