When asked how they chose the blues, Soulmate replied that the blues chose them instead. True, indeed!
Aditi Dharmadhikari writes about the Soulmate gig at HRC in Pune.
Spontaneous plans are often the best kind and the Soulmate gig at Hard Rock Café on the 21st of July, turned out to be staunch testimony to this. Come to think of it, missing the first Soulmate gig that had come my way had never really been an option anyway. A cut above our expectation, the night enthralled us with gut-wrenching blues vocals and music with enough soul to make anyone’s spine tingle. An eclectic amalgamation of blues, blues-rock, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, funk and R&B; Soulmate spun this electric web around themselves and the audience – striking the tricky balance between being absorbed in their own music as if in a trance and extending this privilege to their audience; an easy and mutual ensconcement.
“The blues is my teacher/ The blues is my friend/ The blues never hurts me/ It just heals me in the end,” croons Tipriti ‘Tips’ Kharbangar into the microphone, her teeth gnashing the air in time to the music. Her hands fly over the rhythm guitar as her trademark butterfly clips on the microphone glint in the light. The gospel songs she started out singing have embedded in her voice an inherent and unmistakable soulfulness, matched across the stage by the riffssong of Rudy Wallang, one of the most prominent singers/writers of the western music scene in India. His face contorts now and then into the semi-orgasmic face of blues legends as they belt out particularly mind-blowing tunes, an expression intensely reminiscent of Carlos Santana. He also pulls off some great damage control, playing a couple of songs with one guitar string broken, actually taking those songs one sharp higher. Leon Wallang on bass guitar created his own chilled-out place on one side at the stage, grooving in the nonchalant, effortless way of bassists while Sam Shullai on drums held up the beat that set feet dancing across the floor.Raveen Panday on keyboards floated in and out of the music, a subtle but irreplaceable part of it.
The most distinctive quality of this band was the collective duality – how they enjoyed making music as much as the audience enjoyed watching them, and how they did that onstage individually as well as together, as a band.
The chemistry amongst all the band members and in particular, between Rudy Wallang and “Tips”, is incredible; it’s as though their music runs in their veins and this consequentially binds them together. Soulmate played an incredibly tight set, probably a direct repercussion of being a close-knit band for practically 10 years, with various national and international-level shows to their credit.
“There is generally a lot of acceptance and support for our music,” shares Tipriti, in her interview with dfuse.in. “However, we have found that international audiences turn up expecting no more than an evening of good music, and mutual appreciation for it. Indian audiences on the other hand are more inclined to compare artists within the same genre or with similar sounds.”
Appreciate good music – Soulmate does and they don’t forget their legends. Kicking off the set with “Peace Prayer”and “Moving On”, they dedicated “Real Mother for ya” to Johnny “Guitar” Watson, the American blues and funk guitarist. Their other influences include Toto Wallang (Rudy Wallang’s father), Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, Roy Buchanan, George Harrison, Albert King, Freddie King, Koko Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Susan Tedeschi, Jimmy Hall, Rory Gallagher, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, to name but a few.
Soulmate went on to involve the audience in their other songs and it was not long before the entire place echoed with spirited calls of “The Blues Are All Right”. Hard Rock Café filled up slowly but surely that night, vaguely reminiscent of the Pied Piper’s music drawing in the curious listeners.
A part of their “Sunshine” tour, Soulmate graced the evening with beauty and positive vibes brought down all the way from Shillong.
(Our Music lead, Arjun Rajkishore had the opportunity to interview Rudy and Tips of Soulmate. You can read it here – http://dfuse.in/music/interview-soulmate/)