Usha Uthup's Skyfall
The voice, the resonance, the timbre. At Bikaner House, last week, Usha Uthup raised the bar and the mood with two songs that proved beyond doubt that she could create a Carnatic music concert, and call in the gods of the pantheon in the show 'Altars Of Yearning' by Shripriya Dalmia Thirani.
Photojournalist of Nat Geo fame Kounteya Sinha greeted me and said, " Wait till you hear her in person, mind-blowing! "Kanjeevaram clad Uthup is down to earth and rooted, the Kolkata dweller who speaks chaste Malayalam, as well as Bengali, didn't need any time to call in the rhythms of sanctity and prayer. Uthup's natural mezzo voice took the Ganesha Stotram to new heights as it unraveled the rich tapestry of Indian tradition and created the counterpoint for prayer in a nation that has hit headlines for frequent acts of terrorism. While the track for keeping the rhythm may have been a tad bit too loud, the richness of Uthup's voice and her soulful rendition is what kept the audience under spellbound.
Uthup's second number was Adele's James Bond theme from 2012. Armed with soundtrack, the mood changed into a jazz bar synergy with her voice roaring and pounding the beauty of slow rock magic. Written by Adele and her "Rolling in the Deep" collaborator Paul Epworth, "Skyfall" sounds like the product of a computer algorithm, designed to produce the Platonically-ideal Bond theme. Uthup handled with verve and swing charisma the slow-boiling tempo; and its grandly arcing melody line; you could feel the gravity and grit of the strings and brass, as Uthup took the meanders with magical strength, between the gust and swoop; and bombastic, romantic lyric ("Let the sky fall/When it crumbles/We will stand tall/Face it all together").
Uthup sang magnificently as she brought to mind the greatest hero in history, James Bond, as well the professionalism that goes into song making, unlike a lot of music in Bollywood these days that is plagiarised to the core. The patented John Barry chord shift pulses beneath the chorus of a lushly orchestrated piano ballad, featuring slightly sinister lyrics full of wink-wink Bond references ("You may have my number, you can take my name but you'll never have my heart") and a traditionally clunky inclusion of the film title "When the sky falls, when it crumbles, we will stand tall".