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Trio in tune

They call themselves Trio-phonik "because there are three of us and because of the sound." Meet the band members Wazo, Mathew and Suresh, who were at the Unwind Center over the weekend.


THEY CALL themselves Trio-phonik, but they're not Asterix fans. The band has been performing in Auroville (near Pondicherry) since 1999 and plays "a different kind of jazz". The group comprises Mathew Littlewood from the U.K. on the saxophone, Wazo from France on the bass guitar and Suresh Bascara, also from France, playing the drums.

They're Trio-phonik "because there are three of us and because of the sound," explained Wazo, still delightfully French with his gestures and expressions despite spending 15 years in Auroville. The three met in Auroville and have been playing together for the past two years. But their first truly public performance came about on Friday night at the Unwind Center on Nelson Manickam Road. The show took place in association with the British Council.

"We have performed in public before but only in Auroville, so in a sense it's a known audience. This is the first time we're playing as a group to an outside audience, so we're looking forward to the response," said Mathew before the performance. Each of them has played with other groups in the U.K., Bangalore, France, Pondicherry and Chennai.

"It's only in Auroville that you meet a diversity of people and we three just seemed to click," said Wazo. "Like you tune up the instruments, the musicians also have to be in tune," he said making the motions of tuning a guitar and mouthing tinkling sounds for effect.

They definitely seem to be in tune. Apart from being exceptional musicians, they seemed to have a kind of onstage electricity, despite their unkempt look. Everything else fades as the music takes over; flowing seamlessly from the drums to the saxophone to the bass guitar and all then the three merge in harmony. Their love for music comes through in every note, in every chord, in every beat.

"It's not about being technically brilliant. You need to have spirit and fire to create magic on stage," said Wazo. "We improvise and buff! We get the music, then stabilise and then maybe memorise." But it's not all rehearsed and committed to memory. For example, they play a particular riff and then take off on their own and then come back to repeat that riff or play another. "We have a few points where we come together. That means we rehearse point A and point B, but in between we play pretty much what we want," explained Mathew.

They have done away with a lead guitar or piano, usually considered essential for a band. "We play free fusion jazz, so to have a piano or (lead) guitar would mean we would have to follow certain forms," Suresh explained.

Their music is not the kind you can hum along with but it's the kind that lets you relax, loosen up and just enjoy yourself. Latinos was probably the best piece of the evening. It was introduced as "a slow one" but as the pace picked up and Suresh went into a solo on the drums, Mathew and Wazo seemed to step back and let him "do what he wanted". They joined in again to complement him and then as Mathew took over on the saxophone, Suresh and Wazo kept up a gentle rhythm.

SHALINI UMACHANDRAN

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