Thursday, 21 January 2016

Live Music Saves the Day (yet again)

On Monday last I made my way to Alliance Française de Madras after a rather trying day. The reason I braved the awfully crowded Chennai city buses during peak hour traffic time was a concert, as is usually the case with me. I'd seen a listing on AFM's events page for a very intriguing concert - Indo-Creole Project - sometime ago and had made a note of it on my calendar.

At that point, I was still on my sabbatical and thought I'd easily be able to make it. Things changed, however, and from completely jobless and vetti, I went to super busy a little too quickly. Still, I was determined to not miss this show, and boy, was I glad I made that choice!

I walked in a little later than the 7pm start time cursing the slow service at the worst fast food place ever (ChicKing on Nungambakkam High Road) that was to blame. I say walked in, but it was more like dashed in - climbed the four flights of stairs to the Edouard Michelin Auditorium two steps at a time - more or less completely out of breath only to find the show hadn't started yet after all. For about 10 minutes I was glad that they always seem to keep this auditorium at about 15 degrees for whatever reason. After that, I was glad that I remembered to bring my shawl with me. Wrapped up in said shawl, I waited for the concert to begin.

The father-son duo of René and Marc Lacaille took the stage first. While I don't have too much experience with Creole music, I have some rather strong ties to music from the Caribbean having spent some time during my formative years in the West Indies. My earliest memories of music are listening to my mom's mixtapes filled with Calypso music. So I was thrilled when they played some of those tunes. Their set was quite fun and upbeat like the music. They did explain that the happy music was often juxtaposed with melancholic lyrics, but my French isn't good enough to follow singing, so I only got the happy part of it.

Next up were Debashish and Subashish Battacharya (not related unless I'm mistaken) who took the place by storm with some jaw-droppingly good Indian music (Hindustani, I believe). This was my first time listening to the Indian slide guitar played live and I was instantly a fan. But, it was Subashish's percussion that really blew me away. The way he played both the tabla and the other percussion instrument he had on his lap (the Dhol?) was unbelievable! Rather than take my word for it, here, see for yourselves:

After this spell-binding set, the Lacailles joined the Battacharyas on stage for the final joint set. It was wonderful to hear and see how these two at-first-glance completely disparate forms of music and musicians came together cohesively. It was to repress the smiles, both inward and outward. Nothing as delightful as being at a show where the musicians themselves are having such an obviously grand time playing together!

By the time the concert ended all my annoyances of the day were long forgotten! Huge thank you to the musicians and to AFM for hosting this great event. I'm already a regular at all events you guys host, but now I'll make doubly sure to not miss any such shows in the future. :)

Oh, and here's the full playlist for anyone who's interested. Apologies for the poor quality video. On the bright side, the audio is pretty decent. So listen without watching and you'll get a sense of what it was like to be there.

P.S.: If anyone knows what the tune in that last video I linked above is, please let me know. It sounds awfully familiar, but I can't quite place it. Some folk tune perhaps?