A trip to NAPA and music thereafter

Friday was rough; I had a tough day at Napa Valley.

When I wrote that line, I thought about a tour guide’s recent remark and laughed. A couple of weeks ago, we had guests at home and we were taking an LA tour – Hollywood and all, with the awestruck guests. The driver of the tour bus / tour guide was a sharp Croat, who came up with very witty one liners now and then. While we were passing the Beverly hills Blvd, he would say – Look at all those nicely dressed, pampered & rich women, they are having what they would call ‘a tough day’, the poor things, they have to wake up late, have a long & leisurely breakfast and then rough it out with a tiring shopping day. Then they have to sit in the hot sun and eat that salad costing $150, at that classy star restaurant, man! what a rough life!!! And of course, we all laughed.

Anyway the not so rich and not so young guy who is writing this had a rough day at Napa valley. Now those of you who know about Napa must have sniggered, like we did in the bus!! Napa is where people long to go, that is where almost all the California Wine is made, a lovely valley with dozens of vineyards. People usually go there for a grand vacation, lazing about, eating good food, wine tasting and all. Well, I was on a business conference where I had to speak for 4 straight hours, wolf a quick and unpalatable lunch comprising strange leaves & berries and a blob of roasted chicken (surely costing over $50 which the others dutifully gloated about), drive through rush hour bay area traffic to Oakland to catch a flight to South California and then another hour and a half’s excruciating drive home through dense traffic…

A shower later I sat to watch the tape covering the Amrita Superstar finals. The singers on display were no class compared to those fine contestants of the Hindi ‘Indian Idol’ or ‘Sa-re-ga-ma-pa’…but there were two performers amongst the contestants who blew me away.

The first of them, I had made a brief mention of, previously….Stephen Devassy on the keyboards. He single-handedly shepherded the contestants of Super star & Superstar Junior through the contest, playing adroitly on the keyboards, as the one man orchestra & mentor… I had seen him first hand at the Hariharan concert that we went to recently and I am told that Stephen is one of the highest paid organist’s today. A simple man from what I saw, humble and pious, like everybody should be, a boy who pursued his dreams on the keyboard. Watch him play this tune…

Webindia123 has a nice interview plus a performance by Stephen Devassy, here. And another good article to read- The 23-year-old "village boy" from Palakkad came to Chennai with a keyboard, a handful of money and a dream --to perform the music he has composed.

After that there was Balabhaskar’s filler in the program…wow!! Was he masterly on the violin!!! There are many videos of his performances available for those who frequent Youtube, each as good as the other, simply because this young guy is a master of the art and his stage presence is complete.

Or this

Balabhaskar - another young prodigy, who is busy with his group and music direction, these days. Once a singer, he now concentrates on composing, arranging and playing the violin. He has his own website where you could also listen to his compositions.

Balabhaskar started young, at four, when his famous uncle, B. Sasikumar, virtually pulled him out of bed every morning, and put a violin in his hands. "It was gurukula training, and my uncle did not teach in the conventional way. He would play some swaras and expect me to do the same. It was like being thrown into the lion's den and one simply had to manage. So, manodharmas came naturally to me. The violin became a part of me and I think I can express myself best on the violin. My arangettam was at 12 and at school, I tried out my own compositions for youth festivals," he says. Another web123 interview.

And the evening was quickly gone – it was soon time to hit the sack…but not before I remembered another fantastic keyboard player, whose performance I had the opportunity to watch, though not at very close proximity (our seats were too far at the back)…It was Adnan Sami himself during his concert with Shreya Ghoshal. He is even on the Guinness book for fastest keyboard playing…More on that some other time..


GVK said…
Delightful YouTube clips. Wonder if we could run on Mysore Blog Park a daily 'YouTube'feature on the lines of Blog-of-the-day. But then it would have to be labelled 'Maddy's YouTube Choice'. What do you think?
Nanditha Prabhu said…
thanks for sharing the music. i really enjoyed it!
Naveen said…
wish u a very happy onam ..
Nice post on Balabhaskar. Liked the YouTube videos as well. I have linked to your post at http://bpuriskabab.blogspot.com
harimohan said…
dear maddy
your trip to californian delights was intresting all the more the info on stephen and balabhaskar both of whom i adore ,another favourite is adnan sami whom u had mentioned ,tastes similar
Pradeep said…
As usual studded with lots of info. Good music. Happy Onam!
diyadear said…
a very happy onam to u and family sir.. n hey u watch amrita there.. wow check out for a gal called durga. she is a distant relative of mine [:D] had rocked the ganamela at our weedding!!
Maddy said…
Hi GVK - We can probably plan something like that, requires a bit of time though as there are thousands out there..

Thanks nanditha, naveen, Bhelpuri, Pradeep, Harimohan and Diya...Hope you all enjoyed your onam.

Diya - did not really get to watch Amrita, but I will keep an eye out for Durga..