Charitable chords

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It’s an evening of fusion music with local Indian stars and ATMA BLU raising funds for child healthcare

One balmy evening in early September, the village church in Annandale sprung to life with Indian classical ragas, the brassy notes of the saxophone and the thuds of the tabla and drums.
Heads swayed, feet tapped and lips parted in smiles as music filled the air to celebrate the achievements of, and raise funds for, the Westmead Children’s Hospital, which has treated club-footed children in India in the past.
The evening opened with Sayak Bhattacharya’s rendition of the Indian classical raga Puriya Kalyan, Murtaza Damoon’s finger tricks on the tabla and Vivek Apte’s accompaniment on the harmonium. While Sayak’s vocals effortlessly traversed from the high to the low notes, the mood was set as Braj and Hindi poetry transported attentive listeners to a different realm.
A young lad of 27, Sayak has the right dose of energy, range, attitude and most importantly, time on his side, to become an ustad. It is therefore not surprising that he uses this time diligently and travels to India to train under Ustad Rashid Khan and Pandit Vijay Kichlu.
Murtaza’s tryst with the tabla began at the age of seven and he currently trains under Pandit Kumar Bose.
Matching the trio of Sayak-Murtaza-Vivek stride for stride was the fusion-jazz ensemble of ATMA BLU, comprising the elegant saxophone player Sandy Evans (yes from the Sandy Evans Trio!) whose solos demanded rapt attention; meditative bassist Michael Galleazi, feisty but otherwise sombre trombone man James Greening; the sprightly tabla player with an impish grin Yama Sarshar; guitarist Jeremy Sawkins; and the dimply-cheeked drummer Chris Fields whose antics lit up the stage. ATMA BLU’s music combines sounds, twangs and beats from various musical cultures, especially African and Afro-Caribbean jazz and fusion.
Chris, a third generation drummer and a teacher of music, held on to the group’s tempo as Sandy wowed the audience with her solo. The band seemed to be having a whole lot of fun together while playing some happy, quirky compositions like Papaji and Todi.
We were in for a treat as the musicians announced an unrehearsed duel between traditional Indian classical music and innovative jazz rhythms. Although the first attempt failed to strike a chord, Sayak and Sandy’s jugalbandi in the next one had us all enthralled. The tug of war between the tabalchis also received a generous round of applause.
As the musical feast drew to an end, it was difficult to miss the co-mingling of ‘the east’ and ‘the west’ as Indian classical music made its mark on the minds of new listeners and the jazz beats were accompanied by the tapping of toes and the nodding of heads regardless of age and lineage.
And the musicians had accomplished what they set out to do.

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