Live it up in Chennai

IT IS that time of the year again for unlimited fun and entertainment in Chennai. That's where Saarang, India's biggest cultural extravaganza, is set to happen from January 24 to 29. This college culturals plays host every year to over 20,000 participants for the various events; and, including the professional shows, the total footfall is more than 50,000 over the five days and nights. Much of this participation is from outside of Chennai with a whopping 700 colleges being invited from all over the country. A huge chunk of this is from Bangalore and Hyderabad. With more than 50 events, Saarang offers a variety of fare to choose from for both the participants who are out to chill out and those who come for serious competition, in almost any literary or cultural activity.From the ubiquitous western music in so many different forms to the soulful carnatic, from the hot and steamy salsa workshops to the classical Bharatanatyam contests, from the extremely artful dramatics to the impromptu street plays, from the engaging and insightful debates to the hilarious but equally captivating JAMs, Saarang packs a loaded punch. What really sets these events apart is the quality of participation and for many of these events, colleges form contingents and start practicing months in advance. Every year, Saarang has a different flavour, and each passing year offers something more, with new events, bigger performances, larger audiences, a more varied crowd and a slightly different look and feel to the event.This year, Saarang will have an eclectic array of performances with two international bands playing at the professional shows. The rock show is by a Californian tribute band playing a mix of vintage rock and blues. The show will be a heady release for all music lovers as they play evergreen Led Zeppelin classics such as "Stairway to Heaven" and "Kashmir". The other international participant is a French jazz band, Duo Bertrand. The band of six musicians have been wowing audiences the world over with their mix of traditional jazz and rock styles. Their renditions of Miles Davis, Coltrane and Jeff Back with an odd play of bagpipes and oboes thrown in, promises to be an esoteric delight.

Good platform

This concert itself would be a finale to the semi-pro rock/metal competition, Decibels, representing the cream of Indian bands. Decibels is as good a platform as it gets for the cause of Indian Rock, with a number of previous winners from here going on to have commercial releases. But this assortment of various musical modes would be incomplete without an ethnic touch added to it. This year, Kumaresh and Ganesh, the violin maestros who have collaborated with such greats as A.R. Rahman, Zakir Hussain, Vikku Vinayakram, George Brooks and Sivamani, blend in a classical tone to the mélange of Pro Nites that is Saarang. The Indian flavour to the festival is made truly complete with the famed, feted trio of Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy, who have only recently been acclaimed the composers of the year. But even all the songs, the artists, the dance, the drama, performances, cannot adequately describe the atmosphere in the live shows. As Shaan once said about his show at Saarang, "It was one of the most memorable shows of mine. The response at the OAT (Open Air Theatre) was full of frenzy and enthusiasm. The atmosphere was so great that my voice got stuck at 9.30 and yet went on till 11 in the night. The OAT gives a great energy to the audience and the performer. One of my special concerts."What Shaan exceptionally put in words was just this. A show at Saarang is more than just a show. It's about the people. It's about the colour. The moods and emotions. It's about that blissful smile as you recognise your favourite tune. It's about lingering memories decades later. It's about the 10,000 people letting go like there's no tomorrow. It's the passion. Of the Music.For further details and the latest updates, you can check up >www.saarang.orgRAHUL

(IIT, Madras)

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