Saturday, November 02, 2013

Talent Runs In The Family

The three generations of the Uthup family – Ayesha, Anjali and Usha – gave a rousing debut performance at the INK Talks held at Kochi 

Photo: (From left): Anjali Kurian, Usha Uthup and Ayesha Kurian 
By Shevlin Sebastian
Shine bright like a diamond
Shine bright like a diamond
Find light in the beautiful sea
I choose to be happy
You and I, you and I
We’re like diamonds in the sky
The audience at the INK (Innovation and Knowledge) Talks at Kochi were in for a surprise. The ones singing the blockbuster hit song, 'Diamonds', by Rihanna were a most unlikely trio: Anjali Kurian, her mother Usha Uthup and daughter Ayesha Kurian representing the three generations of the Uthup family.

It may be the first time that three generations of a singer's family have sung together on a public platform in India,” says Usha. And the song is an unusual one: it begins with 'Diamonds' and then morphs into the Hindi song, 'Tum Hi Ho', sung by Arijit Singh in the film, 'Aashique2', and then goes back to 'Diamonds'. Sometimes, it was Ayesha who was taking the lead, at other times, it was Anjali, then Usha, and finally the three of them together.
Usha was much taken up by this mixed song, when she saw a You Tube version by Kochi-based singers Carl Frenais and Tuhin Goswami. And the idea of doing it with her family took root when she heard her granddaughter sing a song by American singer Jason Mraz last year when Ayesha had gone to Kolkata for her summer vacations. “I realised that Ayesha had a perfect pitch,” says Usha. “This is something which you cannot teach people. You have to have it within you. It is a gift.”
So Usha recorded Ayesha's voice at her studio. Impressed, she recorded another song – 'Titanium' by French singer David Guetta. Again Ayesha sang it well.

Asked whether there is anything of her in Ayesha, Usha says, “She has the husky voice, and the low register. Ayesha can take the high notes, but she needs training. I can take it to astronomical heights only because of my emotions.” At this moment, Ayesha, 13, is a student in Choice School, Kochi, and is receiving training from singing coach Dominic Manuel.

Meanwhile, in preparation for their debut, the trio did several rehearsals. The song was set to music by Usha's musicians in Kolkata. Then she sent it by e-mail to Anjali and Ayesha. Thereafter, Usha also sent the lyrics because the music had been cut differently from the original. The English song was of the same length, while the Hindi one had only two verses.

Usha then flew to Chennai for some work. And the group did a rehearsal through video conferencing. “On the day before the show, we did maddening rehearsals for hours together in a room at the Le Meridien,” says Usha. “We were all so nervous.” This was true, at least, in the case of Usha. She looked tense, as she glanced, to her left, at Ayesha, and then to the right, to Anjali.

But Ayesha showed no signs of nerves. In the end, it was a rousing and emotional performance, which brought the house down.

A gratified Usha enjoyed the kudos she received later. “There was this 
foreigner couple who were sitting in the front row,” says Usha. “The lady, who had goosebumps, said it was the most moving thing she had heard. A Malayali woman from Kochi told me, 'Usha, I heard you when you first performed in 1969. I keep listening to [radio jockey] Anjali, and now to hear Ayesha and the three of you singing together, it was so moving.”

Not only did the trio move people but Ayesha impressed with her talent. Usha feels that it is time for Ayesha to get vocal lessons. “I would prefer that she gets training in Hindustani classical,” she says.

Asked why they decided to make their debut at the INK Talks, where there were many foreigners present, Usha says, “It is a discerning audience. And I believe that music has no barriers, no religion, no gender, no caste or creed – it goes beyond language also.”

So, what next? Definitely Usha wants to do more performances. And she has come up with a name for the group: MINK. “It stands for Music, Innovative, Now, Konnect,” says Usha. And indeed, you need these four qualities if you wants to have a successful singing career.

And, as the dust settles, on their first performance, Usha will give some words of wisdom to her granddaughter. “I will tell her to keep her head tightly screwed on her shoulders, because it is so easy to get carried away by compliments,” says Usha. “My husband and children – son Sunny and Anjali – have been my best and worst critics. Be open to criticism especially when it is constructive. And I will tell her that she should be honest always – with herself, and the music. Because artificiality shatters the link between a singer and her audience.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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