Alchemy 2011 – RDP Feat. Bellowhead
So on the 1st of January this year, we played to about 2000 screaming fans outside the Garuda Mall in Bangalore, a place that is MOST DEFINITELY NOT meant for a live concert, but amidst all the sound glitches and everything, Jude and Gauri, who had come along, saw something they thought would work for a collaborative project at the Southbank Center. And in what I am told, is a first ever, that night, the intent to go through with this project was expressed and basic plans laid out!
At that point, I don’t think any of us knew what was going to happen!
We went off on our trip to America, and when we were back, had a big set back with both our violinists not being able to make the trip to the UK. Some frantic calls and ‘jugaad’ meant that we got one of the most senior Indian violinists in the UK, Violin Chandru sir to agree to perform with us.
Next step – Visas – and this time, Raghu had run out of blank pages on his passport and with 15 days left to travel, we were faced with the prospect of getting a new passport for Raghu and then apply for our visas which we were late for already! But a combination of luck, smart thinking, compassionate officers and divine intervention meant that we got a brand new passport and were set to apply 2 days later. From there, it was Tasneem who saw us through and we are eternally grateful she did!
With visas in our hand at the last possible moment, we boarded our flights and set foot once again in London.
With the amazing Judith Bowdler from the Southbank Center handling all logistics, we were promptly picked up and whisked away to a fantastic hotel in Waterloo and all set to start what would end up being the collaboration of our lives!
The first day’s meeting with members from the Southbank Center, British Council, Gauri Sharma Tripathi and Bellowhead was a good discussion that involved everything from Indian food to the London Weather and in the middle of that, how we decided to do 5 songs as collaborations 4 days later, I still don’t know!
The first day of the collaborative workshop was a total eye opener for us. We spent the first session jamming amongst ourselves to get Chandru Sir up to speed on the songs he was playing and then Andy and Brendan from Bellowhead came in and we just jammed and the first song that we did, we had goosebumps listening to how amazing the trumpet and the saxophone sounded with our music!
3 days of jamming went by in the blink of an eye and we were incredibly proud of what we came up with, and also, I don’t think we were this excited about a gig for a long time. To add to that, we got news that our album was Number 1 on the iTunes UK World music charts and was the highest climber on the Amazon Music Charts, we were just speechless.
At 8PM on that Friday night, as we walked out on to stage, we were overwhelmed to see the packed hall, for after all, it was the Queen Elizabeth Halll, one of the most prestigious halls in London! And I think we played our tightest set ever! Just like that, everything came together and it was just perfect. The Hall, the crowd, the sound, the lights, the music, the collaboration, everything was spot on!
We weaved through Raghu’s solo – Soruthihudu Maneya Maligi with Andy playing the muted Trumpet and from there into an expanded version of Hey Bhagwan with the entire horn section, and then some stuff by ourselves, to the percussionist, Pete’s solo on ‘Lokada Kalaji’ to the song of the night, Kodagana Koli Nungitha with the horn section taking it to a whole new level! Infact, at the end of 2 and a half hours of playing, we repeated that song for the encore!
After that it was just a blur of activity with everyone coming over to say how much they enjoyed themselves and how fun it was, making all of it worthwhile!
A BIG BIG thank you from all of us in the band to Tasneem and the British Council, India, to Jude Kelly and everyone at the Southbank Center, especially to Judith Bowdler for making it happen and for making it so comfortable for us. Thanks to the fantastic guys from Bellowhead, you guys were incredible! and to Chandru sir, for coming in and making it all complete!
We received some incredible reviews in the press, including Akin Aworan, who is an incredible photographer himself assuring us a Grammy very soon, to a 4 star review in the Guardian by Robin Denselow to Jane Cornwell in the Evening Standard assuring us of International stardom!
Thanks to everyone who came, who spread the word about the gig and who continue to spread the word about the band. Go on to Youtube and look for videos from this show and also please do check out some fantastic pictures of us playing at the gig by Akin Aworan.