Continued from Almost Famous
Ah, it's great to be in Blighty. Today Baan sang his heart out. And the audience at the Cargo, a club at East London, who were a mix of English and Indians, rocked. The band was performing for the second time in 24 hours at a venue separated by a few thousand miles from the one they had jammed the night before in Tallinn, Estonia.
The Sundance Music Festival, as it was called in Tallinn, was like a mela with all the trappings; ferries wheel, five-a-side football matches with American-style cheer leaders thrown in for colour, food stalls and target practice. Live bands performed from evening onwards to a sunny midnight. Orange Street was treated more like the equals here, slotted at the prime time, prime stage.
To our thrilling surprise, a white stretch limo waited for our reception at the airport. The white monster got the better of Baan's composure. Bowled over as we were, he managed to leave behind the case that carried the 808-mixer at the airport. That meant the tour's premature end. We had heard repeated warnings at other airports that any unattended baggage would be destroyed immediately. Butterflies in the stomach were put to a rest as Baan retrieved the baggage. We were suitably grateful for the advantages of being in a relatively less advanced country. And, of course, we were put up in a luxurious 5-star hotel albeit only for a few hours because we were scheduled for the Cargo show in London the following evening.
Haans, our Swedish friend, had forewarned us of a friendly knock at the door, so we were quite looking forward to excitements untold. Alas, nothing of the sort happened, or at least no one owned up to it. We arrived at the mela in the limo, true to the style of a rock band. The preening eyes through the tinted glass were a story on their own. And the band performed to a record crowd.
Now Dara is the showman of the band. Wherever Orange Street performed, Dara evoked the most enthusiastic, even lurid, response. In deportment, body language et al, he truly looks like a rock star on stage. I was photographing the band through the tour and Dara as it turned out was on my view-finder most of the time. Baan, in contrast is drop dead serious about his business. He lives for the band and the band lives because of him. On stage Baan's pyrotechnics are fun to watch; his red corduroys keep falling, not deliberately though. Ashwin, the kiddo drummer, all of 21, is the musical brain behind the band. He has written almost all the music for Dharma.
The Cargo gig in London was a part of a 10-day festival, The Little Chilly, organised by one Viram Jasani. Jasani imports Indian talent--Hindustani, Carnatic, Quawali, Sufi, Rock -- choley-bhaturey, rajma chawal, idli, dosa, sambar and just about anything for the Indian daispora in England. It is not just the Little Chilly he does, almost any chilly will do for him. Even gajar-muli is fine, as we found out in the Nottingham mela. Dregs by the droves turned up for a slice of India. The band quickly finished their act to an audience who were only interested to listen to The Nottingham-Dashmesh Musical Choir beat the dhol and Baby Happy and Baby Honey gyrate to Chhaiya-Chhaiya.
The UK tour cannot be wrapped up without the mention of the crummy pigeon-holes the band was holed-up in (it qualifies to be in the classification of a hotel because it charged a steep hole-rental for a night's stay) in Ealing near Southall.
The tour has come to an end. The general feeling in the group is that it ended before it began. 10 gigs in all. Some record labels have shown interest, of course with major changes in the band's music. Orange Street may just be marketable entity in the European circuit. BBC was there at one of the gigs. The band may still get an invitation to play at the BBC studio. And for all this the band is eternally grateful to Levis Strauss and its CEO C.S. Suryanarayan for underwriting the tour. Next year round, Levis will promote a different band on this circuit and Amit Saigal hopes to get more prime-time and prime stage for the touring band. As far as this tour was concerned, Orange Street may not have thrown their shirts away at the crowd as rock stars do, but they have not, by any reckoning, lost their shirts either.