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Last week’s second edition of the Jam Lounge has amply signaled that it is well on its way to becoming a regular, looked-forward-to fixture in Auckland’s event calendar.

Jam Lounge lived up to its promise of presenting ‘Hindi classics in an urban avataar’. The repertoire was an eclectic mix of stylistically vocalised new numbers and nostalgically classic old ones that undoubtedly pleased the considerable number of older listeners.

One would intuitively associate the jamming, Coke Studio-style format with a younger demographic but the impressive numbers of middle-aged and senior patrons showed that age is but a mere number – and all one needs to appreciate such bold new experimentation is to only be young at heart.

The ‘urban’ orchestration, especially on the time-honoured numbers, was delightful and gave them renewed zest and energy, without being overbearing – a tribute to the restraint that was displayed by the team that created the new orchestration and the musicians that played it on stage.

While Auckland’s older guard of singers Viraj Maki – who incidentally adapted himself very well to this format of presentation – and Dr Hubert regaled the audience with timeless old numbers and traditional compositions, the avant garde led by the very talented Ashish Ramakrishnan dazzled with their well-honed stylistic singing of newer songs.

Equally impressive among the youngsters were Srisha Iyer, Neel Patel, Karamveer Singh and Harps Singh with Ashish – who having done the bulk of designing the show – led from the front both with his singing and his commentary between numbers.

Singers and musicians are two parts of the whole experience, even if singers often end up getting the lion’s share of the spotlight. But for the very few, thousands of musicians that played the background scores of the greatest songs of all time go unnamed, unsung and unremembered – such is the nature of their metier.

However, in today’s times, especially in gigs like Jam Lounge and those in the digital world, musicians can get much greater exposure than their forbears ever did. In his role as compere, Ashish took great care to introduce each of the instrumentalists as he did the singers. Hetal Jani was MC, though with few and far between appearances on stage.

Lead guitarist Svanand, Shivam on his bass guitar, Kevin and Neel on keyboards, Nigel on drums and the impressive percussionist in the traditional and classical mould Navneel, delivered solid performances as able accompanists on the night.

Organiser CFI Events’ Ram Iyer spoke emotionally about his 15 years in organising events and thanked associates while also outlining plans for future gigs.

Ram, Ashish and popular Auckland DJ Gabroo designed edition two of the Jam Lounge, which was indeed a cut above its first presentation last year. Going by last week’s experience, it will only get better.

One aspect the Jam Lounge needs to improve upon is its on-stage lighting. The general bleakness of the stage did little justice to the performers, especially the accompanists.

However, that dullness was offset by bright blue, red and green discotheque-style lights momentarily blinding the audience in the course of their rotation during certain songs. This reviewer and a few others actually had to shield their eyes from that luminous onslaught – a distracting feature well worth doing away with.

First appeared in The Indian Weekender dated 8 September 2018.