London Dreams

Chennai-based Staccato,which started as a school band,will take its classical contemporary sound to the London Olympics next month

Written by Somya Lakhani | Published: July 2, 2012 3:04 am

Chennai-based Staccato,which started as a school band,will take its classical contemporary sound to the London Olympics next month

I thought it was spam,it’s not everyday that you wake up to the news of being selected to perform at an Olympics event,” says 24-year-old Vandana Srinivasan,over the phone from Chennai. There is a certain vibrant energy,nervous excitement and a sense of achievement in her voice. After all,she is the vocalist of Chennai-based fusion band Staccato that has been chosen from among 10,000 entries from Asia to perform at Olympic Park,London,as part of the cultural exchange extravaganza on the sidelines of the sporting event. The band has been allotted four 35-minute slots at the event — two each on July 30 and August 2.

What started off as a school band in 2001-2002 at Chettinad Vidyashram in MRC Nagar,Chennai,with five members — Ajay Gnanasekaran,Vikram Sarathy,Tapass Naaresh,Balasubramanian and Sruthi Sagar — finally became Staccato in 2007,after three more people joined in. “This is a huge opportunity for us and Staccato will be a 15-member outfit during the London performance. We have roped in a few more musicians to come to London with us,including a DJ. We want to do our best,” says Gnanasekaran.

Busy with long rehearsals for their big gig,the band’s excitement knows no bounds. It all began six months ago when the youngest member of the group,Kaashif Rafiq,secretly sent demo tapes of their performances to the London 2012 Organising Committee. “Once we got the confirmation letter,we were both excited and nervous. We had no sponsors and we were not sure how everyone from the band would be able to make it to London. We were a bit tense but now we have some sponsors fighting over us,” says Gnanasekaran,the percussionist and manager of the band,with a laugh. Immediately,he adds,“Danny Boyle (known most for his film Slumdog Millionaire) is the creative director of the Olympic games opening ceremony and he chose us. It’s a proud moment.”

The band that comprises eight to 15 members,depending on their availability,is known for creating a concoction of sounds from across the world. Their music can be categorised as “contemporary classical” because of the heavy use of alaaps,and it also falls under the “world music” genre. “Whenever we travel in India or outside,we pick up the musical influences and instruments from that area and integrate them into our music. Recently,we added the Middle Eastern oud when one of the band members was there,and last year,we added the agogo from Brazil when three members of the band were there,” says Srinivasan.

If one takes some time to listen to their original compositions — Sound of Air and Salsa — influences from across the world come through abundantly. “Computers are good substitutes but we love being able to create music in its rawest form on stage. We add a bit if trivia,too,about the instruments we use and make the audience feel that they are a part of the band,” adds Srinivasan. Apart from a few originals,the band does “Staccato-ised” covers of musical giants such as AR Rahman and Illiyaraja,and performs impromptu jam sessions on the stage.

Interestingly,the band has a stronghold only in Chennai,as it’s barely a few gigs old in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.

“We have to now establish ourselves in other cities and hopefully,when we come back from London,we will get more exposure in our own country,” concludes Srinivasan.

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