There are many reasons why you should watch out for a Paranjoti Choir concert. They are all amateur singers, with only a few who can read music. They sing a capella, with no instruments to back them. They have no music sheet to bail them out at concerts, which are held across the world and in many languages. And, most importantly, because they make spellbinding music.
“We are all in it because we love music. Outside of the choir halls and practice sessions, we are people who work in professions ranging from call centres to engineering,” says Coomi Wadia, who heads the choir. March-end, the choir is heading out for performances across Spain and Portugal on the invitation of a peace foundation, Valencia Millennium Pace. They will be singing at 12 venues in these two countries.
The choir’s origins go back to the group set up by Mumbai composer Victor Paranjoti in the 1960s. He fused Indian influences and lyrics beautifully into choir singing, one of his best-known songs being Dravidian Dithyramb in which he worked Carnatic ragas into a musical framework inspired by ancient Greek choral hymns. This medley of influences runs through the choir’s repertoire. They sing in Konkani, Bhojpuri, Sanskrit, English, Spanish, but the music is always in the Western choir mode. The songs could be spiritual, blues, operatic, folk or even pop.
Whatever the call of their professions (and call centres don’t make evening practice an easy option), the choir members get together twice a week for practice at any school hall generous enough to give them space. There is a loose pool of about 40 singers that the group draws from for the concerts, with a core group of a dozen singers. “But we are finicky about the practice, whether or not we are performing. There is no way you can maintain the level of skill we do unless we do that,” says Kamal Mulla, one of the senior members of the choir.
Incidentally, one of the most popular Paranjoti songs, apart from the Dithyramb, is Ernst Toch’s Geographical Fugue. It cannot be classified strictly as a song because it is more like an arranged shouting session. It is hard to believe a group of amateurs pulling off a spoken chorus that goes: Trinidad!/And the big Mississippi/and the town Honolulu, and the lake Titicaca, the Popocatepetl is not in Canada, rather in Mexico, Mexico, Mexico… But then for Paranjoti, music is earnest fun.
The Paranjoti Choir is singing at 7pm today at the Tata Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai
He has been performing great Sufi music around the world for a while now, but Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is best known to Indian music lovers as the mellow voice in two great hits for the Bhatt music factory—Lagi Tumse Milke Lagan (Paap) and Jiya Dhadak Dhadak (Kalyug).
Khan was born into a family of qawwals. He was a part of the travelling troupe of his uncle, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. While the influence of the legendary qawwal’s music on his singing is clear, Khan has evolved a distinct style of his own.
Khan will be performing for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation this evening at Siri Fort Auditorium. Expect some great Sufi music, but you will have to be quick to grab the tickets as only a limited number are available.
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sings this evening, 7pm, Siri Fort, Delhi
Get ready for Eddie
Iron Maiden only recently discovered that India would be a really good place to have a gig. That’s because their 2006 album, A Matter of Life and Death, reached the No. 2 position in Indian album charts, believed to be the highest chart position in India ever for any rock act.
So the six member Brit band have penciled down 17 March in their gig book as the day they will rock Bangalore to the bone, in a show called Edd-Fest. They’re bringing with them 20 tonnes of equipment and the stage show they used in their American and European gigs. And apart from Steve Harris, (bass), Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers (guitars), and Nicko McBrain (drums), their iconic mascot Eddie’s coming down as well.
DNA Networks, the organizers, have also roped in British rocker and Steve Harris’ daughter, Lauren Harris, Indian band Parikrama and FTN, the winners of the 2007 Campus Rock Idol competition. Fans will be treated to the metal band’s classics and songs from the latest album.
Iron Maiden concert, today, 4pm, Bangalore’s Palace Grounds
Rules of attraction
Exactly a year ago, writer and columnist Anish Trivedi’s play Still Single premiered at Mumbai’s National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA). It was not a pathbreaking play, but its wit and humour were true to the milieu that he wrote about—hip, urban professionals in their 30s, looking for love, finding it and trying to keep it.
His second, One Small Day, directed by theatre veteran Jayant Kripalani (who has returned after spending a year in the US), is written on similar lines. Dipika Roy, who plays the female lead, has appeared in a host of plays before, including Class of ’84, On A Muggy Night In Mumbai and Hard Places.
Hari (Trivedi) is a producer who attracts starlets and wannabe film-stars. Sheila (Roy) is a plain schoolteacher. She has never done anything out of the ordinary and he thinks peering into keyholes is a fun thing to do. Despite such different lives and mindsets, circumstances force them into various situations together. Finally, it’s not just sparks that fly.
Expect lots of wry humour. Hopefully Kripalani will add much more, with his years of experience on the stage.
One Small Day, today and tomorrow, 7pm, Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai
It is not easy being a classical dancer and having to answer questions about how relevant Radha-Krishna love songs are to this time and age. Six classical dancers come up with their answers, some purely classical, some very contemporary and some treading an in-between line at the 9th National Festival of New Choreography at Delhi.
“I am tired of doing the standard lecture-demonstration type of Kathak, walking up to the mike with explanations and going back to dance to it,” says Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas. “We are looking at innovative group dances all within a strong base in Kathak. My group, Drishtikon, will be doing some new items, a few of which have debuted in dance festivals abroad.” The highlight of Drishitkon’s performances will be Guruve Namah. Just Me, another performance, will work with no music, only rhythms created by the feet and hands.
Kanak Rele, who has done a great deal of research into Mohiniattam, has choreographed four new items outside the traditional repertoire. She will be merging classical Malayalam and Sanskrit texts in these dances. Bimbavati Devi’s Manipuri will include elements of Chhau and the martial dance forms of Bengal. Anand Shankar Jayant’s Dancing Tales: Panchatantra in the Bharatanatyam style and Aruna Mohanty’s Barsha Baibhav in Odissi will conclude the festival.
The National Festival of New Choreography began yesterday and will be on till March 18, 7pm, Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, Delhi