Year 2010. Dhwani, the cultural fest of CET was going on in full flourish. We were gathered in one of the outdoor auditoriums where the stage had been set for one of the most recognizable (and one of the best) rock bands from this part of the world. The stage was dark, and there was silence all around. Okay, not exactly silence – hushed talks and chatter, yes – but no sound of music. Then, in the most unexpected of moments, the mellifluous guitar intro of Mindstreet filled the air. The stage light burned bright and we saw them. Motherjane had taken the stage, and by the end of the gig that day, our hearts.
The thundering drums, galloping bass lines, groovy rhythms, surreal guitar solos and soulful singing gave us a solid Carnatic-Rock entertainment that night. Suraj Mani aka the Singing Sensei brought a new face of music to me. The stout figure with flowing mane and half-painted face who entertained and enlightened us all with his philosophical lyrics and singing was to remain etched in my mind. Which is why, three years later, when I came to know that he was going to perform at a place nearby, albeit as part of a different band this time, I made it a point to go and watch him sing – again.
I reached half an hour early for the concert by Suraj Mani & the Tattva Trippers. As I walked into the closed auditorium of Opus, I saw him, sitting in a room adjacent to the main stage, with an acoustic guitar in his hands. I wanted to go and meet him, but some thoughts held me back. What if he was busy practising for the show? What if I go in and disrupt his flow of thoughts? But his face was cheerful and inviting, and I finally went in to meet him. Three years had changed him quite a bit. The flowing mane was gone. Had he become leaner? There was one thing though, which stayed the same, as I found out during the course of the night – his passion for music.
My apprehensions were proved false as he greeted me with a warm smile. He conversed very freely and easily. I was really acting weird I guess; almost nervous. Probably my brain took some time to believe that I was talking to an award winning musician. Suraj, however was very calm and friendly; and was trying to put me at ease. Finally after some general talks and getting some philosophical insights from him, I took my leave. I didn’t want to take too much of his time.
I moved on to where the main stage was, and decided to wait there. I saw some empty seats and went on to sit there, but had to find another place soon, since it was a reserved table. I decided standing would be better. And so I waited, until Suraj Mani & the Tattva Trippers took stage. There was no hidden-from-view-and-sudden-blast-of-sound-and-light kind of entrance here. All was done in plain-sight.
A few songs in the set list were new to me. Some songs from his latest album, The Tattva Trip, were also included. Those songs I knew, and are a staple in my playlist these days. The music set the ambience for the night and the audience loved it. The Tattva Trippers – Prakash on bass, Alwyn Fernandes on lead guitar, Aman Mahajan on Keyboards and Joe Jacob on drums put up a great show for the night. In between the break, Suraj also performed an acoustic set. Aphrodite was a beautiful song, which he dedicated to his better half. Another interesting song was the Wolf is back; and the pitch perfect howling at the end almost felt a notch better and more majestic than the one in She Wolf.
It was a show worth attending; for the music, and for the insights. To the Singing Sensei: hope to meet you again. Soon.
[Excuse the picture quality; I had nothing with me, but my mobile]
Check out the album The Tattva Trip. Thank me later 😉