Saturday, September 18, 2004

Soaring Skyward - An Interview with Aasma

“Something funny happens at each of Aasma’s performances.” says Sangeet Haldipur of Aasma. “At one concert, my leather trouser came apart along the leg - I had to keep it covered with my guitar and tone down some of my movements on stage. Another time, after a concert, one of the organisers mentioned to Jimmy that his fly had been open, possibly for the entire duration of the concert!”

It’s this heady mix of humor, zest and talent that seems to be the key to Aasma’s popularity. For the uninitiated, it’s a four-member pop band comprising Sangeet Haldipur, Jimmy Felix, Neeti Mohan and Vasudha Sharma. Although all four have visited Chennai at some point in the past, they performed here as a band for the first time yesterday at Lifestyle as part of a tour to kick off the store’s Lifestyle Weekends concept in Chennai.

Flashback to just over a year ago, when they were selected among 15000 hopefuls across seven cities in India, as part of the Coke [V] Popstars 2 Talent Hunt. While the selection process was gruelling, it was only the first step for the foursome. What followed was four months of a rigorous regimen to groom them in all it takes to be a pop band, be it voice training, dance or the look.

Vasudha reminisces, “We were trained by the best talent in the country and had the opportunity to work on our first album with some of the most respected music directors and lyricists. That was a valuable experience. And the biggest challenge for us was to learn to sing together as a band. We were no longer individuals, we learnt to complement each other.”

And look how far they've come already. They’re one album old and their debut performance was in front of a crowd of 40,000. They’ve opened the show for Bryan Adams at Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and performed international shows at Dubai and Malaysia. They’ve appeared in two television serials, ‘Saara Akash’ and ‘Shakalaka Boom’ as well as sung the title track for the Star Parivaar Awards.

Owing to the popularity of one of the tracks, ‘Chandu ke Chacha’ from their debut album, a second version of the music video was created showing the country dancing to the tune. Not to mention the fact that it has spawned off over 40 remixes on the web as well as bhajans written in the tune!

Neeti recounts one very touching moment. “When we performed ‘Chandu ke Chacha…’ at the Spastics Society at Mumbai, the kids got so caught up in it. You could see it in their eyes. In fact, we’re still in touch with them and their parents.”

And what’re their plans for the future? “Our second album is in the pipeline. We’ve just worked on a jingle. A dance track, composed by Salim-Suleiman and written by Abbas Tyrewallah is also on the cards.” Says Neeti.

Jimmy adds, “We’ve also recently created our website, www.aasmaworld.com, which our fans can check out and get to know us. They can write to us through the site and we promise to reply to each one of them. We’ve been doing that, but people don’t seem to believe that it’s really us replying to them!”

A recent development has been Aasma’s nomination under Best Indian Pop Band at the Sangeet Awards to be held in the Royal Albert Hall, London on October 1. “It’s an honour for us to be nominated and we’re looking forward to attending the awards.” says an exultant Vasudha.

Let’s hope Aasma’s visit and the response to their performance provides a much-needed shot in the arm for efforts to bring music bands down to Chennai for concerts. 

Pic courtesy Third Eye
An edited version of this article was published in Madras Plus in 2004.