Saturday, 16 April 2011

Raghu - He Brings Out The Indian In You

I went to a most enjoyable gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night - the Raghu Dixit Project, supplemented by a fiddler, a dancer and the brass section from Bellowhead. It was also great value for money, with the gang playing for the best part of two and a half hours.

The show was the first night of a week of events celebrating the music and dance of the Indian sub-continent. Raghu himself is from the state of Karnataka in southern India, and is a very charismatic performer (although even he was almost upstaged by the big, hairy, smiley bass player). They look like a bunch of hippies and sound a bit like them too, with a beguiling mixture of traditional and Western sounds. It was what I imagine Quintessence might sound like if they were still going today and were slightly less serious-minded.

They played a mixture of original material and settings of songs by Shishunala Sharif, a 19th century saint and poet from Karnataka. It was the latter that provided two of my personal highlights of the show - a beautiful opening number that featured Raghu backed only by Andy of Bellowhead on trumpet, and one that apparently translates as "Don't Worry, Be Happy", which was set to a vaguely Latin meets surf beat which occasionally veered perilously close to "The Best Years Of Our Life" by Modern Romance. It featured some marvellous twangy guitar by Vijay Joseph, who was excellent throughout.

The eponymous album does not quite capture the exuberance of the live show, but it still well worth checking out. And if you get the chance to go and see them in concert, I would thoroughly recommend it.

"Mysore Se Aayi" - Raghu Dixit

"Khidki" - Raghu Dixit

If you don't understand the cultural reference in the heading, this might help.

And if you are equally puzzled by the reference to Modern Romance, here you are. Even more puzzling is how they managed seven top 20 hits in the 1980s. Oh yes - it was the 1980s.

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