Saxophone, or Sax as it is lovingly nicknamed, is primarily a western wind instrument and chiefly used in Jazz music. It is always fascinating to watch anyone play this powerful instrument with finesse.
My earliest memories are from childhood days when an uncle in our neighbourhood used to practice on his Sax every Sunday evening without a miss. Those were the pre-internet and cable TV days wherein such entertainment was savoured and I would never quite give it a miss.
I admit to having been biased in visualizing Sax being played by a man – enough and more examples abound now wherein the fairer sex has stolen a march on men in this as well. But certain memories and images are so very classic and endearing. There are few occasions wherein the Sax get its honourable due in Indian music. One of the scenes that most of us have come across are the Army bands playing ‘march’ songs using the Sax. They are engaging and energetic and the perfect musical tribute for occasions like Independence Day or Republic Day.
To imagine Sax being used in classical Carnatic music is a stretch of imagination but the virtuoso Dr. Kadri Gopalnath effortlessly breaches this barrier. And he has shown music to transcend barriers by participating in Western concerts and shows as well. In popular cinema his contribution’s to KB’s Tamil movie, Duet, in collaboration with A R Rahman is even popular today.
Then I came across the case of two Indian ladies, Saxophone Sisters, who have rendered a mix of classic and modern numbers with the additional twist of doing a joint performance. It seems that they have been associated with Kadri Gopalnath as well. Invariably they have earned a popular tag as the ‘Sax Sisters’, their forte being the ability to transcends genres and be equally comfortable in playing Carnatic classic songs as well as western jazz numbers.
On the popular Bollywood front, R D Burman was a pioneer on fusion music and using the western form. He did work with the Saxophone as well and it was Manohari Singh who worked with him on these numbers. The image of Manohari Singh playing is an enduring one as well – many of his renditions are easily available on You Tube. What amazes one is the man’s staying power – he continued to play Sax throughout his golden years even till when he was Eighty year of age.
His performances are a visible effort of lung power being commanded to produce the musical notes – his hefty frame dominates the scene and reminds to you of a classic image of a man with a Saxophone. The strain of the effort would reflect on his face and yet the control would not waver one bit. Obviously it would sound like music to ones ears and reinforce the classic image of the instrument. So once again my apologies to the fairer sex out here though they too share the limelight nowadays. There is something magical about watching Manohari Singh render a Goldie like, ‘Raah Pe Rahte Hain, Yaadon Pe Basar Karte Hain …‘ Don’t take my word for it – just browse it on You Tube and experience it yourself.