Tuesday, November 24, 2009

U.S Passport renewal from India, now takes two weeks.

If you are holding a U.S passport and are trying to get it renewed at a U.S consulate in India be prepared to give full two weeks to get it. Unlike in the past where you could get your renewed passport in a day from the consulate, this time your old passport actually goes to the U.S.A, gets verified and then gets cancelled. It is then sent along with your new passport to you in India. If there are any visas on the old passport that expire in two weeks or if you have any foreigner's registration that expires within that two weeks make sure that you are covered during the time it takes to get your new passport.

Filled with blunders, The Hindu publishes a preposterous review of Osibisa's concert

If only Divya Kumar had spent a few seconds (if not minutes) to read the news item titled "Osibisa concert today" on page 2 of "The Hindu" this Sunday, she wouldn't have made that horrendous blunder of mentioning in her review published in the "Metroplus" today that Sol Amarfio was the drummer in the concert that night. It is clearly mentioned in that news item on Sunday that Alex Kwatu Boateng is the drummer. All she had to do was a "copy and paste" of that information. My 10 year old son who has been watching Osibisa's videos on YouTube could say the difference. Divya goes on to mention Amarfio as one of the founding members of the band which is true but did the young Alex drumming for Sunday's concert that night look one bit like the old Amarfio. One stop at Osibisa's official site online would have also confirmed who the drummer that night was as Amarfio's picture is there on the site.

Next comes the incredible blunder when she mentions that the opening song for the concert was "The Gong". This alone speaks volumes that she doesn't know a thing about Osibisa's music. She has mistaken the word "Dawn" for "Gong" and has mentioned in her review that the opening number was "The Gong". Little does she know that Osibisa has never made a song called "The Gong" and even if they did it wasn't the one they opened the concert with. Osibisa followed the opener with their instrumental hit "Music for Gong Gong" but that's an entirely different song. What Divya fails to understand is that in the audience are people who have been listening to Osibisa for over two decades. "The Dawn" is their first song from their very first self-titled debut album. Osibisa these days open their concert with this number. It is all over YouTube. And again, my 10 year old can recognize this number. Just a little research could have saved her review.

She then mentions that "Pata Pata" and "Watusi" as newer numbers from their latest album which is not completely right. While "Watusi" is from the recent album, "Pata Pata" is not. And why she thinks that the recent numbers aren't good is something Osibisa fans are going to question her. The recent offering is a classic. Considering an album as this coming out from a band after 40 years of its inception is a phenomenon. She could have at least sampled the audio clips available online before she wrote that line. And mentioning that the newer music wasn't good enough she writes "audience attention started waning...". Little does she know that most of the songs performed that night are literally from a "Best of Osibisa" collection most of them from the 70's and early 80's. Contrary to what she reports the excitement level of the audience only went up and literally peaking towards the end. The trickle of people who left the auditorium either have no taste for Osibisa's world class music or left for other reasons not necessarily the music.

I only wished "The Hindu" had someone edit this review or at least let someone knowledgeable or passionate about Osibisa's music write it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Osibisa's Chennai Concert - A once-in-a-lifetime treat

I screamed and sang my guts out and my hands are still a bit sore with all that clapping. For everyone who attended the sold out Osibisa concert yesterday at the Music Academy, it was an experience of a lifetime.

For those of us who missed Osibisa way back in the early 80's (If I am right, it was 1984) the concert yesterday was something Chennaities couldn't have asked for more.

My weeks long anticipation, singing their tunes, watching their videos and even getting Chaithu, Suji and her kids listen to the music of Osibisa ended in a brilliant climax last evening.

In two words - Osibisa rocked! It is incredible to believe how they can still create their magic after 40 years. One listen to their latest offering "Osee Yee" will also confirm how they can still be going on strong after all these years. The band's founder, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist (flute, saxophone, african drums) Teddy Osei now in his early 70's and barely able to walk is an inspiration on stage.

My only gripe was the audience. Unlike the concert going crowds of Bangalore the crowd seemed too sober for the music of a band such as Osibisa but that would change very soon. When they started with the usual opener "The Dawn" I thought I was the only guy clapping to that exotic irresistible bass-drum beat. "C'mon Chennai", I complained inside. Unlike a bunch of headbangers the cosmopolitan crowd looked as though they had come to watch a typical classical "Kutchery" performance. But Osibisa's magic would change all that very soon. Crowd pullers, they sure know how to engage the crowd. But even when Teddy Ossei their quintessential leader asked the crowd to dance and sing the audience seemed too lip-tied and unmoved. But in a fully seated audience I wondered if the crowd would ever make a move.

Then comes the ice-breaker, "Ojah Awake", the song that is used heavily in programmes "Kalakka povathu yaaru" on Sun TV and "Rasika Raja" on Surya TV. I think for many in the audience who have been watching these programs it would have come as a pleasant awakening. For "Ojah", Osibisa got the crowd singing. The momentum had already picked up. Osibisa then moved on to perform their other hits, "Music for Gong Gong", "Ai Kobia Yo" and for the latter they got the crowd engaged as well. The best was yet to come. When they announced their next song would be "Ragupathi Raghava" I screamed my lungs out. I was surprised even this song did not prompt the audience to sing till it hit the "Jai Jai Ram", "Sitha Ram" portion.

I had my moments too. During the quieter moments when Teddy was speaking in between the numbers I screamed "Sunshine Day". Teddy responded saying "Yeah Yeah Sunshine". Another member of the audience screamed "Sunshine Day" too and to our delight the band started the song. The crowd got to their feet leaving all inhibitions behind and sang and cheered with the band all the way through. It just felt incredible. To top that, just as the song concluded they started their next big hit "Dance the body music". Back to back the two songs were a treat.

Other hits Osibisa delighted us were "Kilele" where they got the audience singing too, the slow but beautiful ballad, "Welcome home" and another lovely number from their latest album, "Osee Yee". Other good songs I can recall are "Woyaya", "Celebration" and "Right now".

The instrumentalists took time for ample solo's though the solo's were not entirely of the pure rock or of the heavy metal genre. The drummer and rhythm guitarist also took time to display some dancing skills that got the crowd going wild. It was a delight to also watch the percussionists doing their combined solos where the audience cheered and applauded wildly.

Signing off, coming back for the encore with "The Warrior", introducing the band towards the end were all done in perfect style.

For me it was my first visit to the auditorium that Chennai is known for and it was a nice experience. The auditorium is small and the proximity to the artistes on stage is very good. The sound was impressive and I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5 rating for the concert. I would have loved Osibisa perform to a bigger audience like they did when they were here 25 years ago but this is the best a Chennai crowd could ask for.

Suji and the kids loved it. I thought it was a nice induction for Chaithu and his cousins to a live rock concert.

Now to buy the latest album online. The price of the CD's being sold outside the auditorium seemed a bit too dear, unless they had let us get the autographs on the CD by the band members.

Friday, November 06, 2009

James Cameron's next offering, Avatar

After almost sinking like the Titanic he made in 1987 James Cameron surfaces with Avatar, to be released next month on the 18'th. Titanic was the most expensive movie made during its times and now Avatar repeats that feat. At $230 million it is the most expensive movie to be made so far. Check out the impressive trailer at www.avatarmovie.com

If you have a slow connection check out the trailer at YouTube.