[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

An evening with Kadri

If you had read my earlier posts, you might have guessed that we would have shown up at one of the Kadri’s live shows here in new york city. And we did and as expected, it was enthralling. We were there last evening, the second of the three nights in a row fusion Jazz-Carnatic Sax performance by Rudresh Mahanthapa and Kadri Gopalnath at the Asia Society on the east side of Manhattan. The troupe moves to Philedelphia on Sunday.

kadri live
[We were told that cameras were strictly prohibited. We managed to escape from this felnoy!]

The performance is composed jointly by Rudresh and Kadri and they named it Svajanam-Kinsmen, aptly so, since Rudresh is an American Indian with roots somewhere in South India. Apparently, Rudresh is an ardent fan of Kadri and that it was his life’s dream to do a stage-show with Kadri. That said, Rudresh is no less a star, his latest CD, ‘Mother Tongue’ is being voted as ‘One of the top 10 Jazz CDs of 2004″ and I promptly grabbed one from the AsiaStore!

The theme was not necessarily a fusion performance, Rudresh made it clear before the start of the show. Kadri & co performed what they were good at, Classical Carnatic while Rudresh & co engulfed us with some alto Jazz. There were occasions when they performed some pieces from the other side but the innovation in the show was to have every person on stage perform a 1-1 sequence with every other performer on stage.

A.Kanyakumari on Violin was cool and ruthless and she showed no signs of strain or uncomfort even in the fastest of the notes. Rez Abbasi, another new york-based musician of Indian sub-continent origin, was equally good in electric guitar getting applause from Kadri himself on occasions. Elliot Humberto on drums was very isolated at the back of the stage, but took no time to capture the attention of audience with his expressions and body language. When his turn came to do a solo run, he made sure that we remember his name for few more months at least. Carlo deRosa on Acoustic Bass didn’t get a chance to show his talents but it felt that he was key to the whole music ambience in the hall. Gautam Sriram accomponied Kadri with Mridangam and had a real challenge from Elliot.

The King of the stage, Kadri, was flamboyant. I should say an equivalent of a master blaster. I can vouch that he had no notes infront of him but knew exactly every second of the music by heart. His body language was agile and passionate. He was perhaps saying to everyone that he was playing it more for himself than for our pleasure. He stole the audience on his very first piece. It was rightly chosen fast-pace, head-nodding, foot-tapping, adernaline-pumping one. Everytime he was done with his portion of music, he removed his mouth piece and retired his hands on the floor behind him and was relaxing. But what drove me nuts was, after a few minutes, he would pick up his mouth piece, clean it up, assemble it back into his garlanded Sax, tune it and then….he plays…it was absolute timing for his next piece in the sequence. I really went nuts after watching him do this almost everytime. Perhaps, this is how great musicians are. I was happy I had a glimpse of him playing live for all I knew of him was only from the CDs I have heard. Rudresh carried himself thru very elegantly, playing his Jazz pieces with a natural style of a african-american Jazz player. He ensured that he stands next and clearly watches Kadri make love with his sax for he must have wanted to do this so badly. But both Kadri and Rudresh appreciated each other frequently. The respect they had on each other was pretty evident whenever audience applauded Kadri would point to Rudresh. At the end of the show, after introducing everyone, Rudresh introduced Kadri, ‘Let me introduce to you all, The Emporer of the Stage, Kadri Gopalnath…’, the literally packed audience were already standing up for an ovation.

I thought for a second if I should go down to say hello to Kadri, I very well know another chance so close wouldn’t come soon. He was already swamped with fans and perhaps, other local friends and families that I figured it will be too late. We were as such very happy that we could make it and on top of that, the music was truly a joy to be part of.

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