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Refreshing riff rendezvous

Acoustic strains of Dylan or the Dead, buoyant Brazilian beats or Cuban congas, a mesmerising cover of Dream Theater's Misunderstood, or simply on self-drive'

For young musical minds in town dabbling in the different, there's an alternative rendezvous now, and the riffs needn't be straight-ahead rock.

Princeton Club on Prince Anwar Shah Road has turned Friday evenings into an eclectic tune trek across hitherto uncharted terrain.

'We want to create a nursery of music, to nurture home-grown talent and give new bands a platform to express themselves without being hamstrung by pre-set parameters,' Pratul Singh Rawat, general manager of the club, tells Metro.

The capacious sports bar of the sleek south Calcutta club, cooled by the swimming pool perched atop, becomes the concert corridor every Friday night, 9 to 11. Besides Princeton members, attendance is by invitation, with feelers going out to the city's fairly close-knit music circuit through Congo Square's database.

'They have been helping out with the networking and it helps to stitch together a largely like-minded audience whose primary agenda is to let their hair down after a hard week's slog,' acknowledges Rawat.

'Yes, the audience is surely very refined and it helps that we aren't flooded with requests for popular numbers,' quips Souvik, vocalist of The Hobos, an upcoming outfit that has played its 'progressive experimental' sound at Princeton twice.

The laid-back ambience has encouraged young ensembles to come up with more original stuff. 'It gives us the freedom to express and experiment without prejudice or fear of non-acceptance,' observes Dwaipayan, who earlier played with Orient Express and Krosswindz at Someplace Else (SPE), the mecca of live rock in the city.

The frontman of the new group Ganga Groove now takes the stage with his colleagues at the Princeton sports bar offering a spread of Afro-influenced music, hip-hop and blues. The freedom is infectious. Be it Rudraa or Urban Reflections, breaking barriers is the theme song at Princeton.

'When we started, we were struggling to get a band for the second week itself. Now, there are so many requests from young groups keen to perform, we have to hold auditions. The idea is not to turn away anybody, but if there are pronounced weaknesses, we would like to help them iron out the flaws under the supervision of some senior musicians,' explains Rawat.

Kochoo of Orient Express, the country's 'first and only Latin band' that is a regular at SPE, is one of the musicians helping out the colts. 'This is a commendable project. Once more such avenues open up, more and more talent in this city will get the chance to flower and new grass always looks lush,' he says.

'That is exactly our objective. With a few other similar places, hopefully for all those who want to pursue music as a career, fresh avenues will open up,' hopes Rawat. He feels the 'multiplex concept' in live music where one can catch quality entertainment in a smaller niche, will catch on.

And it sure needs to. When the DJs are making a neat packet by just spinning discs, it's only fair that aspiring musicians practising hard and with passion should get a chance to showcase their stuff.

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