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Staccato beats 10,000 to win Olympic slot
NIDHI GUPTA  8th Jul 2012

Chennai-based band Staccato

few weeks ago, Chennai-based fusion band Staccato got the news that they were chosen to play at the opening cultural ceremony for the London Olympics later this year. "We were astounded on hearing this, to say the least. Not only because we got selected, but because we didn't even know we were participating!" says their elated lead vocalist Vandana Srinivasan.

The young band is one of five bands from across the world and one of two from Asia to be chosen for this landmark event, beating over 10,000 other entries on the way. It all began when keyboardist Kashif Rafiq, the youngest member of the band at 17, heard of the competition from his father's acquaintance at the National Organising Committee and decided to send in a couple of their songs — Salsa and Songs by Air — just as a lark.

A few weeks later, he got an unofficial response from the committee that they really liked our work, which is when he broke it to the rest of the band. "I know there's a lot of talent out there, but I guess our selection can be attributed to the fact that our music falls into the genre of world music," says Srinivasan.

With 20 members, Staccato might seem more like a small orchestra than a band in the classical sense of the term, but, as Srinivasan explains, the entire essence is of experimentation. They draw inspiration from a range of musical strains, including blues, jazz, Arabian influences, Carnatic music and even classical doyens such as Bach. In Chennai, they are popular for their covers of music by A.R. Rehman and Ilayaraja.

While a lot of them are engineers and white-collar professionals, the band also has high-school students and some pure musical talent, mostly from Tamil Nadu. "Of course, there's no way all 20 of us can be on stage at the same time, and we've never tried that in any of our performances. Usually it's just eight of us, and to be honest, the best part of our music-making sessions is the camaraderie and rapport on stage," adds Srinivasan.

But their stint in London is not a sure thing yet, for financial reasons. "We've planned for only about 12 of us to go. Even so, the cost comes to about Rs 3 lakh per head and this is a difficult proposition, as a lot of us are still just students or entry-level professionals. So we've been looking for sponsors, and keeping our fingers crossed," she says.

They've been given two slots to perform at the Olympic Park on 30 July and plan to string up a few originals along with their well-practiced covers. "We'll probably pick a number or two from Rehman's Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, since it has global recognition," she quips.

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