Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Slight Return

In 1979, Arunda's canteen inside the St Xavier's College campus was our haven from the presumed drudgery of classes. Litres of tea, kilos of rancid samosas and chops, and the smoke of too many cigarettes fuelled our impassioned, and often indifferent, discussions about everything, and nothing at all.

And so it came to pass that a music concert was conceived in that ambience. Now this would not be just another rock concert where extremely skilled and talented musicians would play covers extremely well. This concert would stress on original compositions. And it would, through such musicians, seek to reinvent the wheel. Well, the blues, to begin with.

1979 was the UN's International Year of the Child. That year the Pol Pot regime collapsed in Cambodia; the Shah of Iran fled his country allowing Ayatollah Khomeini to return and seize power; the Sahara Desert experienced snow for 30 minutes in February; Bhutto was executed in Pakistan; Thatcher became PM in Great Britain; a tsunami hit Nice in France killing all of 23 people; China registered a population of one billion; the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan; Bipasha Basu was born; Mother Teresa got the Nobel for Peace; and an energy crisis hit the world in the wake of the Iran crisis.

Much happened musically that year too. Billy Joel's Just The Way You Are was the Grammy album of the year; Led Zeppelin released In Through The Out Door; Bee Gees, Donna Summer, ABBA, Rod Stewart and Earth, Wind & Fire performed a benefit concert to promote the UN Year of the Child; Norah Jones was born...

And in September 1979 history continued to be made. “Blues In The Basement” happened in Calcutta as a sold-out show, which was totally gatecrashed by a further 200 odd people. (As an aside, since that historic day, that auditorium no longer takes bookings for Western music shows till date.)

“Blues In The Basement” featured the late, great Dilip Balakrishnan backed by Nondon Bagchi and PC Mookerjee; the cool and suave Gyan Singh solo with acoustic guitar, as well as an impressive debut by a visibly nervous Robin Sengupta doing his originals. The rising star of Baul music in those times, Gour Khepa, opened the concert to a stunned audience.

The second half though, was what the concert pivoted on. Bertie Da'Silva, Melville Samuel and Richard Francis came on as the guitar-voice trio of Bertie, Mel and Fuzz, and they blew every one away in more ways than one. Since then, there has never really been a concert quite like that with these three.

In a riverine city like Calcutta, we all know about much water flowing under bridges. Bertie went into musical hibernation and gained repute in academia. Mel searched and found alternative songs of praise while he also formally trained young minds; and Fuzz went corporate away from Calcutta before moving overseas.

And then as destiny would have it, they met again - almost 30 years on. And those old feelings remained, dormant no more. They talked, played some music to each other, and they saw it was still good.

And hence: Bertie, Mel and Fuzz: Redux.
Bertie, Mel and Fuzz: A Slight Return.

When all is said and done, Bertie, Mel and Fuzz together again.

For one night only. At the Princeton Club on Anwar Shah Road. 12th April 2007. 8 pm.

How can you not be there? Tch, tch!

For some new pix of the three, go here.


rama said...

Hullo! I read about this in today's Telegraph. Was I happy to read this! I called my SXC college-mates Ashoke Bannerji and Barun Mitra, to join me in attending the reunion concert. But both are out of town that day. So I will go, with my sons. I am also informing my SXC class-mate JP, in London, about this. He had written about Bertie, Mel and Fuzz on his blog (



p@tr!(k said...

hi rama! thanks for dropping by and it will be great to have some of the "old guys" at the show. have seen jp's blog too. - patrick

Ricercar said...

bertie as in not munal's teacher, na? lol. i am so out of it all ... music college madness ... khaali exam and term work :) how are you?

p@tr!(k said...

the very same prof da'silva - dean and head of english dept at xavier's!
khub bhalo achi. ei show ta niye plus an easter cantata at st james' church (jora girja?) on saturday in which i'm also singing! plus daughter's here for a few days... all the best for your exams... will be audio-video recording the show so you can have a copy and listen to what you'll miss tomorrow!

Ricercar said...

great :)
hopefully there'll be more in fall (when i come home)?

Sagar said...

Hi Patrick

It's good to read your blog. Brings back a lot of memories. I grew up on the songs of Dilip Balakrishnan - Monkey's Song, etc....can u guide me on where I can download these - or if you have them, maybe you could send them to me? My email is



p@tr!(k said...

hi sagar! thanks for dropping by, and join the gang! sorry, none of dilip's songs are available for download. whatever tapes are there are private property of his wife and friends. but if you read page 32 of rolling stone india edition of may 2008, you'll find an article which says that saregama may be releasing a collection of dilip's songs at some point. i guess you and i, and a thousand others will have to wait for that one.
and if you're in cal on 18th november, drop in to birla sabhagar to watch bertie in concert doing his originals. not a show you should miss!

ǽ said...

Hi p@tr!(k

I find that GDBSg is booked in your name for the 18th. (The guys said they haven't heard of Bertie!)

Where could one pick up tickets?

p@tr!(k said...

omg! you mean i'm better known than bertie? horrors! and that too at gdbs where the bertie man will perform! what is this world coming to?