A standard E-minor chord opening, which surfaced somewhere in the middle of 1991, had nothing standard about what it did to a host of headbangers across the world, the ones who paused and paid attention. What followed the opening arpeggio was philosophy conveyed “sweetly” by one of world’s foremost metal bands. Metallica’s frontman James Hetfield was crooning Nothing else matters from their eponymous album through radios and cassettes, and many metal detectors in many parts of the world listened in rapt attention, the pared down melody lines and “sacred” text from a band that revelled in the distortions of thrash metal and ostentatious compositions otherwise. In the next few years, while Hetfield was touring the US with this power ballad, charting out a different route, a young boy in the small village of Irinjalakuda, almost 60 km away from Kochi and 10,000 miles away from Metallica’s North Hollywood recording studio was playing the song on his violin with all the gamaks and khatkas (perils of Carnatic classical instrumental music) in place. “I would only do this at home and never in front of my friends, unless they found out and made fun. Iconic songs need to be treated with respect,” says Govind Menon, the lead vocalist of Kochi-based band Thaikkudam Bridge.
So when a violin prelude follows after an acoustic guitar intro and announces the arrival of a more “classical” version of Metallica’s track, it’s hard not to sit up and take notice. In this video floating around on YouTube, which has been taken from a little-known South Indian music show called Music Mojo, Menon plays the tune and makes it sound like a rich mishmash of metal and Carnatic classical. What Govind had never factored in was this — the song went viral within minutes of upload, same for the 11 other tracks that the band came up with earlier this year.
In another track, Menon has his father, 65-year-old Pithambar, singing a soulful melody paired with electric guitars and drums. It was also the lullaby that Pithambar, a PWD employee until two years ago, sang to his son. Titled Thekkum kooradiya, we don’t understand the words (it’s in Malayalam) of the song but the melody rises and falls so unassumingly that the idea of words ceases to exist. “I remember our trips in rickety buses to our ancestral village. Once at home, my uncle (Pithambar) used to sing this song to both of us. We decided to put this one as one of 12 songs we had to do for Music Mojo,” says Siddharth Menon, who is the other lead vocalist of the band. Some other members include Mithun Raju (of Motherjane) on electric guitar and Ashok Nelson on rhythm guitars.
Thaikkudam Bridge, is the latest entrant in the vast universe of new bands. What makes them stand out is their small oeuvre of songs which is marked by versatility. While on one hand they have made versions of Sonu Nigam’s Abhi mujhme kahin from Agneepath, there is a cutting edge rap-meets-progressive rock piece called Fish Rock on the other, of course with Govind’s dreamy violin preludes and interludes in place. “It’s been quite a journey so far. We weren’t even a band. We were just a few friends making music together. 14 of us got together for a set of 12 songs. But almost immediately people began writing to us, asking us when were we coming for a gig.,” says Govind.
As for the band’s unique moniker, it was just something they came up with. “All the hunky, funky, lean, mean, fat, brat members of the band got themselves jam packed in a room near Thaikkudam Bridge”. And that is how one of the band members arrived on a name. Isn’t 14 people a number too many? “It’s good as it results in many ideas,” says Govind. Nepotism isnt a problem with the band, who are all very fond of Govind’s father, who sings often. His sister Dhanya also helps in writing the lyrics. “It is a band born out of love of family and friends. It works ,” says Govind. As of now Thaikkudam Bridge, the members do not typify themselves under a particular genre. “It is a very melody-driven sound.
We bounce different ideas and come up with a mix. We can’t be put into neat little boxes of any particular genre,” says Siddharth. The band is busy performing all over the world and are also composing for a Malayalam film starring actor Fahadh Faasil.