Old rockers don’t die
Gummidipoondi Express, a band by tea planters met up for a reunion
MUSICAL : The band being introduced by the chairman of the Club.
The hills are alive with the sound of music… ..
Once again the hills of Munnar came alive with music when the Gummdipoondi Express, a band formed in 1986, by tea planters, played at High Range Club to relive the good ol’ times. And what times they were.
“It was an era of the slowly dying white Sahib and the taking over by the brown Sahib – a time when entertainment was restricted to bridge, squash, golf and the occasional cricket. A time when the club was filled with soft laughter and even softer music, anything louder was restricted to a few rugby songs at the men’s bar. I never came across anyone who played a musical instrument – surprisingly not even the bagpipes, considering we had quite a few of the Highlanders around. In this background I reluctantly brought in my guitar in 1976 and the same year another guitarist, Renji Thomas joined the company, Tata Tea, and brought along his guitar. Although not really frowned upon the guitar was still associated with the hippie crowd and generally not the planter’s choice of an instrument,” writes Ivan Lambech, one of the members of the band on mail.
Ivan Lambech, Santosh Mani, Ranjit Giri and Bobby Mukherjee
The ‘band’ started its makings in the early 80s when John Victor the then Hon. Sec of the H.R.C. agreed to acquire a beat up old drum set in order to form a band. Says Santosh Mani, a band member, “It was Ranjit Giri who coined the name. I had two electric guitars, so Ivan played rhythm on one and sang. Ranjit used the other as a bass. I was the drummer and did a bit of singing occasionally. This arrangement was purely for various club programmes where we did about two or three songs as part of a ‘variety entertainment’.”
This crystallised in to a full fledged band and brought the famed Saturday Nights into the quietness of the hills. Meeting after years and rehearsing was an exciting time for the band members.
“We met up after over 20 years! The absence of playing together was telling on us. To top it all, we did not have Pratap Nair (Pat), who was our drummer. The skittle alley in the club was our practice venue. The thing about playing together is that we’ve never been separated. With the little ‘mischords’ and the varying ‘seconds and harmony’, the music came out well enough to get our friends on their feet again. It was good fun and maybe over the years we could do a repertoire.” said Bobby Mukherjee, the singer of the band.
For him it was overwhelming nostalgia to catch up with the yesteryear.
Said Ivan, “It was great having got together after so many years and sad that a lot of them could not make it. It was particularly touching to have had a lot of our planter’s children join us for the reunion. They must have heard us play when they were young kids in school and to have come to hear us sing again. It was something.”
For Santosh Mani, “For the reunion only four from the original band were present. We had worked on a few songs individually for a couple of weeks before we got together and hastily coordinated on the songs that Bobby and Ivan were going to belt out and voila! It worked.! Judging from the number of people dancing, the ‘old timers’ gathered seemed to enjoy we had a great time performing for them. This is why I modified the adage, ‘old rockers don’t die, they just ‘played” away.”
Winds up Ivan, “And so the Gummidipoondi Express has started on another run and I do hope we get to play together again. Good reunions don’t always happen and this one was a classic.”
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