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February 07, 2019 05:00 pm | Updated 05:00 pm IST – Thiruvananthapuram
Thaikkudam Bridge on stage
They came, they sang, they conquered. That’s the journey of Avial in a nutshell. And one musician who rocked the stage with his voice and energy was its lead singer Anandraj Benjamin Paul. In a league of his own, he took tracks such as ‘Nada nada’ and ‘Chekele’ to another level with his chords. When he emigrated to the United States, that too a week prior to the release of the band’s debut album in February 2008, fans of Avial were heartbroken.
The good news is that Anand is back. He has crooned a track in Thaikkudam Bridge’s multi-artiste new album, Namah . “It is the result of a long wait. It took almost six months for us to get his reply. We had sent mails to him and his wife. It was she who replied because he hadn’t seen the mail at all!” says Govind Vasantha, frontman of Thaikkudam Bridge, without hiding his excitement about bringing Anand back to his fans.
Anandraj Benjamin Paul
Anand talks about the project in an e-mail chat. “I used to follow Thaikkudam Bridge on YouTube because I knew they were big in Kerala. But I never dreamt about being invited to sing in their album,” he writes. He admits that he was surprised and excited at the same time since he was not sure about what to expect. “So my first reaction was to step back and let the whole thing play out. I was far from raring to go. My comfort zone was a little jolted,” he adds.
Govind says that the band had almost wound up their album with nine songs, featuring 10 legendary musicians. “That was when we got Anand’s reply. So we made a new song for him. I sent him the track in my voice and he came up with his version. It felt so good to listen to him after so many years. He still sounds the same,” laughs Govind.
Anand is nothing short of a legend for many indie musicians because Avial ushered in a new wave in indie music, a revolution, and his voice had that power to attract many to indie music. “Getting him on board was a perfect finale for the album,” Govind says. Anand says that although it took a while for him to say yes, once he began to “feel the tune, I was convinced I should do it.”
‘Kanne’, which is the song sung by Anand and Vipin Lal, is about a father “who vows not to raise his daughter with hatred and vengeance in her heart,” he says. “I could connect with the song because I take my role as a husband and a father very seriously. I practised the song three to four times every day for about a month. During that time, I reflected on my relationship with my children and my aspirations for them and I loved every minute of the process,” he elaborates.
Currently residing in Port Huron, Michigan, where he is working with the shipping department of a paper mill, Anand says that he is very much into music. He sings in his church and have recorded songs in Malayalam and English for his friends in Philadelphia. “We are called ‘Miles Apart’. Earlier, I was in a band with some great musicians, but it was eventually disbanded when we found that we didn’t share the same vision,” he explains.
Gushing about Thaikkudam Bridge, Anand says that he admires the versatility of the band. “I think their adeptness in fusing hard rock with native music is quite apparent and well-accomplished. Their song ‘Chathe’ exemplifies it,” says the versatile singer. ‘Theevandi’ used to be a favourite song, but currently his choice is ‘Kanne’.
Optimistic about the indie music scene in Kerala, he points out that there is so much talent to reckon with and these young musicians need an avenue to showcase it and evolve. “Growth depends on having a vision for your band or for yourself, having a dream, goals and a plan along with an attitude of hard work, sacrifice and persistence,” he notes.
Among the bands he follows, he makes special mention of Azazeel. So, what about Avial’s second album? “I would kill for a second album. I am looking forward to it as much as everyone else,” he signs off.
Ingredients of Avial
Anand says: “Avial was the realisation of what Jigsaw Puzzle started. It was a bold experiment in the face of uncertainty. It was creative, innovative, intuitive and counter-cultural. What excites me most about this album is that even 11 years since its release, it stands out as the epitome of a breakout/breakthrough album, introducing Malayali masses to a different genre of music in their own mother tongue. It opened up a whole new avenue of pursuit. All this was possible because of our unwavering commitment to the music and language that are so close to our hearts. I am excited that the first Malayali rock band is still going strong.” Avial evolved out of the band Jigsaw Puzzle of which Anand was a member
Namah, the album
Thaikkudam Bridge’s album Namah has 10 tracks, featuring 11 top musicians. The album is a tribute to music legends. The album has Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil and English songs, besides an instrumental track.
In addition to Anand, the other Indian artistes featured in the album are Mohan veena maestro Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, mridangam great Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Hindustani vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan, flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, sarangi legend Pandit Ram Narayan and sitar exponent Niladri Kumar. The artistes from abroad are American drummer Chris Adler, celebrated guitarist Guthrie Govan, German drummer-composer Marco Minnemann and American keyboard artiste and composer Jordan Rudess.
The instrumental track is ‘Thekkini’, which has Chris Adler and Umayalpuram. In all the other tracks, artistes of Thaikkudam Bridge have performed with the guest artistes.
Thaikkudam plans to release the video of one song, ‘Neeli’, which features Viswamohan Bhatt and Govind. The album is expected to be launched in April.
Music Personalities / The Hindu MetroPlus
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