VARNAM – An attempt to evoke thought using music and language

A calm Wednesday evening when the cyber bees in Hyderabad are not too frustrated nor looking forward to the weekend. They have ordered their drinks and are casually lost in conversation.

At the same time, Krishnan, the pianist cum vocalist is lost in discussion on-stage with Niteesh, the guitarist cum vocalist. They are discussing what is the pitch for their next song. This rough practise might surprise a few guests initially but when they hear the fair copy of the song, the trial seems worth its time.

Krishnan goes “This song starts with a certain pitch and scale”, while Niteesh is immediately trying to replicate that on his guitar, Krishnan corrects him and gives him a better note instead. They shake their heads in agreement and get ready to play the fair version. Out of nowhere they are singing an organic cover to the song “Humma humma”. This is nothing new. We have seen all types of creative covers for all the songs on you-tube by various artists and professionals these days.

So what makes VARNAM so special?

VARNAM is the brain child of Hemender and Jaidev who own the pub “The Moon Shine Project” in filmnagar, Hyderabad. They spring up with childish enthusiasm whenever they are explaining the concept to someone. So why this excitement, what is this concept?

Let’s consider the same Humma song. It goes like this “Andha Arabic kadal oram, oor azhagai kandene…..” Krishnan completes the pallavi in TAMIL. This is when Niteesh jumps in and sings the charanam in TELUGU! And Krishnan comes in un-announced to sing a few more lines and at one point they both are singing and harmonizing together.

Yes, this is the mother of all fusions that you would have witnessed in Hyderabad till now. It does two things.

a.       Transports you to the era of growing up with these songs.

b.       Forces you to remember the lyrics in your mother tongue whenever the house is singing in the alternate language.

This keeps your mind and heart engaged for the 3 hours that VARNAM is live.

In between, the singers take a quick break but they are also kind enough to take ‘on the fly’ requests from enthusiastic guests. This gets even better. A new / unprepared song in their list may take more discussion time between Krishnan and Niteesh but once they are ready they take off as if it’s no one else’s business.

The scene gets more meat with Shiv Menon (who along with Krishnan initiated Varnam, took a few wednesdays off and is back now). Shiv is an amazing vocalist and guitarist at the same time. He has the potential to steer the evenings to another gear and when that happens Krishnan and Niteesh are more than happy to match his creativity.

The microphone is also open to genuine singers/ guitarists upon request.

Overall, VARNAM is a heartful of nostalgia and a mindful of memories, that too on a Wednesday night!

Long live Illayaraja and AR Rahman for pioneering the effort of bonding the two cultures through music! VARNAM is an ode to their impact on Tamil and Telugu listeners alike!

–Varun Gowtham Mannava (Also the author of the book ‘Polite Pickup Lines In Indian Pubs’)


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