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Review: A Soul-Satisfying Concert by Vasundhara Vee

The singer and her band played an eclectic range of covers and originals in Mumbai

Sunil Sampat May 18, 2022

Singer, voice trainer and songwriter Vasundhara Vee. Photo: Jishnu Guha

Vasundhara Vee and her band of musicians recently performed a truly eclectic concert of soul music at the Tata Theatre, NCPA.

Before the gig, there might have been a bunch of people who scampered to Google to understand what soul music was all about. While the information might not have been completely enlightening, there must have been a feeling of satisfaction from the performance they witnessed and heard.

Some of the finest music has been distilled from the mother lode of the blues from over a hundred years ago. All contemporary Western music, barring perhaps folk sounds, are descendants of the blues, and this includes jazz, R&B, funk, soul, Motown, rock, hip-hop and even rap.

These categories, for the cynical, have been designated by record companies to fill different bins in record stores to maximize sales (how does one categorize Ray Charles or Aretha Franklin?).

Soul owes its expression to some fine exponents like Sam Cooke and Chaka Khan, and Vasundhara Vee took the evening in that direction. By coincidence, Chaka Khan had played on the same stage, the Tata Theatre, a few years ago.

Vasundhara started her set with the popular “A Change is Gonna Come,” followed by the clever “3 on E” and, after sailing through a few originals, the entire band chirped in with back-up vocals on “Birds of a Feather”.

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The first set ended with guest guitarist Sanjay Divecha sitting in for the final number. It served as a reminder to invite Divecha for an extended concert. He is quite the master himself.

In the second set, the gospel classic “Amazing Grace,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Top Secret,” followed by a Stevie Wonder medley, were all well received and appreciated by the audience.

However, the pièce de résistance of the entire concert was the finale played by the band for an encore. It was Charles Mingus’s “Dry Cleaner from Des Moines” sung and swung beautifully by Vasundhara and each member of her band. Was it soul, was it jazz, was it vocalese?

The categories were irrelevant. It was great music, never mind the pigeon-holing

The highly skilled band needs special mention. Ron Cha (from Guwahati ) is an accomplished pianist who needs to be heard more. Here, he took over the keyboards as well.

Srinjay Banerjee (from Kolkata but now living in Mumbai) is a guitarist who displayed flawless technique and added quality to the ensemble, and is another musician we expect to hear more from. Bassist Saurabh Suman, also the music director for the evening, was understated in his playing, as always. His performance was subtle, as were the arrangements he provided. Shivang Kapadia on drums was a refreshing discovery.

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Vasundhara was at her magnificent best, as she usually is, and took the concert to new heights, and this was further elevated by the accompanying musicians.

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