Thursday, February 09, 2012

Head banging, squash, slam-moshing & circle pits

Sunday saw Bangaloreans through some serious head banging as Kingfisher presented the Summer Storm 2012 at Palace Grounds.

Coming in all the way from Sweden, metal giants Opeth were back in the country on their second visit and they set the city on fire.

Kingfisher Premium has been instrumental in introducing Indian audiences to some of the most prominent DJ's and artists from across the globe. With Lamb of God setting the benchmark at last year’s fest, it has only gotten bigger this time. Known for their versatility, with compositions ranging from death metal to blues and jazz-infused tunes, Opeth headlined the fest this year.

German death metal band Suidakra and Maldivian heavy metal band Nothnegal were the other international acts along with local bands Theorized and Eccentric Pendulum.

I caught up with Opeth drummer Martin Axenrot who told me all about their latest album and what he is looking forward to here.

Martin Axenrot, Opeth
Heritage (their 2011 album, which departs from their usual style of death metal) is less processed — why?
We wanted it to sound as it sounded in the room when we recorded it, and we wanted to try to get that in-the-moment sound that you get when you record live.

What do you think of the Indian metal scene?
I am actually not that familiar with it, but I have heard that there are a lot of things happening over here. It is a lot of fun to be in India again and explore a bit. We are in a different city this time than last time (they played in Chennai in 2009), and we have been told that Bangalore is the rock capital of India, so that is very cool and we are excited. We have been here a couple of days now.

Your expectations from India?
Not much actually, but we would like to meet all the fans we have here. The audience can expect us to give a 100 percent of what we do best.

Opeth at the press conference in Bangalore
Opeth performed in Bangalore on February 5 at Palace Grounds.

Opeth is a 5-member band: Lars Mikael Åkerfeldt (Voice, guitar, various), Martin Mendez (Bass guitar), Fredrik Åkesson (Guitar, Vocals), Martin Axenrot, and Joakim Svalberg (Keys, vocals)

The Opeth song list at the fest in Bangalore was: 
  1. Through Pain to Heaven (Popol Vuh cover) 
  2. The Devil's Orchard 
  3. I Feel the Dark 
  4. Face of Melinda 
  5. Slither 
  6. Credence 
  7. To Rid the Disease 
  8. Folklore
  9. Heir Apparent 
  10. The Baying of the Hounds 
  11. The Drapery Falls 
  12. Deliverance
By Aditya Mendonca/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald:

Monday, February 06, 2012

Transforming lives

Each morning buses pick up children in Bangalore and take them to a beautiful modern school where they have breakfast and start their lessons. They break for lunch in between and after school, they get a glass of milk before they are dropped home.

The campus is vast, with playgrounds, laboratories, art, music alongside maths, science, languages and social sciences taught in airy and bright classrooms. The difference in this school is that the children come from slums, they bathe and wear clean uniforms in school and their parents do not have to pay a rupee for anything.

Christel House was started by Christel De Haan, who after selling one of the world’s largest vacation exchange providers in 1996, has since been working with children in India, Mexico, South Africa and the US.

The Christel House Learning Centre wants to transform lives by giving children of maids, plumbers, drivers and other low-income earners the opportunity to get an education that would level the difference between them and those from privileged families.

Children at Christel House
I had visited the school some years ago and later published an article about them in the Best of Bangalore, alongside other institutions like Iskcon and ACTS. Last week, I visited the school again and was bowled over by the advancements that have happened in just a few years.

The earlier batches might have suffered from low self-esteem. I don’t think that the current students would have any such problem. From five-year-olds to teenagers, they seem happy, fluent and confident. Some of the students have gone abroad on scholarships and a few have got jobs as management trainees. What a huge difference their learning and new earning capacities would make to their lives and that of their families.

Soon after my visit to the school, I attended an industry meeting that was deliberating the lack of skill sets. We were to consider commissioning a study of skills that different industries required and hopefully, there would be training initiatives based on the report. 

Christel House
A senior industry member put forth the most sensible idea – why should we worry about the lack of turners or fitters? If a factory needs a technician, it can hire trainees. With automation replacing humans, jobs in the manufacturing sector are going to decrease. What is required is training in the service sector – hotels, restaurants, shops, spas – these are the sectors that need huge numbers of people.

Just think of it – from cafes to theatres to plush stores in malls, we get service that ranges from bad to indifferent. Yes, we can blame the managements to a certain extent. But when the talent pool is so limited and the demand for bodies to man the stations, so to speak, is so high, employers have no choice but to choose the best among the worst.

Here is where I think schools like Christel House can make a huge difference. Of course, their students have the opportunity to become scientists, engineers, doctors, writers or whatever it is they want to – but for the bulk of children from underprivileged backgrounds, the service sector would be a quick step up the ladder. It is time for industry to work with schools and colleges to train students for the service sector.

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the column on Goa Herald on the link below:

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Over a cup of chai

On a lazy Sunday morning, onlookers did a double take when Soul Chai, a brand new women’s group in Bangalore kicked off their first event, a treasure hunt, to the loud whoops of a group of 50 women gathered at the Barton Centre.

Girls like to have fun, and how! The next two hours saw five teams dashing around MG Road, deciphering clues which were integrated with life philosophies. It had them solving puzzles, taking the metro and sipping chai at Adigas.

Soul Chai was born over the delicate aroma and comfort of pudina chai, as four women put their heads together to figure out how to just be.

“We are a bunch of friends from varied backgrounds - author, photographer, interior designer, IT professional - who want to meet to do something unique each month over chai. We have become so busy in the rat race of our lives, with augmenting responsibilities of home and professions that time for ourselves started becoming scarce. One snatched cup of tea, a sigh…led to an entire kettle, ideating conversations and here we are,” says Kuntal, an IT professional and the lady behind Soul Chai. Her buddies, Roopa, Arati and Gayatri joined in to get it off the ground.

Participants at the Barton Centre
She says, “Soul Chai is for women who want to live this year to the fullest, to make 2012 count. Our theme for 2012 is Be Alive.” The debut theme was ‘Begin – Live a Fuller Life’. The treasure hunt was a no brainer; Arati and Roopa pointed out that there was no better way to get bonding.

Back in Matteo Coffea café, it was no holds barred fun as repartees flew around, with the exuberant Team Orange winning the race. Stealing their thunder was dentist Priti whose rendition of Kolaveri Di had the women in splits.

Ritika and Divya, a mother-daughter duo, agreed that the event was a blast, while Roshni said this was a great way to step out of her comfort zone. Kez, who has been a part of similar communities in Germany, was excited about Soul Chai’s forthcoming events. 

Former RJ and journalist Vasanthi Hariprakash
It was chai and conversation time with former RJ and journalist Vasanthi Hariprakash, Soul Chai’s first speaker. She spoke about her career and being a mom, reminiscing about her student days when she popped in for a plate of rava idly at Chalukya and her first chat with her idol, Chitra Subramaniam. She talked about how it takes courage to take a pause to say you want to do something else to the wise nods of what was just moments earlier a riotous crowd.

And the treasure, you ask? The sweet rush from sharing banter and laughter over what else but a cup of Assam tea. There were takeaways too, a packet of organic fennel green tea by Dancing Leaf and a mug branded Soul Chai. Basking in its afterglow Gayatri said, “I feel invigorated. The run up to the event was fulfilling and it was great way to make new friends.”

Next in line is ‘Be-loved’ to celebrate love that begins with you, with more events and chai planned for each month. To be a part of it, you can check their page, Soul Chai on Facebook.

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below:

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