Tuesday, April 29, 2008

performa . in . voice

Ok I know I should’ve written this a while ago because I don’t remember who-sang-what anymore. And I don’t have a little red writing book. And even if I did, it wouldn’t be red.

In any case, the ball is back in my court. The score is hardly love all but still, facts are facts.

So first, there’s something about the first semifinal that always lends itself to an anticlimax. I remember how I felt that first year and the feeling is somewhat similar, if not as pronounced. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, http://kroaknights.blogspot.com/2006/05/showdown.html <%22>

Anyway, let us leave the sick-friend’s-bedside-manner aside and move on to the evening itself.

No doubt you will all know who made the cut and who didn’t and you all have opinions on who should have and who was doing a fix. And no doubt you will also know what Chris Williams thinks of who-sang-what and what everyone must do to become ‘better performers’. (Read with pronounced British accent)

I am not a critic, not a singer, not a ‘voice’ to be reckoned with so I will stick to some general, larger picture comments. On performance. Anyone who knows what happened on March 8th at Opus will not contest my authority on the matter.

Point #1: (Pet peeve)
Learn your bloody words. Put our pointless education system to some use. They taught us to mug and regurgitate what we’d read. Why is it so difficult? Because you have a voice, you forget you have a brain?

Point #2: (Also Pet peeve)
Never, EVER, show us when you’ve made a mistake. We don’t know what you’ve planned. There are enough singers at Opus who do not sing songs the way they were originally recorded (%^$#*&^%$). Let us believe you’re one of them. Do your thing. We have no expectations. But if you’re going to tell us you’ve FFFffrogged up, we’re going to think you’ve FFFffrogged up and we’ll hoopla another FFFffrogging frog.

Point #3:
Entertain your audience but not at the cost of your performance. If the audience isn’t responding, asking them again won’t help. Try singing.

Point #4:
I know its Opus and I know liquor is available. And I also know I’m the last person to advocate sobriety. But there are times, I have to admit, when it is required. Drink enough to lose inhibitions. Not to lose the plot.

Point #5:
Finally and most important. This is slightly philosophical but it’s a mantra. Be honest. Don’t try and be something or someone you’re not. We can spot it from a mile away. The practical way to put it is to play to your strengths. Experiment, by all means, but not on us.

Will wait for the cascade of comments before I decide whether to leave town or not.
Getting on stage is the easy part. What you do once you’re up there is the hardest thing ever, no matter how good you are and no matter how often you’ve been there. Congratulations to all 8 semifinalists and we’ll see you tomorrow!

Vivek Madan

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Results- prefinal 1 ( 23rd april)

Right guys, so you wanna win?

Rule No. 1: Know your words - reading the words off the screen to the left means you have no eye contact with the audience. You haven't a chance. Nota bene (N.B. to you illiterates): this is no longer karaoke, it is performance.

Rule No. 2: Don't close your eyes - as soon as you close your eyes you lose contact with the audience. It immediately becomes self-indulgent. All it does it makes you look as if you have a bad case of constipation. It's not pleasant to watch. You've lost. Myopic sufferers: lose your glasses and pray you don't collide with the palm tree or fall off the stage.

Rule No. 3: Communicate! If you want votes, then you need to communicate what you are singing. Use your audience> Look at them> Make eye contact>Make them want to love you> Get them in the palm of your hand>Make them want to be you> Make them want to go to bed with you (if you are that desperate)!

Those are my general notes. Here are my individual reports for the evening (try to spot when my whisky glass was refilled):


1. Neville - great song, great presentation but just not warmed up. As a result, a little flat in pitch. Has potential, I thought.

2. Sendil - great voice but please read my general notes. Walentine? (Bite your "V"'s!) (Sorry - I used to do British Accent and Culture training).

3. Anaitha - tremendous performer and stage presence - you understand all of my 3 rules. However, singing voice needs work - technique to get breath and pitch.

4. Megha - a natural star! Corny song for karaoke but you pulled it off (and most gentlemen's in the audience!)

5. John - fun performance but voice needs work.

6. Ravi - the song didn't do much to show off what seems to be a terrific voice. Struggled to get the audience to join in, so song choice really let you down.

7. Aishwarya (apologies - I know I haven't spelt that correctly) - energy under par. You have a major diction problem - I hardly understood a word. Good voice but it doesn't mean much if the words do not come across. Practice sucking, chewing, anything, to get those facial muscles working!

8. Nitin - this was a great song for your voice but you failed on rules 2 and 3 particularly. Practise in front of the mirror, especially to lose that frown.

9. Mark - brave song choice. But to pull it off you need to obey rules 1 and 3 particularly. Great tone but out of synch with the backing track and need to work at your breathing.


1. Mark - please read Rule No. 1. But questionable song choice as most of the song was on one note. You enjoyed yourself, but did we?

2. Nitin - frankly, I got bored. Far too much instrumental (huge mistake if you haven't got a physical guitar to manhandle). I just wanted to give you a dose of syrup of figs to relieve your constipatory agony. Nevertheless, I think you have great potential if you stopped being so self-indulgent. Pearl of wisdom: leave your audience wanting more (not less!)

3. Aishwarya - again, diction was a problem and you kept closing your eyes. However, the oohs at the end were beautiful.

4. Ravi - "Lightning crashes" is such a powerful song but you really need to know it to perform it. I couldn't make out any of the words when you were singing low. It just didn't communicate to me.

5. John - this song did nothing to show off your voice. This is a pity as I thought your eye work and audience communication was great.

6. Megha - mesmerising! Now you know how to work your pelvic region with the audience, find a song that really shows off your voice and brings tears to our eyes through wonder rather than we having to cross our legs.

7. Anahita- have an electric stage presence but you need to to work at your vocal technique for your voice to match it.

8. Sendil - wonderful voice. When you know your words, you will be a star... but only then.

9. Neville - the microphone is not an ice-cream. When you got it right, it was terrific and a great performance. (Get some advice about microphone technique).

Finished - 2 am - now I can go and watch American Idol...oh, my God! it's Andrew Lloyd Webber night! Aaaah! (There's one for you, Carlton!)

Chris Williams

Monday, April 21, 2008

Andy is dandy

You know that irritating thing about television that makes us think our lives are not good enough? Perfect moments, perfect timing, perfect teeth, perfect brea…kfasts. You get the drift. But when that sort of thing happens before your very eyes, and you haven’t even had a delusion-friendly amount to drink, you realize that art indeed imitates life.

My little red writing book is chock-a-block with underlines and circles and flowers and- for the first time, like some smitten teenager- hearts. We’ll come to that later.

First off, our old friend Verghese came back after ages, and reminded us of that James Dio-esque persona he pulls off so well. He was quickly followed by Kevin with a stunning performance of Megalomaniac. It is important to note that under Kevin’s name I have written the word ‘uzhoo’. Judy, breaking a jinx that took place week after shocking week, finally got her due. With a characteristically coy rendition of I Never Really Loved You Anyway, Judy broke into that now-complete list of finalists. Abhijit Sudhakar, another ghost from KroaKing past, came back with more tweezers and oranges, and successfully yowled his way through Living On A Prayer. Nitin- one of my hot favourites from Week 3- returned, and made the cut with panache, with Born To Be Wild.

And then came one of my unabashed beaming moments. It’s positively hideous to watch me when I get like this; I look like Little Lotta would if she swallowed a lightbulb. When Vijay sang My Way, I watched proudly as all the women turn to each other and said, “Why don’t they make them like this anymore?” It was a warm fuzzy safety-in-numbers moment, albeit without an answer. We didn’t have much time to care; Dino Morea was on stage shortly after, and aforementioned complaining women would’ve eaten some words except for the minor fact that they weren’t breathing.

What happened next goes directly into my special section.

Chickie in my pen

Megha Girish
A little bit of history first. Megha was with me at KroaKing 1. You know, back when karaoke was only about fun? There were enough lethal voices in Season 1 to make one feel like they didn’t stand a chance in hell. But when Megha performed Lady Marmalade, the rest of us may as well have just packed up and left. It is important to point out that we didn’t. We couldn’t; she glued us to our spots with her voice. Megha won that season hands down.

And now, she’s back in town, taking part again. The competition is insane, and it’s impossible to pick any favourites. But watch out for Megha.

Mamma’s most beloved boy wonder!

You know that thing about drawing hearts that I mentioned earlier? Andy was responsible. Eight hearts and one big flower, Andy. What have you done to me? After last week’s nonsensical repeat trick with the cell phone, Andy came back. This time, there was a sheet of paper pinned to a tree. Andy looked at me mockingly and began to sing. The rest, as they don’t say, is in the present continuous. Andy sang Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow and everyone just shut up and listened. I was telling someone the other day, that there are very few voices that astound me, every single time they begin to sing. Andy is the only voice on that list who is not an international star. Yet.

Andy, I’ll call you when you’re on stage at the finals, okay?! Wink.

That brings us to the end of the qualifying rounds. Five people made it last Wednesday, since a couple of people from previous weeks have had to drop out. Judy, Andy, Megha, Nitin and Kevin.

That also brings me to the end of a fairly long relationship that I’ve shared with this blog. I first wrote here right at the end of Season 1, and haven’t stopped since. It’s going to be strange not to be here for the rest of this season. But I will try and survive on news I’m sure I’ll get from friends. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to spend week after week getting badgered by Carlton to write now, write now!

Have a great season, all the best and may the crown belong to the most passionate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Week 7: Andy, get a landline

I’ve been sitting in front of this computer for an hour and a half. I have nothing. Let me assure you. If I didn’t absolutely have to write, this week’s post would have been a visual interpretation of a stunned silence.

And please don’t assume that the dumbstruck disposition is a positive reaction to last week. Not by a long shot.

Last week was the penultimate qualifying week at KroaKing Season 3, and also the penultimate week for me in Bangalore. (Pen. Ultimate. Smirk.) I have another week to go with this blog before I head off to a clement, balmy, pleasant Secunderabad. And I’m hoping and praying that I’ll have a lot more to say next week.

It’s besides the fact that the same people came back with the same songs. I can’t imagine why, although I’ve been doing it for years as well. I don’t care; I’ve had a tough week, and I’m allowing myself the luxury hypocrisy. Shilpa with Bubbly, Tania with Punk Rocker, JJ with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Selwyn with Angel. Seriously guys. I’m planning a blog embargo for next week if you don’t sing us a new song. And I deserve a better farewell than that! So come on!

Through the entire evening, I remember smiling thrice:

1. For Russ who did Twist and Shout. I like Russ. He keeps thinks fresh and interesting, and I never tire of seeing him on stage.

2. For Stanley Pinto and Fly Me To The Moon. Stanley is a judge and not a participant; we all know that. But I found myself circling his name in my book anyway. Endearing as always, Mr. Pinto.

3. Actually, this was a beam. For Aishwarya, who sang one of my least favourite songs of all-time. But goosebumps are not bigots; they don’t have differences of opinion on genre, neither are they averse to alarming levels of smarminess. Aishwarya, you were my one shining moment from last week. What a magical voice you have.

Which brings us to my failed shining moment:

The Continuing Story of Bungling Andy

For those of you who were not present at the Kroak finals last year, congratulations! You were saved the trouble of cringing when Andy- easily one of the best voices in the house- pulled out his cell phone and proceeded to read the lyrics to his song- the ENTIRE song- from his phone. So there was a magnificent voice on stage, but the body that was producing that sound, seemed to be checking his SMS.

Cut to Kroak 3 qualifiers, week 7.

Anyway. (Like, so whatever.) Three more have made it to that all-important list. Neha, Suraj and Aishwarya. Congratulations, you three, we’re looking forward to seeing more of your talent at the semis. I’m headed to Opus early tomorrow, in the hope that I can catch Andy at the entrance and confiscate his cell phone. Also, my Little Red Writing Book and I will say goodbye to you tomorrow, our last kroak-evening. So be there! And if you don’t know who the hell I am, be there still!

your last chance to get in

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Week 6: Little Miss Sunshine Says Boys Do Cry

If confirmed cynics like me allowed déjà vu to get to them, I might have sighed last Wednesday.

It felt like a Kroaking competition from at least a year back. Shyju was singing Uriah Heep, Roopika was back in town, Arfaaz was wearing his heart on his knees and Saurabh Dubey was performing a very 80s public display of angst again. Damn. I should’ve sighed.

But last week wasn’t just all about nostalgia: these guys were all back on stage to get back in the game again. The fact that only a couple of them made it goes to show just how competitive this has become. Shyju’s Stealin’ reminded me of a semi-finals from two years back as did Arfaaz who, no matter what he sang, would’ve sailed through back then.

There were the usual suspects as well. JJ, Selwyn and Martin. The latter two seem to have settled into a depressing genre of music. Better Man, Real Love, Bed of Roses, Angels, Iris…all these songs involve young men bereft of something, usually love, and is punctuated with their inability to sing something happy. This is a terrifying male version of a syndrome that Bette Midler went through, as did Shania Twain, God bless her annoying soul.
Martin and Selwyn, you boys should sing happy songs. Does it really matter if you get into the semi-finals or not? Sing happy songs! Come on. If Del Amitri could do it, so can you. And JJ, although you have (thankfully) broken off that gloomy relationship you had with Iris, I fear that this rebound with Breakfast At Tiffany’s is going to be a long one. Quick! Find another song!

Anyway, moving on from the rebuking. Many special mentions this week. The Talented Mr. Menzel pulled off a very sincere Romeo and Juliet. Sharon who has already made it to the semis, came back with that feminist anthem I Will Survive. My knees weren't as weak as the last time she sang, but she’s got something special all right. There was Russ Peterson featuring Aashith Shetty in a screeching interpretation of Pretty Fly. Just in case Martin and Mayank thought no one else could perform this song. Come on, boys! Let’s have a little fist out, shall we? Russ and Aashith walked away with last week’s Radio One Fatafat prize.

Priyanka Blah was Hella Good. She got an Underline in my book, and I’m hoping she’ll come back. Thing with Priyanka is, she does stuff not too many people do on the Opus stage, and that’s always refreshing.

The return of Roopika was akin to headline material in Opus circles, and for all the right reasons. Roopika's performance is flawless. As for her singing, read back issues. She’s one of the best we’ll ever have. I personally dislike the song she sang. Jesus Take The Wheel, besides conjuring an irksome mental picture of Jesus driving a pickup truck (oh no. now there’s a pink carnation.), does nothing for me. Roopika, I would love to see you do something completely different. Some bad-girl rock, perhaps?

Then there was my flavour of the season, Ravi Bhat, with Plush. Ravi, in my World XI, you will be captain, okay?

Moving on to Mamma’s sections.

Chickies In My Pen

Shwetha Jairam
Finally finally finally. Shwetha Jairam, who I’ve been rooting for unabashedly and whose name I spelt right for the first time today, has got her due. Success is sweet, you deserve it, I love your voice and all that jazz. It's a tough song to pull off, and harder still without the backing. You did a very decent job notwithstanding. Woo. Hoo!

Mamma’s Boys

Arfaaz Kaagalwala
Arfaaz was a personal pick, mostly because he sang one of my favorite Aerosmith songs. I was just lapping up all the nostalgia last week!

Saurabh Dubey
One of our shining moments from KroaKing 1, I was thoroughly pleased when I saw Saurabh in the crowd. And even more pleased when he made the top three. Another victim of the Mr. Bette Middler Syndrome, I am hoping Saurabh will happy up in a hurry as well. Welcome back, Saurabh.

So that’s another week down and three more names on that board in Opus, which someone needs to update regularly, no? Saurabh, Roopika and Shwetha, congratulations and get ready for the mad bad world of KroaKing. Err, again, in most cases.
See you all tomorrow. This time, the cynic will try and bring her rose-tinted glasses. But I’m not promising.
For those of you who didn't make it, and for those who want a shortcut to success, here's how you go about it. Radio One, the radio partner for KroaKing 3, has a special on the menu. Call the numbers listed below, and leave a message. Of course, your message has to be a song. The powers-that-be will pick three of the best voices, and those three will make it to the semi-finals of Kroak, purely on the basis of that one phone call. BSNL users can dial 1255594, and other landline and mobile service users can dial 505101094.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Weak 5: Anhoni ko Dhoni kar de

The long arm of justice often gives us the short shrift, eh?

It wasn’t one of those weeks where there are so many fantastic singers that a great voice must be sacrificed in favour of another great voice. For once, I could actually count off the fingers of one hand, the number of people who stood out. And it was something of a shocker that Shweta Jayaram didn’t make it. But there you go. That’s the orange coloured, purple striped pretty green polka dotted arm of justice for you.

Okay, enough whining.

Last Wednesday, it rained many many huge monkeys. (Sue me.) Good thing we were singing and not playing cricket, for instance. No loss for me, though; I’m mistaking singers for cricketers all the time.

First to impress was my main man, Venki, with yet another hit by The Doors, Back Door Man. While a part of me worries that perhaps Venki is not exploring his full potential, range-wise, I am quickly reminded of I Left My Heart In San Francisco. And that part quickly shuts up.

Mr. Mayank Tiwary, with his belly-shaking bouncy baby take on Tubthumpin’ was the Radio One Fatafat Man of the Week. Mayank has no illusions about his voice, neither has he any doubt of his stage presence. And that is a refreshing find. Our faithful friend Mrs. JJ came back with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a song which will henceforth be called Better Than Iris. JJ sounded far more at ease and self-assured this time. Look what happens when you find another song, JJ? Come, let’s go rounding in your car!

Speaking of old friends, we also had the immense pleasure of Abhijit Sudhakar’s company. Abhijit was one of the stars of last year’s competition, and few have managed to get over his terrific green costume. Last Wednesday, Abhijit squeezed some oranges with his rendition of What’s Up.

Remya was back with her beautiful voice, but had a very unfortunate choice of song. Hero has got to be the most annoying song ever written. And it really doesn’t help that it is in the scale of Mariah Carey. Every time I hear it, I have a mental picture of nails against a blackboard. Remya, on the other hand, has grace, nonchalance and a quite control over the crowd. Even strong attributes like those pale before a song of such preposterous proportions as Hero.

Senthil warmed the cockles of my Tamilian heart with an unpretentious rendition of Every Breath You Take. Senthil was the second person to make the list last week. And then there was Anuj- from Hyderabad- who sang Angels. He was the third. I’m coming to the first.

In my special section this week, I have one gush and one lament.

Mamma’s Boy


Okay, fine, Ravi Bhat. This young man has created a huge fan following for himself over the past few weeks. Thanks to my unabashed and constant gushing, the announcement of his name on the mic is followed by gregarious chants of Dhoni! Dhoni! Dhoni!, most of which I start in my quiet corner. But all that chanting finally paid off. Ravi promised a different genre and delivered with a flourish. His performance of Kissing A Fool was easily among the best last week. With Ravi Bhat qualifying, I feel like my work here is done.

Chickie In My Pen

Shweta Jayaram
Absolutely confounding and ridiculous that this girl didn’t make it. Nobody but nobody I know can pull off Patsy Cline’s Crazy and Son Of A Preacher Man like this girl. It’s not just about the songs she picks. There is something in her voice that sets her apart, and I can’t believe that she didn’t make it last Wednesday. You know, I try to keep this blog as light-hearted as possible, but I have to admit that this truly bothers me. Anyway. The cookie crumbled. Your voice makes me misty-eyed, Shweta, and you should know it.

So three more frogs have been kissed by fools, into princes- Ravi, Senthil and Anuj. More mayhem at the Octopus’s Garden tomorrow evening. I have many butterflies in my stomach about tomorrow- I have a feeling it’s going to be insane. My little red writing book and I will be there. And this time, I think I’m going to give the beer a miss.
I intend to maintain the sobriety of…judges.



KroaKing season 2 every wednesday