Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won

I know, I know, I know.
I should have written many days ago. I’ve had the time and I’ve had the intention. I just don’t know where to start. This gig started off as an innocent karaoke competition. I don’t know what it has become. Twelve people, all of who sing as if Kate Moss is headed towards the exit, and only their singing can bring her back. (Hi, Chris? How’re you doing?) Twelve people who are singers and performers and divas and…are men called divas too? They should be.

See? I have no idea what I’m saying. I told Carlton this would be the worst farewell piece I’ve ever had to write. Here it is, nevertheless. I couldn’t have hoped to end on a higher note. God knows, I can’t hit too many.

It has truly been an honour and a pleasure to write about all of you.

Abhijit
Your first song was very good. You have great range. And I don’t know if it was because it was your birthday and you had to make it special, but you pushed yourself and completely raised the stakes. And I loved the costume on the second one! You are already a star. I hope you find many platforms where you can show the world how true that is.

Andy
When you started to read your lyrics off the phone, my instinct was to run to you and cry on your shoulder. Loudly. I wanted to bawl. Why did you do that, Andy, why why? Yours was an unmatched performance. You had everything going for you: your voice is, of course, unmatched. You have this shaking writhing fist-clenching performance that has everyone on the edge of their seats. We Are The Champions was the pick of that round, without exception. As was everything else about round 2. Except for that gimmick with the phone. But enough about that. You talent is unparalleled and you need to actively do something about it.

Goo
It doesn’t matter that you didn’t make it to round 2. You should really know that. What matters is you have a very endearing voice and a very endearing personality. I could listen to you sing any old time. I guess you lost out because you were singing in a language you didn’t know, and it’s hard to emote when you don’t know what you’re saying. It takes a lot of guts to do what you did. And you pulled it off with more class and √©lan that I could have. And I speak the language. Hats off to you. You have my complete respect. And Mr. Braganza’s.

Jacob
Jacobeeeee! You made the Kroakstars of season 1 very proud. You are leaps and bounds ahead of where you were last year. What a performer you are. I thought your second song was far better than your first one. I am guessing love does things like this. In which case, I hope you stay in love and continue to be the superlative singer and performer you are. Kissy poo!

Jerusha
You have an effortless voice and a winning personality. The Mamma Song was simply the best! Which reminds me, Simply The Best was an awesome song as well. When I grow up, I want to sing like you. And oh. You should wear skirts more often. As ZZ Top once said, “She’s got legs; she knows how to use them”. Grin.

Keerthana
Song choice. Kiki. Something To Talk About is a great song. But I would never sing it if my vocal prowess was being judged. Why? Because too many people have sung it. And the most disturbingly abiding memory of that song is that nightmarish rendition by Sanjaya. I swear, I still wake up screaming some nights. You have a powerful voice and a natural ability to hold your audience’s attention. Do some voice training, lady. Awesome stuff.

Malliga
Malligaaaaa! You completely outdid yourself. Talk about being able to push yourself and raise the bar! Initially, I thought Somebody To Love was a very brave choice. I honestly think as few people as possible should pick Freddie Mercury’s vocals. Turns out, at least three people from this competition are more than capable. What a performance! And Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend was brilliant. You have a killer voice, but I love the little tweaks you give each performance of yours, to make it special. Brilliant, brilliant.

Mark
I stick by my initial reaction to and opinion of your song choice in round 1. You completely rocked I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, but you are capable of so much more than that song can offer. Never mind. Your song in round 2 completely made up for the faux pas! And I counted 832 men and women who were drooling over your performance, so no harm done! You know you’re a star. But that will never stop me from telling you over and over again. For my dowry, I want your brother’s photography skills.

Pragnya
Pragnya, ours has been a long trip to the finals. And you know I rooted for you from the start. With good reason, apparently. Never mind that you didn’t make it to the final round. You still did a fantastic job with Aretha Franklin. I hope you keep coming back and singing for us.

Pratik
Pratik, I’ve always only had one complaint about you. It’s that you don’t sing in your own voice. It’s true that whatever you do, it’s making you sound great. But spend some quality time in the shower and find your own voice. I heard it for a couple of seconds in your recording on the CD. You should find that superb voice and give it some love and affection. You rock!

Roopika
What can I say? You deserve all the praise, the awards, the title, the crown and the adulation. With whipped cream on top. Both your songs were outstanding, and both performances, stellar. May you have many many more shows, accolades and admirers. And may Barbara Streisand kiss the ground you tread.

Venkat
Venky. You are my other hero. Great performance on Born To Run. I was going to get up and run after you, but realized I’d be out of breath. Sure enough, it happened to you. Small glitch there. Luck Be A Lady was okay, though. Your pitch wasn’t bang on at quite a few places, and it would have done you good to learn the words. Nothing more distracting in a performance, than the constant fear that you’ll forget your words. But you are still a star. And there are great things in store for you.

Monday, May 28, 2007

THROUGH THE BURGEONING FRAUDULENCE, SOME SHINING LIGHTS


By Stanley Pinto
There’s a lot about Bangalore that’s hyperbole-ridden, if not downright fraudulent. Restaurants described as world-class by writers who one is often tempted to believe haven't ventured too far beyond Chikmagalur. Fashionistas who we are regularly told are putting Bangalore (India?) on the world map, and who then disappear into well-earned oblivion shortly thereafter. A new international airport that is tom-tommed as arguably the most futuristic in the region, before it is slammed as also being, well, boring.

And so on.

So when Carlton Braganza tells me the finalists at this year’s Opus Idol are as good as anything we saw on the recently concluded America Idol, I ask him who (did I mean What?) he’s been smoking lately. But I turn out dutifully at the Chowdaiah Hall to judge the finals nevertheless, much concerned that my reputation, already verging on the flaky, is going to take a hit from which it may never recover. I mean what do I know about songs that shriek and scream and hippety-hop all over the place? I have shoes older than some of those singers, for heaven’s sake.

But Carlton was right.

The first thing I hear on entering the hall is a cover version of John Lennon’s pithy song Oh Darlin’ playing over the sound system. It’s totally wonderful and before I can ask who the singer is, CeeBee tells me it’s one of the evening’s finalists.

I’m blown away.

And I never really recover as, in the course of the next three hours, I discover that Opus and the redoubtable Carlton & Gina team have unearthed gems as deeply concealed, and every bit as precious, as blood diamonds in a Sierra Leonian mudslide.

There will be reams written about that evening, so suffice it for me to say that there hasn’t been an evening of such unquestioned local talent on display in Bangalore since I don’t know when.

Where on earth did Roopika come from? (Mysore, I was told. And even her husband and father had no idea she could sing, let alone recreate Broadway roles as electrifyingly as she did.)

Who is Andy? How can such a compact body contain the bellows he calls lungs?

Did Jerusha secretly train with Tina Turner?

Was Marilyn Monroe as gauche, and delicious, as Malliga, when she first touted Diamonds as a Girl’s Best Friend a hundred years ago?

And what could possibly account for Bharat’s virtuosity at writing songs in four languages and twenty time signatures, then mixing the sound track himself to perform the whole melange in a hysterical, uncontrolled burst of gloriously demented schizophrenia?

The questions came popping up in my mind with each performance as this passing parade of home-grown kids made that stage their own mesmerising playground. I don’t care what the moronic moral police of Fraud City have to say, Carlton and Gina have gifted the young people of Bangalore with an invaluable forum for putting their take on clean contemporary living front and centre.

As I left the Chowdaiah Hall after the show, a thought occurred: If only someone could get the Chief Minister to spend a night at Opus one of these days. He is likely to discover an endangered species just waiting to open his eyes to a future right under his nose.

chris' notes:
1. ABHIJIT
Great versatile voice. Very “new Romantic” (I’d like to hear you sing “Vienna”). Good control on high notes. First song was much better than the second. Too much running around the stage, which lost contact with the audience. It’s the eyes that primarily connect. The still moments were terrific! Frequently lost clarity of words due to pushing too hard, and running around. Your “Rocky Horror” outfit was fun, if a bit tame - you needed fish-net stockings, or something more daring!
2. ANDY
This is a voice in a million. Tenors would kill for the facility to reach the high notes like that!
I thought “We are the champions” was going to be a bit cheesy, but you made it your own and it was brilliant. “Maybe this time” was the bravest and most ambitious choice of song of the evening. I have taught this to girls to develop their lower and belt registers. You started probably an octave above how most guys would sing. And then you just kept going up and up. It was thrilling.
If I were to hear your voice on the radio, I would know it was you (that is more than I can say for any of the American Idol finalists). It is this quality and character that makes you outstanding. It is a voice that could sing all kinds of music: western classical, opera, mediaeval/renaissance European music, as I think it has great potential versatility. I think the reason you didn’t come first is because you didn’t know your words. The Nokia gag was a clever ruse, but you’ll never pull that off again!
You have a very special gift. Please develop your voice, get singing lessons, learn to look after it. You are not butch or camp enough to be Freddie Mercury, but your voice is in that league, and you have the potential to be something original.
3. GOO
You have a powerful rich low/middle register (what is called a “belt” voice) which is rather unexpected, given your slim, sexy, oriental appearance. That’s your great appeal. I was sorry you didn’t make the second round, as I heard you rehearsing “Somewhere over the rainbow”, which the audience would have loved. Your rendition of “I love rock and roll” was highly entertaining. I know you have problems with the English language, but your diction (although not perfect!) was better than some of the other contestants, as you didn’t overpush your voice. Good voice control.
4. JACOB
You have progressed leaps and bounds since last year. You ooze confidence and vocally you are much stronger. I would like to think it was all those exercises I put you through, but it’s probably “love”! Great, entertaining first number, beautifully contrasted with stillness and power in “Impossible Dream”. You have great versatility. Work at your low notes in the shower!
5. JERUSHA
You chose a difficult first number, in that it takes a while to get to the chorus. The chorus was terrific, but the verse is low and difficult to sustain the energy. And it was during the verses that you lost your audience, as your focus was on the screen rather than them. Entertaining performance of “When you’re good to Mama”, given it was a family audience.
But to really pull that song off, you have to exploit every innuendo to the fullest. Try it at Opus sometime and be very daring!
6. KEERTHANA
I think you could have found a raunchier song - or have made that song more raunchy! It was unfortunate that Sanjaya sung this so recently on American Idol - he made it his own. I hasten to say I think you sang it better, but it didn’t quite have the charisma that Sanjaya gave it! You have a Tina Turner/ Janis Joplin quality, and the song wasn’t strong enough for you to really show that off. Practise long held low notes in the shower to develop your lower range!
7. MALLIGA
Your first song was too long, and having whammed it at the beginning there was nowhere to go. Your lower notes got a bit lost. Your voice is terrific, but it only shone through when the backing track backed off. Great choice though for your second song, “Diamonds...” which you made your own. Slightly refined for the family audience - fair enough - but try it Opus with a bit more of Marilyn Monroe about it. You will bring the house down. I would love to hear you sing something more ballady to show off the qualities in your voice.
8. MARK
You showed your voice off to the full with two very different songs. You know how to command a stage by keeping still, and feeling those still moments. You have a rich baritone and “Music of the night” was a brave but brilliant choice for you. When are we going to see you in a show?
9. PRAGNYA
You have a lovely voice and gave a great performance. What was missing was diction - it was difficult to make out the words. For an audience in this situation, we stopped looking at you and read the words on the screen. Don’t be afraid of hitting and spitting the consonants. Your vowels are fine - it’s the consonants, though, that give definition. I was sorry you didn’t get through to the next round: I would have liked to hear you sing sing something contrasting.
10. PRATIK
Great character voice. It has a terrific “ashtray” quality, which is why I compared you to Mark Swaroop. Listen to some Tom Waits. You lost your audience by not knowing your words well enough, and your focus kept going to the screen in front of you.
11. ROOPIKA
10 of of 10 all round - wonderful voice, perfect songs and tremendous stage performances. I was so pleased you got the words for “A piece of sky” - this is a really difficult number, and to pull it off to a karaoke track was stunning. My only note for this was “Eat your heart out, Barbra”! I feel that music theatre is your calling. Get some training: the stage is your oyster!
12. VENKAT
“Born to run”: you certainly made this song come alive with your performance. Tremendous energy. You lost clarity in your words at high volume. ”Luck be a lady”: you did the best you could with an awful backing track. Swing numbers tend to fall flat if the the horns aren’t real! A bit more stillness would have helped you, especially after the running around of your first number.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

Orange colored purple striped pretty green polka dotted pink bubbled Pre-final 3!!

Increasingly, I’ve been feeling that I try to sing with soul to remind myself that I still have one. Wednesday taught me to breathe easy, sit back and listen to those who never seem to have seen a single difficult day, in that area. Eight people who seem to have all the soul that the devil bought off a thousand needy fools and wise men. I’ll say this: he redistributed wisely.

And this is why I am not going to talk about specific people, this time around. This is not writers’ block. I just don’t know how capable I am of doing any justice, although I’m really tempted to try. So, no singling out people. Like Roopika, who had the entire crowd on its feet and knees, alternately. Or Jerusha, who got the most shouting, yelling and cheering that I’ve seen in a long time. Or Jude who won about 89 hearts in the first minute of his performance. Or Keerthana, who blew the socks off the crowd with her power and confidence. Or Jacob. I do believe he had the crowd in tears and in complete awe-struck silence. Like little puppeteers, wrapping strings of worshipping crowds around their fingers.

Did I mention I wasn’t going to talk about specific people? Good. So I guess I should mention that I’m not proposing either. I’m done asking people to

Marry Me!

I’m not asking Bharath to marry me, for instance. He didn’t make it to the top four, but he does win a prize for being one of the few people in my surroundings who can pull of Dave Matthews.

And I sure as hell can’t ask Jude, irrespective of his charming performance. Besides being mildly incestuous, we all know how many times I’ve unabashedly asked his brother and how many times I’ve been rejected. We can safely assume that this sort of thing runs in the family.

But I’ll say this. Till I find my soul without having to look for it so desperately, I’ll keep the faith by recalling the Wednesday that just went by. I’m convinced that there’s enough soul out there to go around.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pre-final 2- Chick, Korea

Music makes the world go ‘round. Music is not bound by language, geography or generation. Music is the food of love. Et cetera.

Really. Some sayings are so boring. If I were you, I’d have stopped reading at “bound by language”. I guess this is because we’ve heard some things said so often, but we’ve never experienced them first-hand. Watching a clich√© come alive, more than being a mere reality check, is a refresher course for old jaded cynics.

On an operational level, last night saw four more people heading for the finals. But on that intangible level that writers love so dearly, it served as a refresher course for this jaded cynic I know. Turns out, music isn’t bound by language after all. Ask anyone who heard Goo sing. Some truth is cooler than fiction.

More about that later. Let’s start from the bottom and move up.

DJ: I’ve heard you sing a hundred times, but I’ve never seen you nervous. You have the voice and the presence, but the sad thing about nerves is that it paralyzes you. Getting discouraged is the worst thing one can do. Get some practise (loos are the best venue for this) and come right back.

Lindsay: Real pity you didn’t make it. But I have two words for you: song choice. You were great on Proud Mary, but Janis’s version of Summertime is a tough one. The charm lies entirely in the octave she sings in, and by taking it down, I do believe you lost out on voice quality, performance and about 50 votes. I still voted for you because your first song was outstanding.

Russ: You’re a wild one alright, gimmick boy! Your performances were really entertaining, and it looked like you were having a great time. That is easily one of the things that will set some people apart from others in this competition. That, and a superlative voice. You have one of them. :)

Sulekha: Song choice, half-hearted performances and finally, an alarming incident where you seemed to be checking your pitch- repeatedly- on the microphone. Girl, get off the mic when you want to check your pitch! Please! You actually sounded quite nice on Say A Little Prayer For You. But Black Velvet didn’t work out at all. And too many people do that song for it to continue to be fresh. Come back, and sing more. It always helps.

Now for those who made it.

Goo: The greatest sorrow is that you’re not going to be reading this article, Goo. Because while I’ve been gushing over various voices these past few weeks, what you pulled off gets all my R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Ladies and other weird creatures, this is where that bit about music not being restricted by language becomes relevant. Goo topped last night’s poll.
No. of brilliant performances: 2
No. of votes received: 139
No. of words she understood in both songs put together: Word has it, closer to 2 than to 139.
I cannot wait to listen to you at the finals.

As always, fools tread where wise men fear to venture. Here goes.

Marry Me!

Andy: Here’s the thing. You sing like a dream AND you’re approximately my height! Imagine! We can see eye to eye on everything! On a more serious note, I was really afraid after your stalwart performance of Love Hurts. I was almost sure you wouldn’t have been able to match that with song 2. But when I watched your performance of Show Must Go On, I think a piece of my heart fell into my beer. You are my pick from last evening. Without doubt. There’s a ring with your name on it.

Pratik: You have a great voice, and everything else that it takes to win this contest. No doubt about it. You even seem to have this stout Rock n’ Roll background, and a general ability to pick the right songs. Which is why I can’t for the life of me figure out why you picked Kiss From A Rose. You are great, I love your voice, marry me. But please be careful about what you pick for the finals.

Pragnya: Honestly, when you sang Somebody to Love, I had written you off. It didn't do you justice, you didn't do it justice. But then your Chain of Fools came to the rescue. What a brilliant choice that was! Your voice did everything right for that song, and it's not at all an easy number to pull off. Last evening was the best you’ve ever sounded and you deserved every single one of your 105 votes.

And that brings us to the end of a Wednesday with an alarming number of bad song choices, but a heartening number of great voices. And that sentence would have sounded far less cheesy if it hadn’t happened to rhyme.

Till next week, then. Practise your scales, gargle and…run your song choices by me!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pre-final 1: Mark says he won’t do that and Thos days are over

Last evening at Opus, we had a glimpse of exactly what we’re in for, over the next few weeks. Clearly, this is far more than a karaoke competition. I have no idea what’s happening around here anymore, but I do know that the people who run this city (yes, run it) need to stand in a corner and think about what they’re doing. The amount of talent I’ve seen at Opus in the recent past, I haven’t seen anywhere else. No surprise there, this is the result of a city choking under the sway of various small-minded scepters. I guess it really helps to stand up and shout, instead of sit around and stare.

Speaking of which, there was a fair amount of shouting going on last night, mostly in tune but some…not quite.


Remya. I really liked your voice on Fever. But I think Woman’s Worth was just a bad song to pick. It lacks character, and it does nothing for anyone’s voice. Not even for Ms. Keys. I empathize. Bad songs have haunted me forever now. Nevertheless, good job.

Shwetha. I really really wish you would let go and sing out. Orange Coloured Sky was average at best, but when you sang KT, I thought it was a pity you weren’t giving it everything. Try it next time. Get a couple of drinks, if you need outside help. But let go.

Thomas. I have no explanation for this. But I voted for you. There’s something about you. I guess when you screamed and jumped and gyrated, I kind of scared myself into circling your name. But you know I’m just being mean and Cowellish! I did vote for you, but I did it because you promised to prove something to me, and you did.

Tania.
Well, I guess I don’t have to say anything. You seem to know where you stand as far as your vocal abilities are concerned. You’re a good sport. Cheers! And oh. Please don’t ever sing Celine Dion again. I will take my own life by swallowing the ring that Mark, Malliga and Venky refuse.

And now for the guys who made it. And also, presently, my Marry Me! section.

Abhjit topped the list with 173 votes. Abhijit, your Break On Through was excellent, although it did give me the feeling there was something of Mr. Morrison’s spirit inside you. That was about 60% his voice. Sure enough, you came back with You Know My Name and we got to listen to you sing. Now we sure as hell know your name! 173 votes, my man! Every single one of them, well-deserved.


Marry Me!

Mark came in a close second with 170 votes. Mark, first off, if I had your voice (besides being over the moon in a horribly showy extravagant brash way), I’d have picked another song for the pre-1975 round. Something with more drama, you know? Not that it really mattered; you kicked Jailhouse Rock’s posterior right through the shiny new roof. And then you go and sing I Will Do Anything For Love. This is approximately the moment when you steal the hearts of unassuming women in their mid-twenties. Damn you and that big fluffy voice of yours. Marry me? I childishly circled your name 8 times.

Venky qualified next, with 163 votes. Venky, since we’re on the topic of marriage, will you? Marry me, that is. And if you’re unimaginably young and thoroughly disgusted with my middle-aged advances, forgive me, but it’s entirely your fault. You were one of only two people last evening, who nailed it on song choice, both times. The Way You Look Tonight was easily one of the best performances and Roadhouse Blues stamped your ticket to the finals. In keeping with the childish trend, I circled your name about 6 times.

Malliga tied with Venky with 163 votes, to secure the last entry to the finals. Malliga, see, this proposals thing is very...open-minded. You have to understand, it’s a gesture. You are the second of two people who were bang-on with song choices, both times. Everlasting Love had me screaming and cheering like a drunk groupie. And Sweet Child of Mine- for an overplayed, oversung number- sounded great. So, feel free to accept this ring. It’s very old and suspiciously rusted, but I’m an impoverished writer.


For more about last evening, including pictures and videos and other fancy things that Mr. Braganza does, go to http://opusbangalore.blogspot.com
Is wonderful!

SEASON 3 KROAKING FINALE PICS

INDIAN IDLE

INDIAN IDLE
KroaKing season 2 every wednesday