Saturday, February 24, 2007

Concert Review - Hitesvara

I think I am too dumb to understand music. Apparently if there are a few seconds of silence during music, it is absolutely the highest point in a concert, and the audience is expected to break into rapturous applause. Be it Shivamani producing an instrument that makes the sound of a chimp's arm pit fart, or Zakhir Hussein making his tabla cry for some respite, or Shankar Mahadevan trying to simulate Saaruggaan trying to imitate Sonu Nigam with a speech impediment. Seriously. The Chennai crowd really appreciated only 2 things. One were those breaks in noises (silence as it is called) and ofcourse those saavu molam sounds... which Sivamani produced periodically.

That having said, 4 geniuses entertained us for 2.5 hours on Saturday evening. The collective IQ on the stage was close to 1000... among the 4 guys, and the collective IQ of the audience was around 40 on the negative scale. It would have been lower but for the presence of John Mc Laughlin among the audience.

The concert started with Shankar Mahadevan and U Srinivas singing a song aptly named "Gamapa". Shankar was intent on making us understand what it meant but to no avail. Ultimately he threw his hands in the air and good ol Zhakhir took over. Man did the tabla make us weep... and moan... how does it make those sounds? It was as though Zhakhir could make ALL the sounds that Shivamani creates from his hotel kitchen... with just that mridangam broken into two. The tabla finally gave up.. amidst tremendous applause.. we still do not know what Gamapa means.

The next was SaNiRi oooooohhm... sung by Shankar Mahadevan. This time U Srinivas tried his hand... and fingers... at making us understand the song. I have heard those American rock greats stretch a note for a few seconds... but U Srinivas I think would scoff at thos things. I think during the entire song (that lasted a about 20 minuets), he struck his mandolin chord maybe twice... or thrice... he made those few notes sustain for the rest of the song. Amazing.

This was followed by a 10 minute competition between Srinivas and Sivamani on who can strike the maximum notes in one second. Sivamani won this round with a 35... with Srinivas following close behind at 34.5. I concluded that Srinivas has around 120 fingers on his left hand alone and Sivamani can drum with his teeth too (aaah if only he had hair... the strands would drum too).

Shankar came back... and restarted his stuff. It was like he was trying to catch a few loose notes in the air and trying to weave them into a lovely aalaap or oothap... whatever they call it in music speak. It was just beautifull. I was beginning to wonder how structureless compositions could be so pleasurable but then Sivamani came back on.

He is as though behind a steel cage... and yes.. the sounds are similar to what you hear in a zoo, but there is something unique about it. Granted he has more hands than all Hindu gods put together, but there seems to be some 'higher' intelligence guiding his music. There is flow in it but there is absolutely no coherance. He has around 50 instruments around him, but apart from those obvious koothu bits, none of his other gimmicks were appealing to me. Maybe I am just too dumb to understand and follow his 'rhythm'.

In stark contrast, when Zhakir started playing his solo piece, there was an underlying structure to it. He changed tempo, changed the beat, created some amazing sounds... but you never lost him. You could follow the music and enjoy it. Not so with Sivamani. He gets so ahead of you and even himself at times... that unless he bangs his drumsticks a few times at a really loud drum, and start out on a fresh loop, you lose him and he remains lost.

The concert ended with the students of Shankara School singing "Heal the world"... I went out singing "isnt it ironic"... that small children sing a song sung by a child molester to end such a fine concert that supports such a noble cause.


Escape.... Great Escape said...

Doesnt anyone think Sivamani is over rated ? Or just that no1 reads this post :-).

iyengarkatz said...


my wife is sure ure thithufying the show but believes if sivamani reads it, he would assume your praising him! and how long did you google to find such fabulous pictures?

also, the closing statement took me back to a bumper sticker i read on a possibly hippie person' car: why are we killing people who killed people to teach them killing is wrong!


Escape.... Great Escape said...

I guess his 'music' needs to grow on you. I remember getting ebaten up in Paresh's house when i suggested Satriani's music lacked rhythm. That was the first time I listened to his music...

Shivamani's CDs are better than his solo stage performances... but that does not say anything abotu his stage performances.

pallavi said...


i heard this programme was very nice, i want to see this, where can i get the cd's for this.. or wen it will telecast in the tv channel.. please do reply...

Escape.... Great Escape said...

This was a program for charity. I doubt if it was recorded. You coudl ask the "Shakti Foundation" in Chennai if you are keen on this album. I personally think there are better albums to buy though.