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Yamaha Asian Beat Finds a Winner

Mumbai boys Zygnema will represent India in the global finale in Bangkok

Deepti Unni Oct 10, 2010

Monisha Ajgaonkar

The Yamaha Asian Beat competition that first kicked off in July this year saw hundreds of amateur unsigned bands from all over the country compete for a chance to win a slot at the Asian Beat finale in Bangkok in November and a chance to battle it out with international bands for a grand prize of $3000 and gear worth more than $20,000 from Yamaha Music. The national finals that were held in Mumbai and showcased an incredible range of genres and styles among the finalists ”“ Underground Authority, Zygnema, Cold Embrace, Solder, Zinx and Element 21.

The show was opened by Kolkata-based Underground Authority who threw down a blistering set. The rap-rock outfit’s strong socio-political agenda was showcased in their tracks ”˜Microphone’ that channelled a mix of Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park and made quite an impression on the judges. Mumbai boys Zygnema took the stage next, looking a little shifty and uncomfortable with their new Yamaha stage gear but all was forgotten the moment they ripped into crowd favourite ”˜Scarface.’ Whipping up the crowd into a frenzy, the band closed their very short set with ”˜Theory of Lies and Negation’ from their recently released album, Born of Unity.

Bengaluru’s Solder struck the groovy note for the evening with their laid-back originals and a Dave-Matthews-Band vibe (the band also drew comparisons with Mumbai’s Something Relevant), with frontman Siddharth Abraham and his rakishly tilted hat looking set to steal away the most stylish musician award.

Post a short interlude in which master percussionist and Yamaha endorsee Zack Bond showed off his chops on a drum pad, Mizoram’s Cold Embrace took the stage. The band’s power metal stylings were underscored by the strong performance of vocalist C Lallungmuana who inevitably walked away with the best vocalist award for the night.

The nine-member ensemble, Zinx, from Chennai, came with some heavyweight backing. The contemporary fusion band, which combined influences from jazz, blues, funk, rock, western classical and Carnatic music, had so impressed AR Rahman at a competition that they went on to collaborate with the maestro on their debut album earlier this year. But it didn’t seem to be the band’s day as they tried and failed to navigate some serious technical glitches on stage which effectively ended their run in the Asian Beat competition.

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Element 21, an electro-rock (“club rock” is how the band describe their sound) act from Delhi took the stage next to lay down some danceable, trippy grooves tempered by the lilting vocals of Jasmine Beton. Though an interesting experiment in live electronica, the band didn’t seem able to engage the audience’s attention enough, even as they belted out their Indian-flavoured original ”˜Dhoom Tana’ that got them past the elimination round.

After a short period of deliberation, the judges came back with the verdict. Underground Authority brought up the runners-up position, impressing the judges with their enthusiasm and social stance but the band picked to represent India at the Yamaha Asian Beat global finale in Bangkok was, to little surprise, Mumbai’s Zygnema whose insane stage act and on-stage energy had the crowd screaming and on their feet. Headliners Whirling Kalapas then took the stage, bringing the night to a close on an appropriately high note.

Zygnema’s Big Win

As the band with the loudest and most extreme music among the finalists of Yamaha Asian Beat, Mumbai-based thrashers Zygnema would be the first to admit that they didn’t think they’d make the cut. “Of course, we did talk about how it’d be nice to win the elims and maybe get through to the finals and if we do, we’d get a chance to play in Bangkok. As we’ve never had any international experience, we thought this would be a stepping stone and decided to give it our best shot. But we didn’t think we had a chance when we found out that Vivian Campbell from Def Leppard would be judging the global finals,” says guitarist Sidharth Kadadi.

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For the band, the finals were an evening of psyche-outs. “We heard Solder from Bengaluru and they were in that same space [as Def Leppard] ”“ strumming acoustic guitars and singing love songs ”“ and we thought these guys would probably fit the Def Leppard vibe in Bangkok. Then we saw the nine or 10-piece band from Chennai named Zinx and their introduction was pretty bomb-ass. I mean, AR Rahman produced their album, they recorded and toured with him so we were dead sure these guys were going to make it. We had actually lost hope,” says Kadadi. When the judges came back from their deliberation and announced the individual musicians’ prizes, Zygnema were more than happy to have bagged best drummer and best bassist but weren’t prepared for the win. “We were like “Oh, this is great,” says Kadadi. “Our drummer Mayank [Sharma] was down with a 103 degree fever and he was hospitalised the day after the show. We were just very happy that he won best drummer because we all thought he really deserved it but didn’t expect much more.”

Now, though, the band are looking to kick some serious butt in Bangkok and aren’t worried that they might be the only extreme metal band there. “We’ll just do what we did for the elims – go out and play our best. It’s been working so far,” says Kadadi.

The Winners

Best Band ”“ Zygnema

Runners Up ­”“ Underground Authority

Best Vocalist ”“ C Lallungmuana (Cold Embrace)

Best Guitarist ”“ Kuntal De (Underground Authority)

Best Bassist ”“ Ravi Satpute (Zygnema)

Best Keyboardist ”“ Anirudh Ravichander (Zinx)

Most Stylish Band Member ”“ Siddharth Abraham (Solder)

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