Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Once upon a time - The JR story by Raj Manian

The story of Jersey Rhythms began in February 2004 in two opposite corners of the world: Salem, Tamil Nadu and the Raritan Landing Golf Course by the picturesque Raritan River. Arul & Swarna had been to Salem for Christmas 2003 / New year 2004 when a neighbor of theirs requested them to carry a special package for the neighbor's son-in-law & daughter. Of course, Arul's never refused anything for a fellow Salem-ite so they came back and contacted the neighbor's daughter Akila(our monster man aka lead guitarist Raj Kanth's wife). When Akila went to pick up her stuff...Arul & RK stared at each other for a long time...some distant memories seem to get off the back burner and jump in. Lo and behold..they realized that they had previously met at the CIT Music Club during college days.....hmm..2 great performers coming together in a land 20,000 miles away..guess it was what you might call
'destiny'.

Not quite 20,000 miles but in nearby Piscataway Sesh Iyengar & I were playing golf... trying our best to stay warm in the middle of winter..as well as sneaking out when our wives weren't looking around. The course was conveniently located 15 minutes from our homes and unlike most wheelers and dealers golfing that day, we wer pleasantly talking about the greatness of Illayaraaja. Sharing my so-called-filmy career with Sesh made him realize that his senior at CIT was a great drummer called Arul (of course this prefix got changed to "genius at percussions" once venky1 came along), who'd moved to New Jersey. Sesh promised to hook us up to 'jam together' as he put it, and volunteered to be the male vocalist. A few phone calls later, Arul setup a "get to know each other" session in his basement and invited Sesh, myself, Raj Kanth and Raj Kanth's friend / CIT senior - Shiva, to come in. **** for legal ethical reasons this incident where we met each other for the first time has to be censored out **** enquiries may be forwarded to Raj Kanth :-)...'cause that's a whole different story.

Fast forward two weeks later, and its Sesh's little daughter Jyotsna's 1st birthday. As the clown, cake cutting and festivities went on, sitting in a corner Arul & I began discussing the idea of playing Tamil music in New Jersey. We had jammed once and hit off well (despite whatever be Raj Kanth's interpretations). Also, we realized that more
than playing professionally, we wanted to keep our talents active & hence the need to practice somewhere sometime. Arul promised sell the idea to Raj Kanth (who by the way had decided never to play with a band
again after some unpleasant experiences earlier in NJ), Shiva (who commuted to Pittsburgh from Central Jersey) and another colleague - an enthusiastic mridangam player Kartik Vishweswaran (aka Kartik1). We knew
Sesh would provide the vocals.

Meanwhile at the party it was lunch time and Sesh requested my help in organizing the food (now I realize where the whole concept of getting me to organize logistics for everything started). My co-server was Sesh's wife Latha's close friend's brother (what a roundabout way to say Lavanya's brother) who was a new comer to New Jersey......a gentleman called Bala Murugan. Engaged in consuming deserts, (more than helping me serve food to the guests).... Bala sheepishly said he enjoys singing and overheard Arul and myself talk about practice. He wanted "permission" to come & see us practice. At Arul's office Kartik1 learning that we already had 3 percussionists - Arul, Shiva and myself decided to switch to the other end of the chord-sheet...he took up the bass and started learning it. Talk about career change ... percussion to the string section.

When all the pieces came together for a simplejamming session (Arul, Raj Kanth, Shiva, Kartik1, Sesh, Bala and
myself), Jersey Rhythms was born.

With the passing years, we have evolved from milestone to milestone. 3 years & 15 shows later the road ahead just seems to be getting exciting.

Well, who is complaining that is what we set out for - recapture our youth !!!

Raj Manian for JR

1 comment:

  1. Looks like Jyotsna seems to have made a deep impact in raj manian, as the well know little girl was called Joshna!! :))

    One might wonder why I did not make it to Arul’s home for the very first time. I was at Pittsburg to get the blessings of lord perumal and was pumped up on my way back ready to fire my guns with my vocals. But it turned out that i was pumping my pedal and got my very first ticket in US for driving in I-95 at 90. Destiny had slowed me down and I reached New Jersey late and missed the first session. Then I came to know that cops had visited Arul’s home for noise pollution violation. Ah! We got noticed in our very first session.

    Later it was decided that we meet in a studio for practice and got together for the first time at network studios in March 2004. It was a quite Friday evening and our first formal session got kicked off at Studio C. The opening song was Sangeetha Megam and would end with JR anthem Oothikinnu Kadichikava. After every practice session we need to pull our wallet to pay for each session. Then we decided we need to open a Bank account and each of us will pay 25 dollars every month for future practice sessions. This event was a blessing in disguise as we need a name to open an account. Seshu was handling the finance named it Jersey rhythms.

    JR profile on March 2004

    Arul: lead Drums
    Rajkanth: Lead Guitar and Key board. (Well the key board was used only to give scale then we used vocals to fill in BGM)
    Raj Manian: "All in All" I can play anything (Guitar, Drums, Key board.........and the list goes on)
    Shiva: Mruthangam
    Kathik1: Bass Guitar
    Seshu: Vocal
    Bala : Vocal ( Male, Female, Chorus and BGM)

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