Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Timeless Conversations

Timeless conversations
On ageless stairs
A lane bustles by
Bullock and beggars jostle each other
As the urchins run and squeal
Charlatans tell fortunes
To the gullible at will
And then sell them trinkets
With panaceas inbuilt
Vegetable sellers and peddler pushers
Screaming and whispering they were
And the colours bathed together
In the clamour of lights
You could buy anything here
Even a Gandalf shaped bong
Or intestines of a goat
An ice cream float
But none of that mattered
To the two old men
Worn and battered
They met here each day
And spoke of times lost
Their failing memories
Hanging by a filament at best
They were here before the bustle
Before the bricks were laid
When there were meadows
And tress for shade
The river that flowed pure and strong
Was a trusty retreat
But now there was crumbling mortar
Bits of pavement chipped away
The air is dank, smoke and odours
Replacing the cool drinkable breeze
A once brilliant sunset
Is sucked of its glory by steel
The mountain view is now a building
Faded black by exhaust fumes
Still the old men sit and talk
Still waiting for the world to change
Till then they tell their grandchildren
And each other again and again
Of times when there were meadows
And trees for shade.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Like most people who first hear the name, "Ozomatli" and promptly forget it, I was a bit sceptical about a band branded as a "3 time Grammy award winning latin, salsa, hip-hop, jazz, funk band." But like most people I was stung by the curiosity bug (I probably caught it from my cutey cat). It's a damn good thing I went. For the next two hours, I was witness to 11 musicians, around 30 instruments and a few 100 people finding it impossible not to get up and dance. Hell, I couldn't even keep my hips and feet still while clicking away.

Ozomatli take their name from the Nahuatl word for the Aztec astrological symbol of the monkey, which is also a god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music. Other than the harvest (which came after the show with the musicians, wink wink) there was plenty of the other stuff going around. It was like someone had detonated a whole trainload of dynamite and the explosion was Ozomatli. They blended forms, genres, styles, grooves and melodies and released them as a sound that cut through instead of ending up in one giant mess. Their evident individual brilliance contributed to a tight set, marred only by the terrible acoustics at the Ambhedkar Bhavan.

Each cog in this machinery could play atleast 3 instruments, sing their hearts out and then locate the energy to perform a few breakdance routines. And they weren't the only ones dancing. At first the security guards seemed reluctant to let the more entusiatic elements in the audience up on stage to do a jig of their own but they were quicky reprimanded by the band, who thrived on this sort of thing. At first there were a few guys and lo and behold, they could actually shake that thang. They were interspersed by gawky wannabes, filmy dance fetishists and even the occasional minimalist but the star turn of the evening was undoubtedly a portly elderly gentleman who had some serious groove going. He had a blast and so did the band.

But all these stragglers hardly sufficed so by the end of the show, Ozomatli had the ENTIRE audience on stage dancing with them, doing the train, doing the shake, doing just about anything possible to keep up with their supersonic pace. They took that pace into the audience and then out of the auditorium, beating a frantic tattoo all the while.
Chuck the grammys, chuck the genres, chuck the complicated name, these guys rocked our friggin' brains out that night.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Space Cadet

How do you describe a person who has done it all? Landing up in the US in the middle of the summer of love, one of her first stops was Woodstock '69. She then proceeds to hang out with the likes of Andy Warhol, Velvet Underground, the Stones, Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory, shares a magnetic chemistry with Holly Woodlawn (one of Warhol's famous transvestite trio, 'Warhol's Women') dates the guy who financed Timothy Leary and still finds time to wow John Hammond Sr. and lay down vocal tracks for the complex free form jazz of Ornette Coleman. She has sung and recorded albums in the forms of Indian classical, jazz, disco, rock 'n' roll, folk, blues, opera and old hindi film songs. She uses mudras in her performance because she's a classically trained dancer as well and mixes Nirvana with Bol tans. She's done a few films including Savages that caused a furour in India in the 70s. Then there's the innovative side, an album that traces a train journey through India, with songs and styles based on the various regions, all in that train frame of mind.

You describe her as Asha Puthli and I've barely scratched the surface. Sitting at her feet for four hours, listening to her, watching her multitude of expressions, falling in love with her diva eccentricities, feeling all the while, that immense positive energy constantly recharging us. It was an experience of a lifetime. All at once she was sensuous, motherly, affected, caring, funny, eccentric, beguiling, wonderful and shining like only a true luminary can. I feel privilaged and I'm sure Prashanth and Dundee (who's taken some lovely pics of her as well ;))who were with me will agree completely.

Asha Puthli, we're proud to have served on your otherworldly ship as Space Cadets that muggy Mumbai afternoon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


The bottle dangles in my lifeless fingers
Explaining my prone form
Some look
Some smile
Some laugh all the while
But I still lie there
Stupor man
Lost to the world
Lost in my mind
Sun and rain, day and night
The poison owns me
And my kind
I try to purge
I try to repent
I try to try to try to stop
But it never works
And then I drop
Down on my knees
At first
Then in my eyesI drop down low
When will I ever be awake?
No one knows.

I once was young
With a degree to show
I thought I'd move mountains
And molehills would run
The very skies would open
To shower their love
I thought I could do anything
And then do some more
Money, its a crime
It made me dream
It made me hope
But then it sent me crashing down
Far below
Roped in
To a horse and carriage
And I couldn't shout
I wanted to scream
I even tried
But I knew the owner
Would throw me out
Then the streets would call my name
I could never live through that shame
So I take them for rides
Children and lovers
Families and firangs
All sit behind me
And hear my tale
Until I hasten
There's money to be made.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


When a jam surpasses the realm of reality and pervades the senses of the sublime, the notes that emerge serve as a conversation, a meeting of minds on a plane that fortunately has a window to let us lesser mortals sit in unison and gape. That was emotion evoked when Buddy Guy called upon guitar wunderkind Walter Trout to join him on stage. They both soared in a place that only the true musician is given access to and we were lucky enough to witness it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Big Fish

For a guy who honed his chops with John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Canned Heat, Walter Trout is remarkably down to earth. Interviewing him was a dream and watching his show even better. He has the feel of Buddy Guy, the ease of Stevie Ray and the on stage explosion of the Stones. And he has enough facial contortions to make any photographer's month, nay year.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Damn Right

Buddy Guy came, Buddy saw, Buddy Guy played some mean geeeetaaarr blues, Buddy Guy sang like a dream, Buddy Guy had a scorching jam (coming soon) with Walter Trout (also coming soon) Buddy Guy wandered through the audience playing and singing, Buddy Guy conquered. Buddy Guy is 75 years old.

Oh Yeah, did I mention that he's a GUITAR GOD!!!!!

And I got to shake his hand and he mumbled some stuff to me. :) :)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Smile for me, little balloon girl
Let your dimples shine
The night has settled on these Mumbai streets
And you haven't made a dime

For rations you ask a few rupees
So that your family can eat
And still you smile all the while
Day and night on your feat

Will you ever play with a balloon?
Like other children, happy and free
From the drudgery of life
Will you be?

How can I refuse when you smile again
And touch my heart of hearts
I reach in and the first note I find
Is pressed in your little palm, stretched out

While in a cubicle far from your world
Another girl giggles out
This girl she needs no rations
This time she has no doubt

That her balloons will cause mirth
And laughter in their wake
I laughed too and laughed some more
Until my mind went back

To that little balloon girl
With dimples that shine
Through the Mumbai night.