Blowing in the wind Tribute tunes
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- Published 27.11.04
Our band Cassini?s Division has been invited to take part in Darjeeling Carnival, the biggest annual jamboree in the hills of north Bengal. The other members, John Bose (bass), Sukanti Roy, (guitar) and Ritoban Das (drums) are raring to go out there and take our modern rock sound to a new audience. It is a sunny afternoon at Sealdah station and we are ready to rock?
After what seems an inordinately long train journey, we arrive at New Jalpaiguri Station groggy-eyed but full of enthusiasm. It?s 4 am, time to kill sleep and an hour with some strong cups of coffee. Our guitarist Sukanti?s fluent Nepali helps us land a comfortable Tata Scorpio ride to Kalimpong at discounted rates. We take in breathtaking views of the Teesta by the light of dawn along the way before morning mist cuts short our tryst with eye candy.
We decide that after the gig is through we?ll do a spot of publicity for coffee and the second part of a proverb ??early to rise?. But that can wait, first we have to find our pointsman Akash. The effects of the coffee are beginning to wear off and we need some serious shuteye. We troop into the hotel and creep into our beds.
We forget to set our alarm clocks for lunch wake-up but our empty stomachs prove reliable. Akash decides to make us feel ?truly at home? and rushes us to Mashima?s Hotel for some machher jhol-bhat. We?d have preferred momo and thukpa, but?
The rest of the day is given up to checking out the venue and threatening the sound guys with dire consequences if they fail to make us sound like Deep Purple! In the evening, we watch Funeral Fire from Darjeeling deliver a thundering set of heavy metal before leaving to party with the band members of Reincarnation who are also staying at our hotel.
Midnight, everyone is a little wasted and before long we are deep in the land of Nod.
D-Day. Not quite Normandy, but the band battle must be won. The organisers rush us to a nearby restaurant for a breakfast of toast, coffee and micro omelettes (the smallest we?ve seen in our lives). All the guys in the event committee are singing Don?t let me down. We promise them we won?t because we?re not in the brick or tomato collecting business. A quick tour of all the ?reputed convent schools? follows. Some of the principals don?t dig rock & roll too much, but they all like Bono. ?We?re just like his band U2, social conscience and all that,? I tell them, with as straight a face as I can pull. They love it, and promise to send the kids for the show in the evening.
We?re back for lunch and I put my foot down, it?s gonna be Tibetan or no food. The organisers don?t understand. We tell them we have enough of Mashima?s cuisine at home and we don?t like to feel at home on tour!
It?s 4.30 pm and time to get our sound check done. An hour later, we?re sure those who come to hear us will not really need to pay a visit to the ENT guy the next day. The risk of brain damage has also been considerably reduced, re-mixed whatever.
It?s 6 ? clock, the MC calls us on stage, a senior bureaucrat welcomes us with traditional Nepali khadas (scarves) and it?s time to kick off. The first song ends, the applause is deafening, the atmosphere is electric.
It?s new for us because the audiences back home tend to be much more passive. By the time we come to our show closer, a cover of Dylan?s Blowing in the wind, I can hear the whole audience singing along with gusto as fireworks blaze into the night sky. After the crescendo, there is a minute?s silence before the audience erupts in cheers, claps and whistles. I try to get off the stage but have to wait patiently as there are a number of kids asking for autographs. We?ve just proved yet again that Rock & Roll ain?t noise pollution!
We take in some of the town?s attractions, sleep in the afternoon and party the night away.
Early morning drive to Darjeeling through some beautiful landscape. Catch the sunlight shimmering on the Kanchenjunga an hour before we reach Darjeeling. Check into the hotel, grab a quick bite and head for sound check. To our dismay we discover the venue is built of tin, just not right for good acoustics. The sound people, who?ve come from Calcutta, try to be helpful (?anything here sounds noisy?, says one). The venue soon fills up and it?s time to take the stage.
We play two Cassini?s Division songs through a haze of tinny echoes. We think we?re sounding awful. The audience cheers. I tell them they are beautiful people with an amazing ear for music!
As we run through our songs, the temperature keeps dropping, the tempo keeps rising. Soon it?s time to close the show and once again Blowing in the wind does the trick, this time with guest vocalist Prerna from Kalimpong joining us for a ?long jam? that ends with the audience cheering wildly. Our ears are about to pack up, but we?re happy to have rocked the carnival with some unintentional psychedelia!
12.11.04 and 13.11.04. We do the usual touristy things, hang out with musician friends and play two hotel gigs for a ?posh? audience of upmarket tourists, from Calcutta to South Korea!
Finally, it?s time to go home. Fans wish us well in Darjeeling and we descend through banks of clouds, making our way to Siliguri, from where we?ll catch the train to Calcutta.
It?s being promoted as ?the most unique Beatles tribute album you?ll ever hear?. And it?s by an Indian called Madooo. A 12-track album, comprising Beatles hits, has been recorded by Madhukar C Dhas (the artiste behind the stage name Madooo) and is due for release. ?The album has not been officially released nationally,? replies the New York-based Madooo over email, who was born and brought up in Chennai. ?I?m starting negotiation in the next two weeks. Currently, it is exclusively available through my website www.bigdooker.com.?
Moving from Chennai to Mumbai, Madhukar Dhas did stints in advertising as well as played rock music with bands in the 1970s. Not content with what he was getting out of the music scene here, Madooo moved to the US. Continuing to make music through the decades, his first love remains rock & roll. The Beatles tribute album is a return to roots for the musician.
Radio station Breakfast with the Beatles in Colorado has started airing tracks from the album. Madooo?s tribute was chosen to open its John Lennon birthday show. Also, PaulMcCartney.fm, a monthly fanzine on McCartney from Italy, is going to build a page for him on their website as Friends of Paul. The November issue features a poster promoting the album. ?If Paul someday gets my CD, that'll be my dream come true,? admits Madooo.
The album features songs from all the Beatles? phases, from early hits like Love me do to mid 60s? Norwegian wood and With a little help from my friends, to closing era songs like Across the universe. There?s even a John Lennon medley of Imagine, Watching the wheels and Give peace a chance.
Madooo has a Calcutta connection, too. ?I sang at the Oberoi Grand in 1975,? he signs off.