Saturday, September 29, 2012

In God’s own country

Exotic Surya Samudra in Kovalam is the destination for the perfect vacation. 

By Sandhya Mendonca

I was longing for the panorama of soothing green countryside, blue skies and waters; the sensual feel of soft sand and the balmy sea air. I was pining for Goa, not having visited it for over three months.
And there, out of the blue, came an invitation from an old friend to visit God’s own country. Rather foolishly, I demurred at first – we have been burning the midnight oil at work to get another book off to the printers- but I was persuaded to take a break. The universe must have ordained it.

It was a typical day in Kerala when I arrived, with a bundh having shut down everything. But cabs to the airport were permitted to ply, and I began soaking in the sight of the emerald green foliage on the ride to Kovalam. I was still unprepared for the sight that met me at my destination.

Suryasamudra – the name had evoked a magical image and I had heard that it was fabulous; yet, I was rendered speechless by its beauty. As locations go, one can’t ask for anything better. 

The resort sits above a natural cove with a wonderful view of the pristine blue waters and the skies. Gentle waves lap at the softest sand and banks of coconut palms adding a delightful fringe.
The palette of colours is breathtaking. I had my camera out in seconds, clicking away at a recumbent stone Ganesha (who looked like he had just had a relaxing spa treatment), the cleverly landscaped garden and walkways.
A Planter’s chair in the verandah outside my cottage, was the spot to stretch out and look at the pristine beauty of nature that the skilful architects have showcased.

The interiors sent me into another round of rapture with the pretty four-poster bed and bright silk cushions, and the charming semi-open bath area. Half of it had no roof and when a light drizzle began later in the day, I perched on the granite sill to enjoy the sight and sound of the rain.
That was later; I must confess that initially, despite the overwhelming beauty around me, I found it difficult to relax. I was too restless to read, too keyed up to nap, the mid-day sun made it too hot for the beach.
On the spur of the moment, I changed into my swimsuit and headed to the infinity pool. An inspired choice, if I ever made one. The temperature was just right, and a few lazy laps were enough to get me in the vacation mode. 

I hung on to the side, getting my fill of the stunning view of the sea and the cove. A lone eagle swooped down occasionally as I floated on my back and rejoiced in the moment.
 I really needed nothing more, but of course there was a fabulous repast – a plantain leaf meal in the local fashion for lunch. Then came a tantalizing Thai dinner; the next morning it was idiappams for breakfast and a brilliant pasta for lunch.

A visit to the Sri Padmanabha Swami temple, a kathakali show, a boat ride through the backwaters and a spa treatment –there was time for all this without feeling rushed. 
There must be something in the air in Kovalam for sure. That, and the simple, genuine warmth of the staff at Suryasamudra, (owned by Niraamaya Private Retreats), puts it at the top of my list of favourite getaways.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Cool UNK

My Bangalore  September 22

The Radha Thomas ensemble brings jazz bebop Indian
flavoured music to Goa from Bangalore.


By Sandhya Mendonca

Doing different things and doing them well is Radha Thomas’s signature tune. I have known this spunky woman for over 15 years and always marvelled at how she can make music, write and
develop business for a publishing house with equal passion.

And now The Radha Thomas ensemble, the enigmatically named UNK, has released its first album ‘I only have eyes for you’ and is on a four -city tour to promote it. “I have been waiting for this my whole life”, says Radha Thomas, gratification coursing from her husky voice.

She is one of the early cool group of Indian musicians who skillfully adapted their training in Indian classical music to jazz. As a teenager, she was the headliner for the rock n roll band Human Bondage, India’s most popular band in the late 70s.

She trained with Kumar Gandharva at the Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya in New Delhi subsequently she learnt Drupad from Ustad Farid Ud Din Dagar of the famed Dagar Brothers before taking to jazz.

After performing at several European jazz festivals, she moved to New York.
 Here she worked the jazz club circuit for 20 years, playing at hotspots like Sweet Basil, The Bottom Line, Alice Tully Hall with musicians as John Scofield, Randy Brecker,Michael Brecker, John Faddis, Alex Blake, David Liebman, John Abercrombie, Ryo Kawasaki, Joe Farrell and others.

Back in Bangalore, she’s been performing at various clubs and festivals and holding a challenging day job as Senior Vice President of Business Development with Explocity. She recently finished writing the first of a humorous trilogy called, ‘Men On My Mind’.
She has released three albums earlier, but this is the one that is truly her own. As composer-singer-songwriter, she collaborated with yet another talented pianist from Bangalore, Aman Mahajan.
Educated in Berkelee, and a composer and arranger himself  Mahajan is the perfect counterpoint for the collaboration, with Thomas bringing in the rich maturity of experience.

Backed by a bunch of gifted musicians Max Littlewood on the sax, Mishko M’ba on bass, Ramjee Chandran on the guitar and Suresh Bascara on the drums, ‘I only have eyes…’ makes for pleasantly
soothing listening.
The flavour is a fusion of jazz, Latin, bebop, hip-hop and Indian; with Radha’s voice soaring and dropping with mellifluous smoothness. The songs include originals by Radha Thomas,Aman Mahajan, Suresh Shottam; Radha has written new lyrics to melodies like Brazilian Luiz Antonio’s Menina Moca and has reinterpreted standards like Herbie Hancock & Jon Hendricks ‘Watermelon Man’. There’s a charming video of Thomas
and Mahajan performing Watermelon Man on youtube; it moves from funky to dreamy nostalgia and leaves you humming for quite a while.

UNK  performed on Friday, September 22 in Goa at The Sol.
A must-see show

You can find the Original Article at the Oheraldo , Goa September 22nd 2012  , Saturday , Page 6

A high five from Innovate Publishers

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