Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Chandana's Benefit Rocks Kane Hall

Hello Friends!

I want to thank everyone of you who came out for Chandana's Tsunami Relief Benefit. The entire proceeds from the concert are going to an organization named Child Relief and You, or CRY for short.

It's what we musicians can do to help. Between three and four hundred people (that's just my personal estimate, I haven't seen any real numbers) came and almost all stayed for the entire four-hour long show. Food was provided during intermission by concert sponsors
Tandoori Kitchen of Kirkland.

Everyone made the show a screaming success. Not only did the audience hear some of their best-loved Bollywood favorites sung and played by Chandana's top-rate Indian ensemble, they were treated to a high energy Jazz-Indian fusion jam (featuring yours truly and Yoginis sax man Mike Deasy), the royal treatment by Planet Suzanna's Belly Dancers, and some American Hip-hop by the Rebelz.

These pics posted here were taken with my little digital camera, which had no zoom, poor light adjustment and was pretty much totally inadequate for the job, so some of them are not the best quality, sorry. I do have footage of everything, and later, after we can edit it all down, we'll have some really nice stills and movies of this great show. And I know some of you have much better pix. Email me if you want me to post some up here. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of Tom, the fusion segment guitarist, because I was playing when he was on stage and therefore wasn't taking pictures at that time. And I realize I have no shots of Arun, who played drums for our fusion segment, and dhol and congas on other numbers. And Pranav, who was masterful at holding the keyboard down on a number of songs. And my camera memory was used up before the Rebelz came on stage at the finale. I think I got everyone else. Please let me know and email me pictures if I didn't.

MC'd by Manish Tangri, a Bollywood singer with his own hits who treated us to a rousing song near the show's end. The show also featured singers Sangeeta, Amita, Prasanna, and Mohan. In various combinations of lead and backing teams, they showed finesse and great emotional power with each song. I guess I should state here, so as to avoid offending anyone, that, being an American, I unfortunately did not know all the names of the Indian songs. Please forgive me for that, I am still learning.




Sangita and Amita

Chandana, of course, kicked all our butts. She covered Bollywood/pop songs, sang a raga, and belted out some Punjabi-style hip-hop. On the raga she traded improvised, wordless vocals with the solo intruments of Erika on violin, Tom on guitar, and Mike's sax, each trade pushing the energy envelope higher. I thought the energy was going to explode the place before we got done with the raga, which they even let me play a piano solo on (imagine that!).




A crowd pleaser was Sumi, dressed in traditional Sikh outfit and commanding the tablas, and joined on percussion by Arun on dhol, and mridingam. Sumi did the percussion break with vocals along with Prasanna in the hit song Piya Bavri, and took an extended solo on the raga during the jazz fusion jam. Drummer Atul rounded out the percussion section with Ashish, who also played electronic percussion, djembe, and congas, and Arun, who pounded out some heavy dhol for us during Manish's song and the Rebelz hip-hop finale. As you will see in the pictures, there was a lot of percussion in this show. These guys were our backbone, no doubt.


Ashish and Sumi


Bhushan and Chandana's husband Sanjeev Sharma shared acoustic and electric guitar duties. Sanjeev has been an army unto himself, tirelessly promoting and
organizing this show alongside Chandana.


Sanjeev tuning up before the show

A little behind-the-scenes for you - due to the unfortunate pulling-out of one of the shows biggest sponsors just two weeks before the show, the job of promotion and organization fell completely onto Chandana and Sanjeev. I was blown away by the amount of work these guys did before the curtain rose. They organized the sponsors, the staff, the photographers and film crew, the promotion and PR, and organized the musicians and rehearsed us, and organized all the songs and arrangements. And did Sanjeev get any time off from his realty business for this? Heck no, he was still putting in 50 hours a week at his day job the whole time! So you wanna be in show biz...

Raja, Sanjib, and Pranav performed flawlessly on keyboards, navigating the complex settings and arrangements demanded by Bollywood songs and making it look easy.

Raja and Sanjib


And Sam, our bassist, was just incredible. I really enjoyed playing with him. Here he is during the sound check:

Planet Suzanna's Belly Dancers wowed the audience with two exciting performances, one during each set. The women in the audience were appreciating the high level of belly dance technique by the dancers, and we guys were appreciating the ...well, anyway, they were a great addition to the music and a definite crowd pleaser. They were joined by a contingent of the Rhythms of India Dancers, dressed in traditional Indian dance costumes, to create a nice mix of Indian and Middle Eastern dance. Egpytian percussionist
George Sadak powered them on with masterful doumbek (also called Egyptian Tabla) and electronic percussion. Excuse the motion blur in the picture due to my cheap camera.

The show was closed out by the Rebelz, a hip hop ensemble led by Justin (Justice) and Jaris (Professor Icee). They traded raps with Chandana singing in between. Kane Hall was rocked by that irresistible combination of American freestyle and Punjabi rhythm. That sound is on fire throughout South Asia, but it is still new to The USA. I hope America gets to experience more of it.

The finale was a song called Dhoom Machale, and the Belly Dancers returned to the stage to get everyone up one last time. Circle of Fire dancer Fredo broke out on center stage during the song, and blasted us with some tight 360s, full-on standing flips and a beautiful floor spin. He was so good that one of the belly dancers were photographing him even while they were on stage behind him! There were a number of kids on stage with us at this all-ages show, adding the special energy that only small children can to the whole mix.

This show ROCKED, people! Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for Chandana. This music is not just for the South Asian community, although their community makes it all possible to be sure. This music is for people of all ages, who love good music, great singing, and a high level of professionalism by the performers. Chandana's music brings us together, wherever we're from. So don't miss her next show!

Bye for now, hey do I look happy about it all or what?

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