Published: 10th May 2019
This Christ University band has everything from jazz to Carnatic music and are rocking B'luru
From AR Rahman to Ella Fitzgerald — this multi-genre college band formed by eight college friends has it all
A new band has taken Bengaluru by storm with their recipe for rhapsody and a challenge for convention. Formed by the students of Christ University in June 2018, Kelvikkuri brings to you a combination of carnatic, hindustani, jazz, blues, and even rock, djent and progressive music — a kaleidoscope of colours that the world never knew it needed. Kelvikkuri, which means question mark in Tamil, seeks to question society and traditional methods, by breaking every old-school rule in the book and writing their own.
The band has eight members — Allan Varghese (piano), Chlipher Christopher and Sanju Alex (guitars), Ujwal KS (drums), Amit Nayak (mandolin), Dhananjay Venkatesh (bass guitar), and vocalists Ranjani Ramadoss and Ananya Raja. Their performances also feature live art by Pavi Sankar, who unveils a new painting at the end of every concert. Kelvikkuri holds many inter-collegiate accolades, most notably the first place in Battle of the Bands at Saarang 2019 at IIT Madras, where they went on to open for Parikrama and The Local Train. In a passionate conversation, saxophonist, jazz vocalist, and founding member of the band, Ranjani Ramadoss breaks down the concept and conception of Kelvikkuri. Excerpts:
How did you guys start playing together?
We all met in college. When I first met Allan, I decided that we had to form a band together. A few of us started getting together to write songs. We really liked how we sounded together, even though there’s a lot of us. We’re together because we’re really good friends, and we love the music we make when we gel together.
What made you think of meshing all these different styles of music together?
It really comes from the kind of music we’ve grown up listening to, and what we really enjoy right now. Each of us shared songs or pieces that we think are cool and started incorporating that into our own music.
How do first-time listeners respond to your music?
Our most popular track is ‘Nangooram’, which means ‘anchor’ in Tamil. The only way I can describe it is ‘pure joy’. When performing it, from the first bass note, we can all feel something tangible, almost like a shot of happiness — and I think the crowd feels it too. Crowds that have expected a more commercial performance from us, even though they’re listening to us for the first time, really connect, and it feels amazing.
As a Jazz artist in the rock/metal capital of India, how’s do you think the Jazz scene is, in India?
It’s booming! Every single industry’s turning towards Jazz right now. Pop and indie artists are trying to add more Jazz elements in their songs. Jazz is really picking up, especially in the college music scene, where it used to be mainly hard rock or pop. But now, many bands are inspired by Jazz music. I think it’s mostly because a lot of Jazz musicians have gained popularity through streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud which really offer a wide platform for these artists. It is also a music style with a lot of technique involved, which makes it really easy to appreciate.
Your songs always ask a question and have different melodies combined. How do you stitch these different segments together?
Whenever our guitarists or keyboardist comes up with a little piece, it reminds us of something and gives us a feeling — usually something that they felt while composing it. Then, everyone else contributes and adds a different element to it. As a vocalist and lyricist of the band, I need to understand what the group feels about the song. We also try to keep the vocal melodies really interesting so that when we sing, it’s a challenge. We want to enjoy composing and performing our music so that others can too.
If you had to describe your band in one word, to someone who’s never heard of it, what would you say?
I would say ‘diverse’. We’ve got something for everyone. All of us are from completely different parts of South India. We’ve all been trained in different styles of music and our ideas are completely different. But we still work really well together. Anybody who listens to our band gets a whole thali with different dishes and tastes in terms of a variety of music styles, in every single song.