Those days we had cassettes and not playlists on iPods. Heck, there were no compact discs either. Yet, I listened to a lot more music then, than I do today.
There was Suneeta Rao with her Pari hoon main and Ab ke baras, Alisha Chinai with Made in India and Adnan Sami with his Lift karadey . And then there was Colonial Cousins and all of their tracks! I was listening to other artists too but these four were probably the most played artists in our faithful Sony double deck player. I am talking about the mid 90’s. It probably was around the same time I was transitioning from Western pop to Indian music. I was not yet listening to classical music then but had become more tolerant to my amma’s choice of hard core classical Indian music.
Last month when I heard that the Colonial Cousins were performing at the Kala Utsavam here in Singapore, I did not have to think twice if I wanted to go. How many rainy afternoons in Mumbai have I listened to Hariharan and Leslie sing Indian rain. Those were probably the earliest days that I was making the bhakthi connection to music. I will not be exaggerating if I tell you that I began to appreciate Carnatic music with Krishna Nee baeganey baaro and Sa ni dha pa from their first album. Of course the likes of OS Arun, Bombay Jayashree and Aruna Sairam have made sure that I stay inspired.
So there we were, at the first level of the magnificent Esplanade concert hall with brilliant acoustics. The hall wasn’t packed to full capacity. Most of the audience seemed to be in their mid or late forties, a group I could easily identify with. The stage was not jazzed up like it was for the Adnan Sami concert that I had an opportunity to go to last year- no psychedelic lights but a constant blue hue to match the mood of the evening.
The Colonial Cousins, on the dot of the appointed hour just walked to the stage from the wings in their kurta-pajamas and regular sandals. They sang memorable tracks from their earlier albums and a few from the new album that they launched this year ( Colonial Cousins once more). No one from the audience was restless with song requests. We waited for them to decide what they wanted to sing and immersed ourselves in the magical evening.
From what I observed, I decided that I like Leslie Lewis a tad more than I like Hariharan ( and I love his voice!). Leslie was bashful, gentlemanly and seemed to wield a great sense of humour that flashed like a sword in the dark. Hariharan was exuberant and extroverted. Leslie let Hariharan be center of attention ( obviously he had an edge over Leslie with his voice skills) but Leslie’s guitar skills were nothing short of amazing. There were some non Colonial Cousins requests for Hariharan and he politely hummed some of his other tracks that have made him popular. All the while, Leslie had this charming, indulgent smile and “yeah- bro- show -them –what- you- got” attitude.
Here is a track I managed to record entirely from the evening. Don’t you just love these guys!