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OK World mixes it up

OK World, April 11, Blue Frog Mumbai: You know you’ve witnessed something compelling when it takes you till the end of the gig to notice the elderly man bouncing and clapping like a cymbal-banging monkey toy behind you. Multi-genre bassist Shrikant Sriram, better known as just Shri, and new jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft’s new group […]

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Dustin Silgardo Apr 12, 2012
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OK World's first show in Mumbai (Photo: Tejeshwar Balachandar)

OK World, April 11, Blue Frog Mumbai: You know you’ve witnessed something compelling when it takes you till the end of the gig to notice the elderly man bouncing and clapping like a cymbal-banging monkey toy behind you. Multi-genre bassist Shrikant Sriram, better known as just Shri, and new jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft’s new group OK World were at times brilliant, at times messy, and at times downright absurd, but certainly never boring during their 90-minute gig at Blue Frog in Mumbai. Before the encore ”“ half asked for, half predetermined ”“ Wesseltoft thanked the crowd for sitting through the “good and the bad” of the show. It was not just annoying self-castigation. The idea behind OK World is to gather musicians from around the world to play largely spontaneous gigs in each of their hometowns, so the band’s first performance was bound to be a bit of an experiment.

 Both Shri and Wesseltoft enjoy experimenting with on-stage programming: Shri’s latest solo project ShriLektric involves him playing the bass, bow bass, flute and tabla and then mixing them, all on stage, while Wesseltoft is famous for using his synthesizers, samplers and looping devices during live performances. A lot of what OK World attempted to do was a take-off from the band’s founders’ ambitions to produce electronic music organically in front of a live audience. It worked well when Vivek Rajagopalan recorded several layers of bols before playing his mridangam over them, but, with the band not having rehearsed the tracks more than once, there were times when Wesseltoft’s atonal style overpowered the rest of the band and made the whole thing sound less fusion and more Crazy Frog.

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 What held the performance together was the individual talent of each of the artists. The audience really got into the show when Shri played his bass solo using his trademark tabla-influenced slapping style and asked Rajagopalan, with whom he has collaborated on several projects previously, to mirror him. That was followed by Mozambican drummer Amade Cossa’s energetic solo that saw him furiously banging on his African drum while also intermittently slapping a bass drum, and a cymbal. Flamenco guitarist Josemi Carmona’s solo, though, while equally skilful, felt anticlimactic, as it seemed like the audience were being asked to mellow down just when they had started to get revved up.

 The point of OK World is not to arrange a set of solo performances but to actually combine the individual elements to produce a collective sound. In Mumbai, Shri’s bass melodies provided a solid backbone to each track, but a lot of the subtlety of Cossa and Lebanese drummer Khaled Yassine’s percussion was lost amid the chaos of Wesseltoft’s experiments. It may take a few more gigs for the eclectic band to be able to perform cohesively, but just to hear snippets of each of their abilities was worth the Rs 300 entry at Blue Frog.

 

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