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Friday, September 23, 2011

an out of the blue violin experience

Mavelikkara Satheesh Chandran, a well-known Indian violinist from Salmiya, received an alarming call one night. The man on the other end introduced himself as a Kuwaiti and asked the somewhat-nervous violinist if he could book a one-day program. "The violin performance will be for about 10 to 15 minutes," the middle-aged voice said. "But you should make yourself free for the whole day. I don't know what time of the day I'll need you.

Satheesh enquired, as usual, on the whereabouts of the program and explained that he would attend with his accompanying musicians, two percussionists and a string instrumentalist. "No, no," said the Kuwaiti, "I just want you, alone. And how much do you charge?" Somewhat suspiciously, Satheesh demanded KD 100 anticipating the cancellation of the solo 15-minute performance. "That's fine," the voice said. "The deal is done.

In Kuwait, Satheesh would tutor Kuwaiti students on the violin. Through one of his aspiring violinists, Satheesh and his team performed to an applauding Kuwaiti wedding crowd at the JW Marriot. Recalling this most recent booking, Satheesh found himself thinking, "This Kuwaiti seems odd," but decided to keep his word nonetheless.

On the day of the performance, when Satheesh reached the Kuwaiti's villa, he was ushered into the kitchen. "Hide in here," the man, in his late 40s, said. Instructing Satheesh to "Walk in playing when I tell you to," the man disappeared. Satheesh intuitively knew of an imminent surprise, and waited, like the legendary Indian musician Tansen who made the raindrops fall after his incessant recital.

Shortly after, the man reappeared and gestured for Satheesh to follow him. There in the sprawling living room was the man's beautiful wife who almost jumped up in surprise, uttering "Violin!" as Satheesh entered the room, playing. "Today is our wedding anniversary," the man explained, "and I wanted to give my wife a surprise.

Satheesh telephoned his wife Radhika, herself a musician, who currently runs the couple's music institute in India. He related to her, in detail, this pleasant out-of-the-blue surprise. For Radhika, this was but one of many noteworthy performances that characterized the thirty-four year career of her renowned husband, a passionate violinist. Among them were innumerable violin performances both in Kuwait and in India.

His violin 'kacheri' in desert tents and diwaniyas, campfire-side performance on the beach for Kuwaiti youth, a four-hour performance with a visiting vocalist who was enraptured with the music and the ambience and stage performances where South Indian Carnatic notes merged with the 'duff' and 'oud' of Arabia. Among the Indian expats in Kuwait City, violin is synonymous with Satheesh. Now, his twelve-year life in Kuwait is drawing to a close. Satheesh is returning to his wife and two boys in India. They plan to run the couple's music institute, an endeavor, one may expect, that will feature fewer surprises.

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