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Gig Review: A Night of Soul with SouldOut, Mumbai

India’s foremost jazz/soul singer Sonia Saigal treated her audience to spellbinding set of Motown classics

Sunil Sampat Jul 30, 2019

Sonia Saigal performing at the Jazz Concert at Experimental Theatre, NCPA. Photo: NARENDRA DANGIYA

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The city of Detroit in Michigan, USA, was once famous the world over as America’s motor city. It was the place which gave the world the famous cars- Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, Mustangs and Corvettes. Detroit was thus “Motown”. From around 1960, Detroit became famous, yet again, this time as the home of a new sound in modern African American music, appropriately named Motown. The Motown sound was exemplified by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, Diana Ross, groups such as the Temptations, The Supremes, The Commodores and several others.

On July 27 Sonia Saigal sang an amazing evening of music from this genre at the Experimental Theatre at The NCPA, Mumbai. Saigal was in superlative form in her concert ‘SouldOut.’ Arguably India’s most brilliant jazz/blues/soul/funk/R&B vocalist, she was backed by a fine quintet of musicians, with Harmeet Manseta on piano and keyboards.

A song is just a song until it gets the right kind of treatment. Saigal gave them just that treatment for the benefit of a full house. The songs that she chose to perform at her gig were a mix from the songbooks of some of the pioneers of the genre. Starting the evening with “Natural Woman,” which Aretha Franklin immortalized at the Obama White House, this natural singer tirelessly belted out the high energy songs, “Its A Man’ World” from James Brown, “BrickHouse” from the Commodores (from Lionel Richie before he became Lionel Richie, as Saigal describes him), and “Night Shift.” As the band broke for an intermission, Saigal and Manseta stayed back on stage to perform two jazz standards, “Cry Me A River” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” in duo format. The audience got a glimpse of Manseta’s brilliance on piano. He has been one of India’s finest ever jazz pianists; sadly, in recent times, his performances in Mumbai have been few and far between. His mastery and technique were highlighted on this short, two number jazz interlude in the concert. The balance and interaction between the piano and Saigal’s brilliant jazz singing was worthy of a platform higher than a Saturday night gig! It was quite special. The jazz lovers in the audience couldn’t get enough of this brilliant display of jazz performance.

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Post intermission, returning with the full band–which featured Rinku Rajput on keyboards, Vibhaas Rahul on drums, Sanjeev Aguiar on guitar and Kenneth Rebello on bass– Saigal continued her soulful journey with “Midnight Train To Georgia,” “Soul With A Capital S” and a few more numbers to bring a memorable concert to a rousing end. She started with “Natural Woman” but by the end of the show there was no doubt that Saigal is a Natural Soul Singer! Mumbai could certainly do with more quality concerts like this one.

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