Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Friday, the 20th could well have been the 13th.

"Hey, let's go listen to Stanford University's acapella group perform today", said a friend. "Aye thu come ya, It will be fun, and besides how bad can it be? They're only performing for 45 minutes." "Oh them?", I said, googling furiously. They were called Raagapella, I discovered. Stanford university's South Asian focussed all-male acapella group. Oho. They'd been selected as part of Stanford's eight acapella groups through a gruellingly intense audition process. Achacha. They only got 3 hours of sleep a night, because of all the practices, the article said. Mchxl mchxl. "Uyyo cammaaan I say" I hollered back into the phone at the friend, and off we went.

We reached the Alliance Française half an hour early, hoping to catch seats in what we thought would be a packed house. The group was performing as part of the Fête de la Musique, a free music evening showcasing musical talent from all over the country and beyond.

The show was running about an hour late as usual. Which was cool because it gave us time to check out the group that was playing before them: a talented but fairly pedestrian jazz-fusion group, with a cherubic dude on the western drums, a slightly apologetic looking Indian percussionist and a lost bass-guitarist. My brain switched off the moment the apologetic percussionist switched on his laptop and played an ersatz background score for them to drum over. A couple of well executed, intricate konnukol interludes and bland guitar riffs (all at an earsplittingly high decibel level) later, they left. Hopefully straight to the shower that they'd forgotten to take before coming on stage.

A hush fell over the audience. About ten men, identically clad in red zari-kurtas walked in and took their positions on stage. "Ah, there they are", sighed the friend and settled into her seat, looking forward to a fabulous hour ahead. The lead kurta fluttered down from on stage. "Hi how are you guys doin'?" (Oooerr. Ah well they've been in the US for a while, I suppose the NRI twang is forgiveable.) "We're Raaegapeylla", he said, launching into a long winded explanation of the type of music they were into. A few "raaeguhs" and "taaeluhs" into his speech, and I had zoned out. I even missed the part where he explained why girls in particular were supposed to like their music. I was taking bites out of the seat in front of me by then.

Finally, they began. Lead kurta blew into a pitch pipe, pumped his arm up and down with the skill of a Saidapet housewife at 4am, and the group began to hum a low 3-note chord. The pitch pipe hadn't helped. They were flat. Kurta after kurta fluttered down to the mike and sang a line each (flat), before taking their places back with the red mass of gyrating hips on stage, still on the same chord (flat). We looked at each other. "Probably not warmed up", we reassured each other, and waited for the next song.

A scientist type slithered down to the mike next, his longish hair in straggly wisps around a standard issue wide-eyed NRI leer. "Hope you guys are doin' just fab tonight. We're now gonna do a modal (dai!) piece for you guys in a Raega and its based on a shlogum." (Ah. Tamil-ABCD. Hmm.) "We've also tried to mix in a John Denver number" (Aiyo! Poor fellow what he did to you I say?). "But first, Im gonna do you an aalaa-banai" (Uh huh, definitely Tamil).

The visions in red went "Pum-pum-pum-PUMMM" for about 40 seconds, which I later figured was supposed to have been the sound of a tanpura (left out in the rain for 40 days and 40 nights presumably). A billy goat bleated out from somewhere. The Alliance caretaker jumped up with his stick to chase it away, but sat down suspiciously when he realized that the sound was coming from on stage. It was long haired scientist type. He had closed his eyes and was doing his aalaa-banai. It was - ooh, you guessed? Flat. He'd suddenly shudder from head to toe and go a-a-a-a-a-a-a, presumably to placate the djinn that had jumped into his pajamas before the concert. Finally, he left. The Chinese (north-east-indian?) member of the group came down to sing his line: A deep bass growl emerged from his dimunitive figure. Not half bad! Pretty darned good even. Unfortunately his elaborate churidar had slid down over his feet and made him look like a handsomish Yoda. "Song sung, I nicely have", I thought I heard him murmur before he flapped back upstage.

Long-haired scientist type came back down and went "tae kit ta tah, ta laengu takka tah." for 2 minutes, accompanied by a voice-percussionist member of the group. I had finished chewing the chair in front of me, and was gnawing pensively on my friend's obligingly offered shoulder by then. My cell phone buzzed. It was a distress message from Missy M, whom I had also invited to watch the spectacle: "Headache. Pain. Must go. Will talk. Later. Water. Room service."

I couldn't take any more either. I left quietly after the song was over, and cried into my pillow all night.

Stanford Raagapella. I have two words to say to you: "What the...?!!"
OK three: "Fbbbthhhbbpp".

Acknowledgements: Mem (for offering gnawable shoulder), Subz (for scarring us for life), Apps (for being long suffering and stoic)

Placatory disclaimer: Don't get all hot under the collar boys, you weren't so bad. Just tune up a bit and you'll be fine.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Radio Goo Goo (or Radio Ga Ga Part Too Too)

My slightly less-than-reverent post on Bangalore's chatterbreed seems to have attracted a fair amount of attention from the accused. And for those of you who quite understandably skipped reading the comment track of the post, here are the responses of some of the RJs who wrote back after reading it:

Manasvi (AIR) said:
Glad to know you love AIR. Many people call it old fashioned. But those who work there would only know the effort it takes to be a part of AIR. and the number of restrictions we have to consider before every word is spoken.

Priya Ganapathy (ex Radio City) said:
One of my friends told me to check out this blog and man, i haftu admit, u guys made my day!! Full majaa happened. I can't believe that there are quite a few who still remember the 'Core FM team of Radio City!' and so many who loved the Retro Show & the Late Show. I had an awesome time while I was there, and it feels utterly wunnerful that u were listening. For those of you who need an update on my life - I quit fulltime radio but now host events, do voice-overs and am back to writing. Travelling a lot... but if I find a radio station that's calling out my name - u can be sure to hear me on the airwaves;-) Till then, take care and thanks for ur wonderful messages! Yours in music n madness - Priya Ganapathy/Lingo Leela/Sister Stella

Rashmi and Prithvi (Radio One) said:
Can't start without saying that your post Radio Ga Ga brought a smile on all our faces on a day when Radio One works without takin a pause - Friday (25th of April i.e last week). And this of course included my station head Shyju Varkey, the breakfast jock Prithvi, Ulfat Sultan a k a Agent Rakesh, a few of our sales guys and me. These instances makes us feel good of our presence in the market and assures us of the connect we have with our Bangalorean Buddies just like anyone of us at Radio One who find an instant relationship establshing with Chamrajpet Charles of Prof Sultan. Thank you so much for the support and of course for tuning in.

After a couple of emails to and fro, I realized Rashmi and Prithvi's Radio One office was almost next door to my workplace, so off I went last Friday to meet them. Acutely aware of the high fashion state that my friday work wear was in, I decided to accessorize a little by smoothing down my frazzled hair with some good quality BWSSB water before meeting them. Thank you 30% relative humidity, in the 3 minutes that it took to walk down to the station, my hair was back to resembling the Great Indian Macaque again.

A pretty Rashmi breezed into the foyer as soon as I came in, and took me inside to meet 'everybody'. Very soon, a nattily dressed Prithvi was shaking me by the hand and leading me into the recording room. Inside, the pretty RJ pavitra (adh yen neer kudeetheero pa, nangu solp kodi (what water you drink-o-pa)) was at the console, studying all the intellectual smses that were coming in from her listeners. "Hai SXZVLW. Hehehe" flashed the most recent one, which she efficiently deleted with one graceful schloomp, while turning on the music, feeding the cat, doing her taxes and calling back an smser in another fluid motion.

Rashmi and Prithvi dragged me out of the studio before I could fall at Pavithra's feet and beg to be accepted as a disciple forever, and whisked me away to the main office. "Yaar ivrella?" (Who are all these people?) I asked looking mika-mika at everybody, feeling exactly like the legendary Boré Gowda did on his first trip to the city. Tinkly Rashmi laughter bounced off the walls of the office. "Ivraa? (These peopleaa?) Well, the guy sitting over there is RJ Anjaan, and this person here, is your friend Ulfat Sultan", she said pointing to a smart dude tapping away industriously at what I'm sure was his next hilarious clip. "Oh hi", he said, looking up momentarily. "Abb..ab.. gnh", I said, waving weakly and pretending to melt into the floor.

The station director came out soon enough, and at that point I completely lost it and gibberred away incoherently in Kannada. There was a light tap on my shoulder. It was Prithvi. "You know all those nice things you just said to the director? Yeah, so he doesnt speak Kannada." he said. "Oh hauda? Hehehe mhemhe", I simpered and turned back to the director. "Adhe budhdhi, nim radiyaa aithallraa? Bhal beshtyth nod budhdhra. Belg-belghoth jagli myaag kuntkaand kyaalthen nwaadi." (Charming programming, dear sir. I enjoy listening to it greatly as I sip my cha in the breakfast room), I continued in an inexplicable pan-karnataka halli-mix. For some reason, the English section in my pea brain had decided to pack its bags and take a vacation to Nelmangala.

Before I could cause any more embarrassment to the director or the staff, Prithvi and Rashmi dragged me out, still gibberring away furiously in Nelmangalese. They finally lured me into the elevator and out of the building with promises of a bonda at Kaycees.

Aiyo, mast maja banth ammawra - swaamyoi! Bhal thyanks kanra.