Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The weekend that was...

Since its inception, Opus has been regarded as a versatile space. It’s a space for music; it’s a space for theatre, for dance, for art. We’ve had karaoke, Taboo and Pictionary, exhibitions and stand up comedies. We’ve seen engagements, proposals, wedding receptions, kiddie parties, kitty parties, corporate presentations, wine tasting and right now, I think the only thing we haven’t seen so far is a wedding. (And please don’t look my way...)

With all the various activities we’ve been associated with, its hardly surprising that we would also pay homage to what is widely accepted as the worlds most popular sporting event - the FIFA World Cup 2006 at Germany.

Never having been a sports fan, I was rather skeptical about this foray into the field. Of course, we were a handful of people earlier in the evening. We witnessed the opening ceremony and once that was over, I looked around and the bloody restaurant was packed! And everyone was there to watch the match. DJ Arjun did his thing and got a nice build up to the start. And the match started.

It was a very different evening then on. The walls that usually heard the thumping of a bass drum and the whistles and cheers of music loving fans were now treated to a different tune. About a 150 people staring intently at the screen, like they could will their favourite team into scoring. It was a revelation. What energy! Noiseless and non-intrusive but almost palpable in its intensity.

Saturday of course was outstanding. Winner of KroaKing Season 1, Megha Girish and Goan rockstar Oliver Sean were in full form. Their performances were quite different and I’m not very sure if the mix and match worked but it was a thing that had to be done. While Megha’s range is far more impressive, Oliver’s guitar was quite simply mesmerizing. His choice of songs was also more manicured but that’s nothing that experience can’t teach Megha. I had my ‘Vivek look’, as Carlton now refers to it, through most of the night. (For those who are now confused, try and imagine me with my jaw open and nestled somewhere next to my shoes.)

Sunday night was a bit of a soft spot for many of us. It was the first karaoke night since the end of the contest, which remained embroiled in much controversy and cross-fire. (I love it!!!) But more importantly, it was a sort of a send off for Megha (And Amrutha who is also leaving short'l'y), who is now back home in Dubai, having completed her studies here. All of us dedicated our songs to her. It’s a measure of the influence Carlton and Opus has had on the singers that nobody sang ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’. Needless to say, the night was one of the best KroaKnights I’ve ever seen (Roopika where’ve you been all my life?) and it ended with fond farewells and much camaraderie and some tears as well.

It was great weekend; the closing of one era and the ushering in of another. And the spillover is the most exciting part. I hope we see many singers watching matches and as many football fans take up the mike. If the space can be this versatile, why not us?

Vivek Madan

Friday, June 09, 2006

The champions, my friends

Anoopa Anand lives in India and loves to write. One day, she will be thin, write for a living, sing for love and truly live up to her name. Till then, she will write blank verse and plump poetry.

Well, the hurly-burly’s done. And as much as some of us didn’t want the fun to end, we’ve come to the somewhat gloomy realisation that it has. So we’ll listen to our CDs, think back on the past gazillion Wednesday nights and feel magnificently sorry about the fact that we have to go back to our ordinary-joe-lives.
Okay, I will. Those who agree can…please stand up.

Everyone who is capable of remembering anything about 7th June besides the alcohol-inspired haze, has an opinion. Everyone has something to say about specific things, people and incidents. Carlton’s cornrows, Vivek’s whisky, Mark’s minions, Megha’s magic, the judges’, err, judgements, and my thirty nine left feet, are just the beginnings of endless discussions and debates. And, emotional fool that I am, I’m going to make an attempt at mentioning not one or two, but pretty much all the things I can think of. Certainly, all the performers, since no one’s done that yet. Without further rattlings-on, here’s my two cents’ worth.

The evening began with everyone doing double takes at Carlton’s lovely lady locks. You looked really pretty, Carlton. But I think I’m going to leave me hat and everything else on.

Hotty and Shorty- It took me a while to figure out who was who. And when I heard their real names, I’d wish they’d stuck to them. Mayank and Martin- thank you for opening the night and shaking your behinds to what could only have been the utter delight of the audience.

Mark- You were a star in the first round. You could have picked a more suitable song for the second round, but this pot is going to stop calling other kettles black on that point. You have a fantastic voice, and a personality that has already taken you places. I love your sandpapery voice. You most certainly deserved a place in the top three, and I am willing to share my booze, in a bit to tell you that I’d gladly give you my third place.

Amrutha- Girl, you sounded great on the CD. Your performance of the ABBA medley was endearing, but didn’t do as much for your voice. You have nothing to worry about, though. You have a way of getting people to smile.

Arfaaz- You were my pick from the start of the show, you know. But you were a shadow of your old self, at the finals. Maybe it was the song? If I had to pick a song for you, it would have been something with more character than I Want to Break Free. You rock, though.

Namrata- Love that song. And you have a deep voice that you could do a lot with. Here’s a tip- learn to enunciate when you sing. You and your audience will enjoy a performance far far more, if the words are clear, and you sing it with meaning.

Vivek- You’ve been your own biggest critic, so here’s all I’m going to say. I know you lost your pitch, and sometimes with so many people cheering and screaming, it’s hard to find it again. But every time you think your performance was lacking, go listen to your recording. You two-dimensional cat, you!

Serena- Loved your choice of song, in the first round. My Way is a sure-fire attention grabber. One thing, though- don’t start off a high note with being afraid that you may not hit it. You were softest when I most wanted to hear your voice soar.

Vinoj- I’m going to shamelessly paraphrase Vivek on this one. Don’t listen to what everyone has to say about you. You were there just like everyone else, to perform. I think people are complaining about the decision, more than you. However, I do have something to say. For both Jailhouse Rock and Slim Shady, I couldn’t stop thinking that you were over-performing. Concentrate on your voice more. Really. I do believe that ultimately, that’s what we were all there for.

Santosh- The one thing that’s helped me is all the singing I do in the shower. Best acoustics, and you don’t have to merely imagine a naked audience! Concentrate on your voice more, you’ve already got one. And you could have chosen a better song, too. Cheers!

Barry- Over all, you’re a star! And you should know that. Your pitching on Desert Rose was a little off, but boy, do you know how to get your audience to scream for you. And you have an endearing stage personality too. In my opinion you deserved the prize you won.

Jacob- My friend, if I and many other people I know had a hand in the decision-making, you would have been in Round 2, as sure as my profile is NOT on! But that’s the way this cookie crumbled. Your voice is one of my favourites.

Megha- I’ve saved you for the last, because you ARE the last word on great performances. Where did you buy that voice, and can I have the address? I think, without a doubt, you were everybody’s star of the show. I simply loved Lady Marmalade. One thing- when you get carried away, the mike seems to get farther and farther away from you. Rein that mike in girl!

I will abstain from mentioning my own performances, except to say that performing Respect, was the most fun thing I ever did. To keep things objective, I will quote someone I don’t know, who had this to say about me: “Anoopa: I was watching you on the big screen and it was your feet that let you down. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, like Kate Moss on acid (am I allowed to say that?). But bravo for going for a big Broadway number, “Mama” from “Chicago”, which was brave, but the song was bigger than you, I’m afraid.”

Lastly, I’d like to take my hat off to Carlton, Shonali, Gina and everyone at Opus. I don’t know any other place that can pull off a show like that. I know there have been many things said about many things done. But like I told Carlton, it’s not like any of those people ever tried pulling off week after week of a kroakin’ good time, topped off by what is now popularly know as the Megha Finals, after the deserving winner of this contest. You know what you’ve done, and you should be proud.

And this is where I will stop. I have given myself permission not to talk about the judging. Writer’s prerogative. And, let’s be honest, anything I say can and will be used against me. However, we should all join in thanking the judges for being there and sharing in the fun.

Hope you had as exceptional a time as I did. I’m a writer, and I haven’t written a word for the past month. I’d like to thank Opus and all the performers that night, for having inspired me enough.

Anoopa Anand

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Well its finally over. 10 weeks of mad excitement, frantic song searching, even more soul searching and poof! Its gone in one night.

Speaking for myself, im feeling very, very nostalgic about the whole journey. I mean, to me, it was like doing a play, being a part of this massive production that had a 1000 extras. All of us as contestants, especially in the last 2 weeks have hung out together so much; at Opus, at the studio, over coffee, over beer, over msn. And now im left wondering as to how life will move on from here. I know, I know it's temporary, its the whisky talking etc etc. And I know it will pass but for me, the most inexplicable thing is how this stupid singing contest has come to mean so much to most of us. I mean it's making Sharmon Ibrahim feel sentimental. And now its starting to have that same effect on me!

I find that truly astonishing. I've been called many things in my life (Mark wipe that evil grin off your face!) but sentimental is not a word i've heard often.

Anyway, the good thing is, we've all gone through something together, all of us, and we're all taking something back with us. At least I hope everyone is. And I'm not talking about the CD or the booze or the cargoes or anything like that. I'm talking about friends, feelings, learnings, experiences and most importantly with me, a sense of accomplishment. The feeling that I've been a part of something truly wonderful and the feeling that i've done something!

Its crazy and sentimental and its completely mushy drivel but there it is. Weirdness.

Vivek Madan

A reveiw of the KroaKing finals

As requested by Vivek Madan, here is a review of the Kraoking finals at Opus. It is my penance as I ended up not getting a bill at the end of the evening. I was presented with a bill, but it had lots of food on and I had eaten before I arrived, so there was some confusion. However, I had several beers, that seemed to get cooler and cooler as the night wore on, which made me drink more and more (Is this an Opus ploy?), as the night got hotter and hotter. And what a night! Not privy to any of the previous rounds, it was an amazing evening, and so, mea culpa, here is a review (so you don’t have to write one!)

Thank heavens, the judges got it right. The deserved winner was Megha, and, in my opinion, for her outstanding performance of “Lady Marmalade”. Orangey in all the right places, and which received the most spontaneous standing ovation of the evening. One cannot fail to draw comparisons with American Idol, when the choice of song really matters. Her second song was not in the same category - try a Bette Midler song next time (not that she needs a next time now!) I was disappointed Mark didn’t get a higher placing: his Joe Cocker Song in the first round was truly great, a real character voice, full of swallowed ashtrays (a la Tom Waits). Again, his second round choice didn’t connect in the same way.

It was interesting that it was the real performers who got through to the final six: those who didn’t use the song sheet, thereby not presenting the audience (absolutely packed) with their backs. That is a real loser. The performer of the night was Barry, who truly connected with the audience. His first round number was really wacky and mesmerising. For all my catholic knowledge of music, I hadn’t got a clue what the song was, but it was very entertaining. His final number started brilliantly, but he probably lost out as his energy drained in the middle of the very long rap. Perhaps there should be a time limit in the finals. But I take my hat off to his energy and bravado. Anoopa: I was watching you on the big screen and it was your feet that let you down. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, like Kate Moss on acid (am I allowed to say that?). But bravo for going for a big Broadway number, “Mama” from “Chicago”, which was brave, but the song was bigger than you, I’m afraid. And a general note to all, even when squeezing every ounce out of your body to get the high notes, if you close your eyes, you will not communicate to your audience. Eyes say it all. Vivek Madan, bless him, knows he hasn’t got the greatest voice in the world, but he communicated by directing his performance, even with eyes hidden by glasses and hazed by a mist of rum, straight out to the audience. And congratulations to him (another hat he wears is as the lighting man) for getting the lighting right, so everyone, even right at the back, could see the performers.

A very memorable evening by all finalists - congratulations to all, and enhanced by guest performances from the panel of judges: Avril Quadros, Stanley Pinto, Mark Rego, Samira and of course, the host of the evening, Carlton Braganza, who sang “Bad Day” as if it was, and probably was, one of the best days of his life. He and his wife, Gina, have made Opus into something Bangalore should be very proud of. The tension of the evening was heightened by the fact that we were all wondering if we would ever get to the end before the police arrived and close the place down at the ridiculous curfew time directed by Karnatakan law. (Wake up, this is a cosmopolitan city!) Fortunately, we got there without incident.I hope Opus have made enough profit out of the evening (yes, please send me my bill, I will pay it!) to invest in a better sound system. They did the best with what they had, but I hope there is a wonderful philanthropist out there willing to sponsor them with a wonderful system (and sound engineer) so that such evenings can reach the stars!

Chris Williams

Chris Williams is an international music director, songwriter and music theatre entreprenuer. You can agree, disagree or comment on this blog.



KroaKing season 2 every wednesday