Sunday, February 14, 2010

Symphony at Kala Ghoda festival

Never attended the Kala Ghoda festival before, so today was my first time. I attended a recital of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) at Horniman Circle, on the foot of the Asiatic Library. The stage was on the Ballard Pier - Regal Cinema road and we were supposed to sit on the steps of the Asiatic Library. Traffic was diverted, obviously. The performance was supposed to start at 6.30 pm but started about 10 odd minutes later.

It started on a high note with the orchestric rendition of our national anthem. I say, the Indian national anthem is probably one of the best in the world. The tune is marvelous and it's a completely different experience when you hear it in western classical music. I noticed quite a few Indians in the orchestra which was a delight because we'd certainly like see a lot more Zubin Mehtas out there. It was supposed an hour's extravaganza but it got over in just under half an hour. They played the Palladio; a popular item on the western classical charts and also part of the De-beers commercials. Vande Mataram and Saare Jahaan se Acha were the other Indian recitations played by the orchestra. Before Vande Mataram started, the conductor said it would need no introduction and then the group started. It took me some while to recognise it. I guess the beauty of it all is not to just do new things; it's also how well you could reinvent something that's so old and already a classic and make it look like something so new that you've just invented. 


But one of the highlights of the performance was this typewriter sequence. In an attempt to thank Mumbai, its people and the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival for letting it perform at the festival, the orchestra delivered a masterful performance with a guy sitting right under the nose of the conductor, writing out a thank-you note on  a typewriter; the typewriter sounds (the keys, hitting the space bar, the sound of the carriage moving forward, the bell at the line of a line, carriage return, and all of that) blending in with the orchestra. At the end, the piece was over and so was letter "complete, with no spelling mistakes, ready to be handed over to the organizers", said the conductor. Very unique, you have to see this to believe it. 

Overall, 30 minutes for an orchestra evening is not enough, especially if they do an encore, twice. But it was a good glimpse of what SOI is made of. An evening well-spent. 

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