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April 30, is International Jazz Day. Jazz is the African-American’s gift to the World of Music. It has its roots in the Blues and Ragtime Music of the late 19th century which sprung from the work songs of the African slaves in the plantations of the American South.  From its beginnings in the New Orleans region of Louisiana, it evolved into a distinct form of musical expression and subsequently giving shape to a form of independent traditional and popular music styles, encompassing several subgenres linked by the same roots, like the dance oriented Swing Music, Kansas Jazz, Bebop, Cool Jazz, Free Jazz and so on.

But whatever form that Jazz music took as it evolved, improvisation was central to the Music, besides the spontaneity of the Musicians performing the Music. It widened the scope for Musicians to explore and interpret the Music in their own individual styles and interact with each other as a group, whether they were playing within a formal musical structure or without.

Jazz, or Jas/Jass, as it was called by some in the early years, today has a huge global following and is hailed worldwide as, “one of America’s original Art forms”.

Jazz came to India in the 1920s, when African-American musicians like Leon Abbey, Crickett Smith, Teddy Weatherford (who recorded with the legendary Louis Armstrong), Rudy Jackson and many others came here and started performing in Calcutta and Bombay. Their audience comprised mainly the British colonialists, Europeans, members of the Indian elite and Anglo-Indians. They also became the inspiration for Musicians from the westernized Goan community and the Anglo-Indians, who started playing at the clubs and 5-star hotels of Bombay and Calcutta and later spreading to other places like Mussoorie, Delhi, Shimla and Madras, the railway towns and cantonment areas all over the country.

The era from the 1930s to the 1950s has been called the golden age of Jazz in India and it produced some legendary Indian Jazzmen (and women) like Micky Correa, Frank Fernand, Hal and Henry Green, Anthony Gonsalves, (the man behind Amitabh Bachchan’s name in Amar Akbar Anthony) Rudy Cotton (a Parsi), Chris Perry, Chic Chocolate, Lucilla Pacheco, Joe Santana, to name just a few.

In the years that followed jazz continued to survive, nurtured by later day jazzmen (and women) like Braz Gonsalves, Louis Banks, Pam Crain, Anibal Castro, Johnny Baptist, Carlton Kitto and many others, but times were difficult and a lot of them veered into the world of film music. Then Elvis happened and the Beatles and Rolling Stones happened and slowly the audience for jazz declined. But jazz has always had its diehard following and has been steadily attracting new and younger fans over the years.

Today there are numerous bands and musicians in India who play jazz, but they are a lot more experimental and fusion driven, than exponents of straight jazz. Then again that’s what jazz is all about, improvisation and exploring the boundaries of musical expression. Not surprisingly, many talented musicians like Ranjit Barot, Sanjay Divecha, Colin D’Cruz, Amit Heri, Gautam Ghosh, Trilok Gurtu, Adrian D’Souza, Dhruv Ghanekar, Merlin D’Souza, dissatisfied with the limitations of popular music, have transitioned to jazz, a platform that offers them the scope for their creative drive. They are the flag bearers of the next level of Jazz in India.

Finally no write up on Jazz music can be concluded without mentioning India’s Jazz impresario and founder of the annual Jazz Yatra festival, late Shri Niranjan Jhaveri, whose passion and dedication brought some of biggest names from the world of jazz to India, including Sonny Rollins, Don Ellis, Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Sadao Watanabe, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Stephane Grappelli and many many more. The Jazz Yatra festival which began in 1978 had an uninterrupted run till 2004 and since then its legacy has continued as the Jazz Utsav. Mention also must be of Naresh Fernandes who has chronicled the history of jazz music in India in his award winning book, 'Taj Mahal Foxtrot'. Today the mantle has been passed on to the next generation as youngsters like Neil Banks take on the responsibility of organizing The World Jazz Day, Piano Day and programming many upcoming jazz shows.

Jazz will live on, because there will always be enough people who are frustrated with the music that comes out of the conveyor belt. Jazz will live on because there will always be enough fans and musicians who want that bit more. They may not be many but they will always be enough to keep alive the heritage of the legendary Indian jazzmen for many generations to come. 

- Stanley Paul

It’s been less than a year since we obtained a court order directing ISPs to block 104 illegal websites but we have not been sitting back in the meantime. Last month we obtained another injunction from the Kolkata High Court directing ISPs to block a further 162 illegal websites. In our continued efforts to fight piracy, IMI had been gathering necessary data on websites hosting copyrighted content or providing links to the same and with this data we have approached the court.
As on the previous occasion our argument, despite the ISPs as usual arguing that it is impossible for them to police the entire web, was that once the websites have been identified it was binding on them to take action against the infringing websites. The court taking note of the argument has once again granted an injunction in our favour. What is important here is that courts have recognized the validity of the argument that ISPs cannot wash off their responsibility for websites involved in infringing activity through their services.
In the US the SOPA and PIPA Bills were scuttled due to protests from the internet community, technology companies and proponents of open access to information. Stake holders then adopted various strategies including three strikes, directly engaging with known pirates and other legal action. We at IMI have studied these strategies and reasoned that the audience for Indian music predominantly lies within India, whereas much of the illegal sites operate from outside India. So if traffic from these sites to Indian consumers is blocked we can put a stop to much of the internet piracy of Indian music and films. This is why ISPs need to be made accountable for blocking the illegal websites. We have achieved this through the Kolkata High Court orders, after the first of which, about 70 percent of the 104 illegal websites have been blocked by all the ISPs. So continuing with this strategy we obtained a second order to block a further 162 illegal websites and we expect to see some results by way improved digital revenues.
It is worth noting that on February 28, an England and Wales High Court, in a case filed by record companies, has also issued a blocking order against six UK ISPs for websites on their services carrying on infringing activity,. Following recent Indian High Court decisions, a similar trend is observed in the UK too, which seems to vindicate our strategy of holding ISPs accountable for the activity on their services.
To move on, the festival season which has come to a close witnessed some top international acts including GunsNRoses, Swedish House Mafia, Deep Forest and Norah Jones to name a few. Today India is on the tour map of the best acts in the world and no longer a country given the go by. Yet we still lack a world class large capacity concert venue like the Madison Square Garden or the Wembley Stadium which would have made all the difference in making India an attractive tour destination for major international acts.
School board exams are underway and talking of exams what better than small doses of music for kids, wound up due to exam tension, to relax. Probably kids know this better than us and we do wish all the kids appearing for their school and college exams all the very best. But we need to make kids understand that copying music is as much of an offence as copying in exams.

“I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music." Billy Joel. Allopathy, (the most commonly used system of medicine) is fast on the wane, with most people wanting to try something new. And the good news is that today people can choose from more than a 100 alternative medicines, ranging from traditional Ayurveda to Naturopathy to Aromatherapy to Music Therapy.

Music therapy however, is not a new therapy and has been around for centuries. In the Bible in 1: Samuel: 16:23 we read: “Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him”

So how does Music therapy work? Experts say it does two things:
1. It acts as an alternative for a sedative, drug or tranquillizers which would be prescribed in allopathy.
2. It is believed to increase the metabolic properties of the human body. It is also said to accelerate our breathing and improve the body’s muscular activities, soothe the Central Nervous System and Circulatory System of the listener as well as of the performer. Music therapy is believed to heal both physical as well as psychosomatic disorders.

Music therapy can be divided into two broad categories: “Active” and “Receptive”. In active music therapy, the therapist and patient (after discussing the problem) get together, and the patients are actually encouraged to create their own music, using their voices, musical instruments, or even everyday objects like, spoons, bottles, pans and pots etc. Therapists say this allows patients to explore their creativity, shed their inhibitions and express themselves through the music they create. This therapy is said to work well for people who are introverted, facing mental blocks, personality disorders or those who have problems expressing themselves. 

It has also been said to have achieved good results with autistic children. Receptive therapy on the other hand, needs a more controlled environment and normally takes place in a more relaxed, soothing setting. It is said to work best when the patient is lying down in a dimly lit room and relaxed. Then the therapist plays pre chosen music, to which the patient is asked to listen to with eyes closed, or if they like they can doodle or imagine happy scenes in their mind.
The music used in receptive music therapy could range from calming ragas, classical western music or nature sounds (like waterfalls, wind in the trees etc) for people who are hyperactive, to peppy, happy, feel good uplifting music for people who are depressed or feeling low. Later, once the therapist determines which receptive music works best for them, patients are given recorded CD’s which they can listen to at home. 

Corinne Heline (1882-1975) once prophetically quoted: “…man is a musical being. One day he will recognize music as a vital factor in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth of the whole human race.”

I personally feel that the day has arrived.

- Noel Keymer

The President elect of America in his speech on winning the elections after thanking his family, his team, the people of America, the only person non American he thanked was our very own Desi Rapper, Baba Sehgal.

Baba of course had been glued to the TV and when he heard Trump say out His name, among the people he wished to thank for his victory, he was totally trumped sorry stumped. So thrilled was he that he did a jig around the room ecstatically rapping Trump Ka Mania, at the top of his voice.

He was still at it when his phone rang and some was yelling at the other end, Baba you did it! Baba you did it. Baba said, Hullo who is this? This is Trump, shit man, the new President of the United States of America, thanks to you man thanks to you…remember we met at the golf course…your song did it man...Aakhir USA ne bol hi diya, Trump pam pam pam. Baba couldn’t believe his ears, Donald J Trump?, he stuttered, momentarily lost for words (imagine that). Yes man this is Trump, and Baba said, man this is a great honour, shit,  sorry…sir I knew there was something about you, I always have…but man well not US President material. Shit man, I know, Trump screamed, neither do I, but f*** who cares, we did it…you did it, you glorious rapper…Yes! Together we will make America great again.

And screw the Hispanics and the Muslim terrorists, the African-Americans and Beyonce and Jay Z and screw the IT Indians stealing American jobs and all the people who call me an imbecile and a bigot. You think I am huh? My IQ is one of the highest, you know it and I am now the President of the U S of America. I will build a bigger wall across the USA than the Great Wall of China and throw millions out over that wall. Taken aback Baba thought, I did say there was something about this guy, but I didn’t know it was maniacal.

As for you Baba, you are going to be my Chief White House Spokesman and Rapper and you are going to rap at my swearing in…Live to the world, from Mumbai to Kenya to Calif***infornia…and man we’ll grab some beautiful p**sy while you’re here, hey…so be seeing you soon. There, Baba said, he’s not such a bad guy after all.

Of course the news of Trump’s statement in which he thanked Baba, sent shock waves around the world. What did you expect? Even his closest friend Boris Putin sorry Vladimir and the Russian Parliament was dumb struck for a complete minute. India PM Narendra Modi was scratching his head, wondering how Baba beat him to it and Xi Jinping the Chinese President was brooding on whether to takeover Trump’s Business Empire or learn to play golf.

This news was a bigger shock than Donald Trump winning the election. There was consternation within political circles and government agencies, wondering, who is this Baba. This was something that needed to be investigated pronto and the Head of True Lies Department was called to immediately get to the bottom of the matter. And so, the chief investigative reporter of TLD was packed off to meet with our Baba Sehgal and this is what unfolded.

TLD: It was a scoop to the world to know that you knew Donald Trump? 
BS:
Yo, it was some time ago, I had gone to play golf and this guy comes up to me and tells me he is a big fan and kept singing Ba ba Ba ba Ba ba and he would love to rap like Baba and win over his Afro-American audience which Beyonce and Jay Z have mesmerized and gone over to that H bitch.
So I asked him, is he standing for Mayor, Senator, or what??? He tells me that he is he standing for the President of the US of A.

In my mind I was thinking what this old man with a weird hairstyle, can he possibly win? Ha. He seemed like a nice guy so I said I will help you out. He was so thankful that he flew me back in his private jet back to India. I told him I can't teach him to rap my style (which even those black dudes can’t do) but  I would make a monster hit video for him.

TLD: So you traveled in Donald Trump's jet?
BS:
Yes, he was so happy he opened the best champagne and invited me to grab some pussy. I looked over at Melania but then thought better of it. He promised me when he wins the election he would thank me and would also invite me to the White House.

TLD: Tell us about this monster HIT video you made?
BS: I told him when I make the song and video, there will be a Maniacal craze for Donald J Trump. He would be bigger than the biggest RockStars, bigger than the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis put together. So I did the song and it was titled Trump ka Mania, and it rapped like this.

Just like I said, the Americans just couldn’t sit at home enjoying my 'rape' music, Trump mania gripped them  and they came out and voted for him, it had an unbelievable effect, it changed the world .
My song…Changed the World.

TLD: Now that you have Changed the World what's you next plans?
BS:
I am going to be his Chief White House spokesman and rapper, God, ah Trump willing and I will be advising him on when to rap and when not to rap. But, it hardly matters if he raps when I tell him not to and doesn’t when I tell him to, either way he’s gonna do his thing and the whole world is gonna get screwed. 
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make preparations for the President's swearing in ceremony…get a new jump suit made in time for my performance and a tuxedo for the President’s Ball at the White House.
(With these words the poet/rapper whose song, 'Changed the World' rapped his way out. Maybe very soon he too will be a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature).

Reviews

"You look in to their eyes and you know exactly what is in their hearts"- exactly sums up the core of the movie, though these words are said by Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain) about the animals. She is the Zookeeper Jan's (Johan Heldenberg) wife and is extremely fond of and an expert with animals. The opening sequence of animals running around her and when she brings back an ailing elephant calf to life leaves you weak in your knees especially if you are an animal lover.

However it is 1939 and this scene is shortlived as the Nazis soon invade Poland leaving the zoo at the mercy of the newly appointed zoologist Lutz (Daniel Bruhl). Contrary to Hitler's reputation of being a vegetarian and an animal lover, most of the regular animals are killed while a few of them are taken away by the zoologist to a safe location.

Thus begins the real life story where the Zabinski's save more than 300 Polish Jews by hiding them in their basement meant for breeding pigs. The lead actors, especially Jessica, are excellent in their restrained yet powerful portrayal of the characters. She balances the fine line between her devotion to the hiding Jewish while subtly thwarting the romantic overtures made by Lutz.

The narrative is striking, more as a real life story than as a movie. Some of the ghetto scenes are predictable and so is the ending. If you have been to the Auschwitz ghetto that is still preserved in Poland, it will make you wonder about the cruelty of human race.

But a good watch this weekend for its cute animals and Jessica... Noor not even being a very distant alternative!

For the Gen X (Born '61-'81) Hugh Hefner was 'God' and a Playboy magazine was like 'holy scriptures' as there was no internet in the teenage/ adolescent days. Whether it was secretly reading it behind close doors or ogling at the centerspreads after classroom, this iconic brand has 'touched' the lives of most men across the world. Hefner is enviously remembered as the guy who 'had it all'. But media perceptions can be misleading as is revealed in his biopic on Amazon Prime- 'American Playboy'.
The first 4-5 episodes detail the launch and progress of he Playboy magazine. When Hefner is working for Esquire, a magazine that he appreciates the most, he is refused a $5 raise that leads to his quitting his job. The seed of Playboy is born there and becomes a revolution under the astute business acumen and team building knack of Hefner. There is an interesting parallel story depicting the progress of American History. Also the background music is carefully chosen to represent the era and each situation. Archival footage and interviews with people associated with Playboy is juxtaposed with the docu-drama, making this narrative interesting. However, the acting is not up to the mark and the dialogues sound too scripted. Character building is sacrificed in a hurry to rush in to the story.
We get a peek at the other side of Hefner- born to conservative protestants and raised without physical affection. His transformation to an actual 'playboy' who lives the brand is amazing yet believable. The launch and the progress of the magazine itself could be a case study in Marketing and a better textbook than the best of Philip Kotler's books. 'Hef' has a clear description of his Target Audience and knows their habits and aspirations well (market research). He waits for Marilyn Monroe's nude pic to launch it (PR) and the mag is well packaged with intellectual articles along with the nudes (product design). He hires the perfect team (people) and gets a logo that is a good fit (bunny). He staunchly supports the end of racism (CSR) and even gets Black Americans to work for him. When he needs to boost revenues he goes for ad sales and invents the 'centerfold' (innovation). Gets the Playboy Mansion (experiential marketing) and then the Playboy Clubs (Direct Marketing and Merchandising) with Bunnies to serve the 'gentlemen'. Particularly interesting is the way he defied odds and shaped American culture to a large extent.
In all this, he works too hard at the cost of his personal life and does the mistake of mixing business with pleasure many a time which catches up with him later.The second half of the series deals with the various hurdles that he faced that includes the cops coming to arrest him and the untimely death of one of his colleagues. It is also interesting to see the various brands launched during his time and the change in American society and their mind-sets.
The Netflix- Amazon war has just begun in India. While Netflix launched last year and got some kickass content like Narcos, OITNB, Spartacus and recently 'The Crown, Amazon Prime has fired its first salvo with AP. One wonders why Hefner never got as much credit for being a corporate honcho as much as his other counterparts like Branson, Jobs, Welch, Morita etc. got. Now that Hef biopic is done, one hopes to see ' How I lost my Virginity' on screen. Is Netflix listening?

Earlier this year Stephen Hawking had cautioned against exploring alien life in the universe. 'Life' is a story of an international space station jointly funded by - USA, Russia and China. 
It is interesting to note the choice of the countries. One wonders if they foresaw the increasing closeness to Russia. China of course is always good from distribution perspective. I would think India would be added too when they have a sequel, which seems pretty likely with the unlikely ending that this movie has.
This movie is Aliens+Gravity and can be summed up in a statement that one of the characters Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) says: Civilization begins with Destruction. When the 6 member crew including David (Jake Gyllenhaal), Rory (Ryan Reynolds) and Miranda (Rebecca Fergusson) find a hibernating life on Mars, they bring it to life only to see it creating havoc and going on a killing spree.
While the story is as jaded as any Bollywood love story, the 'horror- like' direction and the camera movement combined with some good acting and VFX keeps you on the edge in this space thriller. Written by 'Deadpool' writers - Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick- there is barely any humor and thankfully no background stories or romance of any characters. There is a little bit of melodrama and some cliched scenes, but quickly forgotten as you chase the alien 'Calvin' through the space.
Nothing extraordinary.. just a breezy watch on a weekend evening.

'Mona Darling' is a great example of how a good plot can go awry if you don't have a proper script in place and actors are non actors.The whole movie is shot in darkness and adds to the nonsensical plot.

Hardware

Orange Amplification is delighted to be sponsoring the 2017 Progressive Music Awards once again. These prestigious awards will be held at The Underglobe on the September 14th. This year, Orange Ambassadors Mastodon, Sólstafir and Rush are nominated for awards.
 
Mastodon, winners of this year’s Golden God Award for Best Live Band, have earned themselves a reputation as one of the most creative metal bands of a generation. The stunning artwork of their best-selling seventh studio album, Emperor of Sands, has been nominated for Prog Awards 2017 Album Cover Of The Year. In addition, ‘Show Yourself’ the second single from the album and the band's most commercially successful has been nominated for Video of The Year. Mastodon has just announced their Emperor of Sands tour will be extended with seven UK Shows from December 2nd in Cardiff to the 10th in London.
 
The music of Icelandic heavy metal band Sólstafir has been described as a unique blend of metal, beautiful melodies with psychedelic moments. They have been nominated for International Band / Artist of the Year at the Prog Awards. Their sixth album Berdreyminn, released in May 2017 is being supported by a UK and European tour throughout June.
 
Rush’s fortieth anniversary edition of their seminal ‘2112’ album has been nominated for Reissue Of The Year, sponsored by Orange Amplification. The re-mastering of this landmark 1976 album adds polish to an already superb example of musical agility. It has Orange Ambassador Geddy Lee’s vocals popping and his iconic bass lines sounding refreshed and rejuvenated. The album may be forty years old, yet 2112 remains as relevant as ever.
 
To find out more about the Prog Awards, the categories and vote for your favourite Orange Ambassador please go to www.progmagazine.com/awards. To find out more about Orange Amplification, its products and its artists please go to https://orangeamps.com/.

Editors Gyan

It was way back in 1998 that we established, RagatoRock, India's first all genre music magazine. After a spectacular run of almost three years,the print  edition                                                                   was discontinued in favour of an online version. The online version quickly established itself as the leading online music magazine for everything in music.

Through the years, we had our share of good times and down times but we have learnt and adapted and are still here unlike so many of our contemporaries and raring to go. The passion that started it all is still burning bright and today we are ready to once again reinvent ourselves with the same fire and undiminished passion.

Venues

Located in a former mill, the Mumbai outpost of the US chain of resto-bars has a mixed reputation among the city's musicians. In the first couple of years after opening, in 2006, indie rock acts were often asked to include a stipulated number of cover songs in their set lists. These days, Hard Rock Café, which hosts gigs every Tuesday and Thursday night, sticks mostly to cover bands, with a couple of dates a month spared for indie groups. Skip these gigs, and come here only for the ticketed events, when one of the seating areas is cleared to make room for a larger stage, for performances by Indian indie icons (folk-fusion veterans Indian Ocean, electro-rock superstars Pentagram), international chart toppers (Wyclef Jean, Jay Sean) or club-packing DJs (Bob Sinclair, Paul van Dyk). Be warned, though: the waiters break into a synchronised jig every time the Village People's "YMCA" comes on.


Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, + 91 22 2438 2888, Hardrockindiablog.com. Open daily noon-1.30am. Performance times and entrance fees vary

Games

Zombies often herald the end of all things, but for Frank West, their reemergence marks a new beginning. Frank, former photojournalist extraordinaire, has been off the radar since the first Dead Rising a decade ago, and this third Christmas-themed sequel finds him eking out his days as a college professor teaching novices his craft. But when the dead come, he again finds life. Even in Frank's opening nightmare in which he knocks back zombies like a wrecking ball, there's a sense amid his snarky complaints that he wants this. And even though Capcom's approach here stumbles here in parts, I was surprised by how much I wanted this as well.
When Dead Rising 4 works, it's because it steadfastly refuses to take itself seriously. Frank is 16 years older now and looks and grumbles (thanks to a new voice actor) a little like Joel from the PS4's The Last Of Us, but even though he journeys back to fictional Willamette, Colorado with student Vick Chu, the lightweight but enjoyable tale is never weighed down with musings on surrogate fatherhood and hope. Neither is it entirely dismissible, even though it largely dumps the main conspiracy premise a handful of chapters in, as it handles its characterizations well. Frank drops lines about setting his balls on fire and other wisecracks, but there's enough gravity mixed in with the goofiness to make the relationships seem believable.
Still, this is a tale about blasting zombies with a gnome-capped staff called the "Gandelf" and gleefully plowing through literally hundreds of zombies in a city park with a lawnmower. It's about strapping on hulking (and rare) exosuits after zombies overrun the Willamette Memorial Megaplex after Black Friday and cutting down them with an electrified battleaxe or using blueprints to make quirky weapons like an "Ice Sword" from scattered items like liquid nitrogen and machetes. The melee controls are satisfying and intuitive, although the removal of throwable melee weapons stings bitterly and ranged weapons suffer from poor aiming. Never before has the series tossed the undead at you with such relentlessness. I'm inclined to believe there's no way a town like Willamette was home to that many people in the first place, but the crowds make the yuletide slaughter consistently enjoyable.
Frank's ability to handle those swarms comes with a price. Dead Rising 4 is never difficult, and even in a toque blanche and chef's whites I could shrug off piles of the undead about as well as Overwatch's Reinhardt might fend off a pack of yorkies. When I died and had a chance to check out the generous checkpoint and autosave system, it was only because I'd stepped away and forgotten to pause. There's not even a way to ramp up the difficulty besides sticking around for New Game+ or a separate multiplayer mode that's confined to a specific setting and steadily increases the difficulty. But even in the New Game, Frank can handle himself just fine. If you're specifically looking for a single-player combat challenge or any degree of tension, you won't find it here.
But you might find cause to stick around if your interests lie elsewhere. Capcom removed much of the series' previous urgency by ditching the timer, which frees up Frank's time to track down a sleigh's worth of blueprints and assorted collectibles, as well as stopping off from time to time to save survivors stranded in the undead sea. So heavy is the sandboxy exploration emphasis that Frank doesn't even have to head anywhere to craft his sometimes silly murder devices: he can cobble together firework-shooting crossbows or electricity-shooting go-karts right there in the field. The approach works well because the small-town setting is so well-realized, partially thanks to its Christmas theme that infects the core 10-hour story as thoroughly as the sickness infects the zombies. The holly jolliness adds a touch of flavor to exploring parts of town beyond the mall that might come off as boring during any other season.
There's so much to see, so many parts to use for an impressive variety of weapons, and so many combos to build that I usually had a cozy sense that I was in a zombie-themed take on Just Cause, taking similar pleasure in causing mindless mayhem with weapons and vehicles to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" and "Auld Lang Syne." Frank's camera even adds to the fun, not only by taking great shots to build a few extra experience points, but by stopping to take goofy selfies with the shambling corpses. It all makes for a nice change of pace, but I could never shake the feeling that Dead Rising had sacrificed much of its identity in the process.
Weirdly, there's no co-op option for the campaign, thus robbing the series of a big degree of its former fun. Gone, too, are the cutscenes that uses to boot up before what used to be called the "psychopath" minibosses. Capcom calls the psychopaths "maniacs" now, and they're sadly essentially irrelevant, being almost exclusively limited to sidequests and usually involving little more than regular zombies with big health pools tromping around in exosuits or Santa costumes. Sometimes I found welcome surprises in the form of fast, newly turned zombies, but most of the time the thousands I killed were as indistinguishable as bricks in a wall.
It's a strange game for the series, as it subtracts something for everything it adds, making it unlike anything we've seen for Dead Rising until now. It's the kind of design that might scare off veterans but bring in fresh zombie killers into the fold. But it's one that I generally enjoyed, even though it's marred with a first-launch crash bug that Capcom warned us about, but which it still hasn't fixed. For some players, though, I imagine that bit of bootup trouble won't prove as annoying as the fact that you can currently only download it for PC from the Windows Store. A Steam version is supposedly in the works, but by the time we see it, Dead Rising 4's cheeky Christmas theme will likely be long out of place. But now? 'Tis the season.

The Dwarves, a new realtime tactical RPG based on Markus Heitz’s German fantasy novel series of the same name, is an uneasy adaptation. As an RPG, Dwarves wants you to make choices to explore the world of its characters, but as a slavish recreation of a well-known book, it is constantly taking choices away from you. It’s a novel stuffed into an ill-fitting RPG suit, straining at seams held together by threadbare patches of tactical combat.
There are a few different problems going on here, but if I smelt it right down to the base ore, The Dwarves has two main failings: its RPG doesn’t give you any freedom to make choices or grow, and its combat is spammy, tiresome, and not very fun.
Only a few minutes into my adventure—playing as Tungdil Goldhand, the young dwarf on a quest—I came across the first of many times that the plot of Heitz’s novel stomps on my fun. I’m travelling across an overhead map in the style of a board game, with pieces moving along a gridwork of paths and roads. At each grid intersection, a chance encounter, town, or event pops up.
On this occasion, the encounter window tells me I’ve found an abandoned camp and fire ring. Do I want to start a fire and bed down, or should I be extra cautious and climb into a tree? Not seeing any reason why I should be paranoid enough to sleep in a damn tree, I sack out. The next window informs me that an orc stabbed me in my sleep, and I am now dead. No ceremony, no preamble. Dead dwarf, game over.
I had to load my most recent save because, according to a friend who has read the series, Tungdil sleeps in the tree in the book. It may be faithful to the source material, but if I played D&D with a DM who concluded a short introduction with “...and a piano drops on you and you die; let’s start again,” I would not hang around that game for very long.
After reloading and sleeping in the tree, Tungdil wakes up to see an orc warband (surprise!) set up camp below him. After they leave, an encounter window gives me my options: climb down, or wait up in the tree to make sure the coast is clear. Well, you don’t have to stab this dwarf in the gut more than once to teach him some caution, so I wait in the tree. Nothing happens, says the encounter window. Do I want to wait some more?
I chose the option to wait in the tree a dozen times, waiting for something to happen. Nothing ever does; the plot didn’t move on until I climbed down. These false choices are everywhere: maybe saying hello to a traveling caravan will give me an opportunity to buy some supplies; maybe meeting a character in that caravan is absolutely critical, and walking past it is game over. An RPG is a game about choices, yes, but Dwarves is a game in which some choices are meaningless and some choices are momentous, and there’s no telling which is which. I found myself quick-saving every few minutes.
For being so devoted to the plot of the book, sadly, this is a rendition of The Dwarves that did absolutely nothing for me as an introduction to this world. Names washed over me, signifying nothing, as though I was making introductions at a friend’s family reunion: Vraccas, Tion, Girdlegard, Bo?ndal, Älfar. A narrator delivers some pretty talented voice work, including what sound like direct dialog quotes from the book, but not being able to understand the references pulled me out of the game. The whole story wraps up in about 11 hours, reminding me again and again that I was playing a Wikipedia-level summary of a much more interesting story.
When Tungdil isn’t clicking around, exploring this and that and getting quests to here and there, The Dwarves spends a lot of time in combat. It’s a standard party-based tactical RPG set-up: overhead camera, pause at any time, give orders, deploy special skill attacks set to cool-down timers. This design is serviceable in a lot of other games, but it stumbles badly here.
The members of your party automatically attack the nearest enemy and pound them steadily with a basic attack until you give an order to use a special skill, which is actually pretty nice to see. Unfortunately, the basic attacks are useless, so the special skill attacks do all the heavy lifting. After some trial and error, I discovered that using basic strategy and smart party placement isn’t nearly as important as making sure that all of your fighters use as many of their special attacks as often as possible. The best way to make it through a tough fight is to pause often, switch characters constantly, and throw around those special attacks the instant their timers expire.
If any party characters die, that’s game over (because the characters have to participate in the plot, of course), so it’s a real pain in the leather that there are very few ways to heal during a fight. This made difficulty spikes a real issue for me. Even on the easiest difficulty, I came up against several seemingly impossible battles, randomly placed before or after another fight that I found effortless. My success or failure depended entirely on how many bad guys level designers decided to spawn for that battle. If they added too few, I had an easy time. If they added too many, I had a horrific grind.
It’s at this point that I would spend some character points beefing up that basic attack or spend some gold improving my gear, but Dwarves doesn’t have even those basic RPG elements. There are a few inventory items, like enchanted pendants and such, but no way to upgrade armor or loot new weapons. The only way to grow a character is by advancing along a very simple, one-path skill tree (skill stick? skill line?) with half a dozen special moves to unlock.
After all the whining I’ve just done about this poor, battered game, it hardly seems worth mentioning, but: I had a lot of technical issues with The Dwarves, too. I only crashed to desktop once, thankfully, but there were other problems. My frame rate plummeted in every battle when a lot of enemies showed up, and moving around the map interface brought on screen tears and texture-pops. In combat, the camera is a real nuisance; I paused to find a camera angle free of tree branches and terrain almost as often as I paused to give combat orders. On one occasion, a corrupted saved game loaded to show a permanently frozen, motionless dwarf in the foothills around Blacksaddle. I returned to a previous save and started again.
Between the rocky difficulty curves, the linear progression, the forced petty choices, and insta-death penalty for veering away from the dictated plot—everything in The Dwarves made me feel like I had no real control over my journey across Girdlegard. I lacked any real agency as a player, and even for a short RPG adventure, that sucks. I wanted to go on a journey, but I ended up just watching a pretty good book as read by someone else.

If the Walking Dead TV show can’t decide whether it wants to be a dark, maudlin drama or a schlocky, gory thrill-ride, Telltale’s interactive adaptation has established a more consistent voice that allows room for a bit of both without leaving you suffering from tonal whiplash. Its problem is that between the comic books, the TV series and the games, the cyclical nature of its narrative has become ever more apparent. Still, if a riff is catchy enough then it can bear a certain degree of repetition—and though some of its scenarios are familiar, Season Three opens with a double-header that shows The Walking Dead at its best, with characters you can care about, a couple of genuinely shocking surprises and a clutch of well-staged set-pieces.
It certainly helps that Telltale’s new engine finally feels fit for purpose. While Batman still had its share of performance issues, there’s little to grumble about in Ties That Bind: everything runs that much smoother, with snappier transitions that give the action sequences a greater sense of urgency. Press a button to jab a sharp object through a walker’s skull and the only delay between tap and squelch is in the swing. Better lighting and superior cinematography enhance the visual storytelling, too: episode one’s terrific opening offers a shivery reminder of the time the dead first started coming back to life, following a wonderful corridor shot with a jittery handheld camera to heighten the growing unease.
It’s here that we meet new protagonist Javier Garcia, a disgraced former baseball star who quickly moves from absentee son to surrogate father as his story picks up a few years later. He’s now on the road with sister-in-law Kate and her two stepkids, the sullen Gabe and the more immediately likeable, level-headed Mariana. Theirs is the kind of dysfunctional family unit we’ve seen before, but there’s some solid character work here—and a winning line in gallows humour—that establishes the bond between them. Even as they snipe at one another, there’s a clear affection behind the barbs.
Then, of course, there’s Clementine. A few years have passed since the end of Season Two, and she’s now significantly more hard-bitten and distrusting than ever—albeit still fundamentally decent enough to let Javier hang onto an item of emotional worth. It’s startling to see her like this, but we soon come to understand why, via a pair of playable flashback sequences across the two episodes. The first draws a firm line under last season’s events, and for at least two of the possible endings resulting from your pivotal choice in the finale, the outcome here is especially grim. It’s a reminder that your decisions can only really shape your journey rather than its destination, but in a world where surviving is an act of defiance, there’s something to be said for a choice that lets you spend a little longer with someone you care for.  
These moments are slightly more problematic in light of the main narrative. As players, we want to know what happened to Clem between then and now, and so it makes sense for Telltale to fill in the gaps. But this isn’t an ensemble piece where each character’s perspective is explored; outside these flashbacks, the story is told exclusively from Javier’s viewpoint. Taking time out to explore the backstory of someone he’s only recently met feels strange, and it also leads to a certain disconnect in terms of your decision-making. We all know Clementine, but Javier doesn’t: though Telltale steadily establishes an uneasy alliance between them, there are key decisions we’re invited to make as Javier with knowledge he couldn’t possibly have. There’s a similar problem in a later scenario. After arriving at a new settlement, it’s not long before Javier indirectly causes a crisis, and yet characters are all too ready to trust him over companions they’ve presumably spent a good deal longer with. Still, that’s an issue from which the TV show also suffers, and at least Javier seems a less impetuous and unhinged leader than Rick Grimes.
Otherwise, there’s much to admire here, from a darkly amusing exchange between Javier and Clem about their different terms for the dead (“What do you call the ones that run?”) to a torchlit tunnel escape that concludes with a tense confrontation and a choice that threatens to have serious ramifications for the next episode at least. An optional DIY surgery scene is every bit as squirmingly grisly as Clem’s wound stitching in last season’s opener, while an appearance from a familiar face will delight fans of the comic and/or TV show. It’s clear that the 'graceful exit' imagined by one character isn’t going to happen any time soon for The Walking Dead, but Ties That Bind makes a surprisingly convincing argument for it to keep shuffling onward. 

Last year's Wolfenstein: The New Order came out at a time we really needed it. The next generation consoles were less than a year old and were in dire need of games. New Order (the game, not the eighties post-punk/electronic dance band) was an old school twitch shooter that returned to the style we loved from the past. It took inspiration from first person shooters like Doom, Quake and of course the first originalWolfenstein 3D from way back in 1992. The critics loved it, but for some reason it was unloved and unnoticed by the gamers.
Well, now we are all getting a second chance to show the love in the form of its prequelWolfenstein: The Old blood. This stand-alone expansion is set right before the events of last year's game and promises eight-plus hours of gameplay at a budget price tag. What's not to love... well, the fact that there is no online multiplayer but let's just forget that and move on.
You return to the shoes of American brick sh*thouse William "B.J." Blazkowicz as he infiltrates the Third Reich and escapes the infamous Castle Wolfenstein. It is a giant love letter to the originalWolfenstein 3D right down to the main character remaining shirtless for the first half of the game. It's a little camp, but a cool nod to the box art from the '80s original.
It's gory AF as you blow giant chunks out of soldiers and dismember wave after wave of Nazis. The speed is break-neck and your reflexes are the only real difference between life or death. At times, it tries to change up the gameplay by introducing stealth tactical sections. The option to take out radio operators to stop alarms being tripped is a welcome mechanic to keep enemy numbers down, but more often than not it's just more fun to Rambo kamikaze it and hope for the best. The recent Wolfenstein series continues its trend of having some of the best villains in the business and the supporting cast is incredibly well written. You can feel the game is trying to lend a helping hand of seriousness to the proceedings and to place a human face to the horrors of war. Unfortunately all of this is washed away with the introduction of giant mechanised robots, dinosaur sized killer K9s and one hell of a "jump the shark" moment that happens later in the game, which I'm not going to spoil here. This is as dumb as science fiction gets and makes the game infinitely better for it. The only real down side I can see is the first half of the game suffers from "haven't I been in this room several times already?" symptom, with the first few chapters feeling like carbon copies of each other and showing a true lack of diversity. Thankfully by Chapter 4, things start opening up and the pace picks up to a satisfying finale. I just wished Wolfenstein: The Old Blood embraced the grandeur of its big brother and had more set pieces to bring the wow factor, but if you consider the budget price and the fun to be found here it's well worth your time, just remember to turn off your brain first.

Polls

Wolfenstein:The Old Blood

Mobiles

No, the title doesn’t contain a typo. No, the iPhone 8 hasn’t magically become official already. Still, the rumor mill has considered that it’s time to move on from discussing Apple’s tenth anniversary smartphone. So, just for today, let’s talk about the iPhone 9. The one that will come in 2018. Apparently this will be offered in two sizes, both sporting much bigger touchscreens than we’ve gotten used to. The small iPhone 9 will come with a 5.28″ display, while the larger model will accommodate a 6.46″ panel.

In both cases, the screen tech used will be OLED, and the supplier of the panels will be none other than Samsung. The Korean company expects to sell at least 180 million units to Apple for this purpose. That’s more than double the estimated 80 million OLED displays that it’s producing for the iPhone 8, which should launch this fall.

Of course this is but an unconfirmed rumor for now, so don’t take it too seriously. We’ll have to wait and see whether other reports will corroborate what it claims.

This year Apple is said to release three new iPhone models, two successors for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (with the same screen sizes and LCD panels), and a new size device that will feature the Samsung-made OLED screens. According to “some sources”, the Korean company is planning to build a new factory that will be dedicated to exclusively churning out OLED panels for Apple.

After teasing its R11 smartphone earlier this week, Oppo has now launched its A77 smartphone in Taiwan. Notably, the new smartphone from Oppo features an impressive 4GB of RAM and a 16-megapixel selfie-camera. Priced at TWD 10,990 (Rs. 23,400), it will go on pre-order in Taiwan on Friday, May 19 and will be made available starting May 26.

The hybrid dual-SIM Oppo A77 runs ColorOS 3.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and sports a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) In-Cell display and is powered by an octa-core MediaTek MT6750T SoC clocked at 1.5GHz. As we mentioned earlier, the smartphone features an impressive 4GB of RAM.

In terms of optics, the Oppo A77 comes with a 13-megapixel primary camera with an f/2.2 aperture, PDAF, and dual LED flash. At the front, the smartphone has a 16-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture. The company claims that with its Background Blur feature, the phone is able to create a depth-of-field effect through its Portrait mode.

The Oppo A77 comes with 64GB of inbuilt storage, expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). The phone houses a 3200mAh battery and will be made available in Gold and Rose Gold colours. In terms of connectivity options, the phone offers 4G LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS, as per a report by Gadget Blaze. The phone comes with a fingerprint scanner embedded in the home button at front.

Oppo launched its F3 smartphone with dual selfie camera in the Indian market last month. The smaller sibling of the Oppo F3 Plus, the smartphone has been priced at Rs. 19,990, and went on sale earlier this week. The dual selfie camera on the smartphone has one 16-megapixel 1.3-inch sensor with f/2.0 aperture, and double view wide-angle camera that has an 8-megapixel sensor. While the former sports a 76.4-degree wide-angle lens, the latter sports a 120-degree wide-angle lens that allows for 105-degree field-of-view group selfies.

Xiaomi may have spilled the beans for its ‘unannounced’ Redmi Pro 2 smartphone which was reportedly listed for a brief period on its China site. Based on the listing, the Redmi Pro 2 will be priced at CNY 1,199 (roughly Rs. 11,500) in China.The online listing at Mi.com, was soon pulled down, also included some innards like 5.5-inch OLED display, recently unveiled Snapdragon 660 SoC, 4100mAh battery, and a 16-megapixel rear camera. Considering the original Redmi Pro featured MediaTek Helio processors, it’s interesting to see the company opting for a Snapdragon processor for the successor. The Xiaomi Redmi Pro came with the deca-core MediaTek Helio X25 SoC coupled with Mali-T880 GPU and 4GB RAM + 128GB storage variant apart from the 3GB RAM + 64GB storage variant.

Unfortunately, there’s no official word on the launch of the Xiaomi Redmi Pro 2 as of now. The brief listing of the Redmi Pro 2, however, points to an imminent launch of the phone in China in the coming weeks or months. The China listing was first spotted by GizmoChina.

Much like the original Xiaomi Redmi Pro, the successor is also likely to sport a dual rear camera setup. To recall, the Redmi Pro featured dual rear camera setup with a 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 sensor with a 5-lens module, an f/2.0 aperture, and PDAF autofocus, coupled with a 5-megapixel Samsung (unspecified) sensor for the secondary depth-sensing camera.

The Chinese company is also said to have launched a new pair of USB Type-C earphones in China. The new USB Type-C earphones have been launched at CNY 299 (roughly Rs. 3,000), and will be going on sale in China soon.

Xiaomi is all set to launch its next Redmi smartphone in India on Tuesday, at an event in New Delhi scheduled to begin at 11:30am IST. The Xiaomi Redmi 4 is expected to be launched, and we already know that Amazon India will be the  exclusive retail partner for the smartphone.

The Xiaomi Redmi 4’s launch event will be live streamed on the company site. Amazon India has also started accepting registrations for notifications about the smartphone. Xiaomi is also expected to launch the Redmi 4 Prime in India alongside the Redmi 4 at the event.

The Redmi 4 and Redmi 4 Prime were launched in China in November last year, alongside the Xiaomi Redmi 4A, which has been available in India since March. In China, the Redmi 4 is priced at CNY 699 (roughly Rs. 6,900), while the Redmi 4 Prime is priced at CNY 899 (roughly Rs. 8,900).

Both the Redmi 4 and Redmi 4 Prime bear identical metal unibody designs, 2.5D curved glass displays, hybrid dual-SIM slots, and a fingerprint sensor on the rear panel, but have some major differences in specifications such as display resolution, memory, processor, and inbuilt storage. Both smartphones run MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and were launched in in Gold, Grey, and Silver colour variants.

The Redmi 4 bears a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display, and is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC clocked at 1.4GHz coupled with the Adreno 505 GPU and 2GB of RAM. It sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with an f/2.2 aperture, 5-lens system, PDAF, and dual-LED flash. On the front, it bears a 5-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture.

It comes with 16GB of inbuilt storage that is expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). Connectivity options on the Redmi 4 include 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.1, and GPS/ A-GPS. It is powered by a 4100mAh battery with fast charging support. Sensors on board the Redmi 4 include accelerometer, ambient light, gyroscope, infrared, and proximity. Dimensions are 141.3×69.6×8.9mm, and it weighs in at 156 grams.

The Redmi 4 Prime on the other hand sports a 5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display, and is powered by a 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC coupled with Adreno 506 GPU and 3GB of RAM. It bears 32GB of inbuilt storage, which is also expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). It also offers Bluetooth v4.2 connectivity, but apart from this, all other specifications match the Redmi 4.

Poets Corner

Have you ever walked up in the air,
Felt your body isn’t there
Want to go into space?
Till you must of last your face
Move into a world
you can call your own
Come on follow me
Pop a few pills of L.S.D.
You’ll get there faster than the speed of light,
no you’ll never get there on an airplane flight
A place where lights all flash around,
Where pain an happiness is just cut out,
So floot into your new
Come on, follow me
Only a few pills of L.S.D.

- Wayne 'Clapton' Reilly
©-Spotlight Publishing-1998

Music Psychic

Aries (March 21-April 20): This week, Control your temper and keep patience, Wait for right time before taking any step. Even though you are doing well at work, you may feel dissatisfied with the results. You are perhaps becoming overly ambitious. There is no harm in starting a new carrier in film or music industry in this week  provided you are certain that you will be able to enough resources to conclude the same. Happiness is love is assured this week.

Taurus (April 21-May 20): Socially, a very active period is ahead. A close associate may back out of some promised help, this might halt your carrier development in music industry . This will be quite upsetting for you. However, this will help you to realize that you should not depend on other. Rest assured that through hard work you will achieve success. Gains are indicated this week, relatively for singers . Those in love can look forward to many exciting evenings with their beloved in this week.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): A quick turn over in business leads to sudden monetary benefits. Avoid fresh investments until you come across a real good bargain. Do not reject any of the projects related to singing and directing. Speculative ventures should be avoided. Those associated with the singing will sign new prestigious contract. Love life is sparkling this week.

Cancer (June 21-July 21): Overseas influence is strong for those who are in field of lyricists. Some of you will make plans to travel on work or on a special assignment. Others are likely to have a visitor from overseas who may have an interesting proposal for a joint venture in multimedia. Those in creative media or related fields are bound to be in the limelight.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 21): Financials gains are indicated but you are advised to hold on your profit and not to invest the same in new ventures. Do not in any case invest your money on the advice of associates who may have some ulterior motives. The married are likely to face a few problems on the home front, As you could not spend much time with them. Those who are  composers will be singing new prestigious contract.

Virgo (Aug 22-Sept 21): A busy work schedule could prove tiring. Those travelling on work related to music or film industry will face a few delays and hardships. It is quite likely you may have to travel again to conclude your task. You may hardly find any time for love and romance. A journey abroad will yield profits now and for the future. You may have to return a favor.

Libra (Sept 22-Oct 22): Organizers and playback singers will be given a special assignment to handle independently. The successful completion of this particular project will lead too a promotion. Home also comes under focus due to certain joyful celebration in the family. As you are a entertainer you will be entertaining a number of guests and friends visiting you from out of town.

Scorpio (Oct 23-Nov 21): Those living away from home and family are likely to return soon. Financially, a favorable period and you could make new investment in fresh projects like buying a music album. The singers who desire of changing job will receive suitable offers. Happiness pervades on the home front.

Sagittarius (Nov 22-Dec 20): Avoid speculative ventures for a financial setback is foreseen. You need to stick to routine work and not listed to the advice of those who are making proposal for some quick-money-making scheme. A change of residence or location is predicted for some of you. A deeper bond and can also help you to develop your carrier in music industry

Capricorn (Dec 21-Jan 19): Certain “Lucky” developments at work suddenly propel you to a position of eminence. You will get an opportunity to consolidate your position and also display your organizational abilities. Financially, your position is secured, But Co-operate with your seniors mood; it may bring good news if you are composer or singer. You will be organizing a large social get-together, Which will prove enjoyable.

Aquarius (Jan 20-Feb 18): Work wise a rewarding week. You will be able to consolidate your position at work and also make profitable investment in a deal proposed by a friend, as this can also help you to grab attention of your seniors if you are a producer or director. Love life is delightful and exciting. Some of you are likely to travel to your favourite holiday resort in the company of your sweetheart.


Pisces (Feb 19-March 20): You are greeted with a sudden surprise with the receipt of large sum of money. . The desire to journey is great, but don't take your eye off the professional ball, as there are chances of going out station for a shoot so you can do both things at same time, as things are moving quickly.

GUEST COLUMN

When I was much younger, I could talk about myself for hours on end. Let’s just call it self-indulgent verbal diarrhea. But at 42, if I had to do that, I wouldn’t know what exactly to say and where exactly to start. Perhaps the ‘Eternal Teenager’ would make a good start. The question is: why would you want to read about me when the only charts I have topped are indie, the only awards I have won are indie, and everything about me is so indie? May be because you want to read about someone who is just like you… someone who values the same values and battles the same battles.
Have you ever spat out song lyrics to counter condescending questions flung at you in a boardroom full of corporate white collars? Have you ever forced yourself on academia only to bribe your parents to let you dream your own dreams? Have you ever experienced deafening applause only to open your eyes and find yourself still in bed? Excellent! Read on then!
I was named Tirthankar Poddar within 6 days of my first scream. It was dad’s choice. He was an Oncologist, the finest the state of Tripura had ever seen. Thankfully (or otherwise) mom thought of something simpler: Tublu. These names were never an issue in Agartala where I grew up. But during pre-college in Chennai, class fellows from around the world had trouble pronouncing them. Soon ‘Tublu’ became ‘2Blue’ and things began to brighten up. Whether Madonna’s ‘True Blue’ or 2Pac Shakur is to blame, I’ll never know. It was 1991 and Guns N’ Roses had just released ‘Use Your Illusion I and II’. Those albums changed my life forever. I knew instinctively that I had to be the lead singer of a rock band someday. Here’s what happened.
1993 came by and I met Sajid Waikhom and Raju Marak. These were the deceptive looking rock musicians who brought the career graphs of two of the north east’s best bands to a trough by choosing to invest four long years in acquiring engineering degrees. They were my seniors at NIT, Agartala and my ‘gurus’ in more ways than one. They were the gentlemen whose Sunday afternoon naps were forever denied because I would beg for vocal tips and guitar lessons. They were also my first band mates. We played at the Town Hall in Agartala at the Miss Tripura Pageant. It was the biggest media circus the town had experienced back then. I still have the live recording from that night and it never fails to make me smile. 
1997 brought with it a first class degree in Mechanical Engineering and travel tickets to Mumbai. My life was mapped out before me by my doting parents. 1. Move to the city. 2. Get an MBA. 3. Get employed. 4. Get married. 5. Start a family. 6. Live a ‘safe’ life devoid of adventure. I wonder how they missed ‘music’ in their meticulously laid out plan. But it is believed that if you want something bad enough, the universe rearranges itself to make it happen for you. So one hot summer night in 2000, I played my first gig in Mumbai at the erstwhile Three Flights Up in Colaba. Earlier that day, I attended my convocation at Mumbai University. MBA (Marketing & Systems) – that certificate sure meant something to my parents. But all I could think about during the pretentious ceremony was that I was getting late for sound check. 

A couple of years and a few short-lived bands later, guitar player Ravi Iyer invited me to sing for Vayu. With Vayu, we headlined practically every major music festival in India between 2004 and 2008. I even got to share stage-space with Paul DiAnno (ex-Iron Maiden), Matthias Eklundh (Freak Kitchen), Jonas Hellborg (ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra), and George Lynch (ex-Dokken) before we released an album titled ‘Wings Of A Dream.’ All vocal tracks for that album were recorded after long hours in the corporate sun. The fans loved it but I am not incredibly sure if I did. In any case, I found comfort knowing that I had just embarked on a new journey called Zedde (pronounced z??).
It was late 2008. One phone call was all it took. Claver Menezes, who I had been a fan of for many years, was on the other end of the line. His willingness to take on guitar duties in Zedde meant everything. We were hungry to play, and tore every stage that came our way. College festivals, clubs, radio stations, TV studios, award functions – we did it all. And in less than a year, the music video of our first single ‘Mumbai’ was beamed into households across different time zones via multiple TV channels including VH1, Sony, and UTV. ‘Mumbai’ then went on to becoming the Asian Anthem of the Year at the world’s largest indie music awards – AVIMA 2010. We enjoyed every bit of the momentum we had gathered. Shortly thereafter, ArtistAloud.com released our singles ‘Dust On My Window’ and ‘Thank You’, and even honored us with the ‘Best Band’ title. This translated to a lot of early mornings at the airports, a lot of accented people at the gigs, and a livid boss back in the office. I was Assistant Vice President – Operations in a firm specializing in Academic Editing, and that’s as much I want to talk about that job. As Robert Plant would say, “Ten minutes in the music scene is the equal of one hundred years outside of it.” I was happy.
Let us now skip past a year of self-imposed unemployment and fast-forward to 2013. I was Vice President – Content Acquisition in a firm specializing in educational eBooks. Music still meant way more to me than that fancy designation. In December, guitar player Chandresh Kudwa invited me to guest-appear at a concert in Rajkot. The repertoire comprised several hard rock renditions of Bollywood hits. I had never sung in Hindi before, and therefore had to work extra hard on my diction. But when I climbed on stage that night, the people of Rajkot flashed their teeth and made me their own. Everyone visibly had made the right choice… the band, the organizers, the audience, the engineers, and most of all me.  It was a little after 1 am when I returned to my hotel room. The number sequence ‘1:11’ flashed on my cellphone as I switched it on. Always intrigued by things that science is too young to explain, I googled to see what it meant. Here’s what I found. 
“Angel Number 111 signifies that an energetic gateway has opened up for you, and this will rapidly manifest your thoughts into your reality.”
I lost no time to return to office the next morning to submit my resignation letter. Since then, I have toured extensively with a stellar lineup of new musicians. I have hosted shows on PlanetRadioCity.com, and have played Judas Iscariot in Alyque Padamsee’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s simple. I just want to be completely spent by the time I go. There is no point in dying with my gifts still inside me. If you’ve reached this far into the article, you must have figured that the ‘Eternal Teenager’ can still ramble for hours on end. I thank you for the patient read as I sign off saying: have the courage to follow your heart. It may not bring you superstardom, but it sure will bring you happiness. And that is what truly matters. I am still the same old indie artist battling the same old battles. But that is now a featured story in this magazine. I guess I have done something right after all.
2Blue (AKA Tirthankar Poddar) is a singer, writer, and actor. He can be reached via his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or YouTube accounts (see URLs below).

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