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Connecting with Gyan at the Escape Festival

Attendees at Naukuchiatal’s Escape festival this weekend can catch a tribute to late Skinny Alley bassist Gyan Singh, tracing his musical journey all the way from the ’70s.

20 May, 2013

Shalaka Pai

Feature Writer

Naukuchiatal’s Escape Festival of Music and Arts returns to its hilly home this weekend, between May 24 and 26 at the Lake Resort in Naukuchiatal, Uttarakhand. Now in its fourth year, the three-stage festival has grown to be one of the most picturesque events of the festival circuit, and has previously seen performances by Skinny AlleymenwhopauseScribeBhayanak Maut, Street Stories, Indigo Children, Teddy Boy Kill and more. This year’s edition of the annual camp-out festival sees a lineup comprising a bunch of great Indian indie bands, including Thermal And A Quarter, Blackstratblues, The Ska Vengers, and ToT (pics from their recent album launch gig here), as well electronica acts like FuzzCulture, EZ Riser, Tarqeeb, and Vachan Chinnappa.

At Escape 2013, the Soul Garden stage at the festival will see a very special tribute to late Skinny Alley/PINKNOISE bassist Gyan Singh. Dubbed The Gyan Connection, the final set of the day on May 25 will see a performance by members of Kolkata alt-rock veterans Skinny Alley (read their story here) along with friends of the band and the Singh family, including TAAQ frontman Bruce Lee Mani, Warren “Blackstratblues” Mendonsa, bassist Lew Hilt and veteran Kolkata musician Bertie da Silva. The Kolkata rock veterans have been regular performers at the festival since its inception, and this time, their three-and-a-half-hour-long set, curated by frontwoman Jayashree Singh, essentially traces Gyan Singh’s musical journey from his beginnings as a singer-songwriter in the ’70s, right down to all the different kinds of music he loved and experimented with. “He was totally open to all kinds of music, so this will reflect his musical tastes,” Jayashree Singh told us. “The idea came when Mama (Lalrinawma Tochhawng, Festival Director) called and said he wanted us to come back to Escape, and he wanted to dedicate a day to Gyan and asked me to curate it. So, I thought about it and I came up with this idea.” Gyan Singh went from being a solo performer to playing with several Kolkata bands, and was deeply influenced by everything from ’80s rock and pop music, to more complex alt-rock music the ’90s, as well as experimental electronica, and the set by The Gyan Connection will reflect all of this.

The night will see Skinny Alley members joined by musicians whose lives have been deeply intertwined with that of the band, the first of whom is veteran Kolkata musician Bertie da Silva. “Bertie and Gyan shared many stages back in the ’70s, at smaller singer-songwriter nights in Kolkata,” explained Jayashree. “Bertie actually stopped playing for 20 years, and only took up music again about three years ago. He’s going to open the night with a solo set.” The night will also see Lew Hilt, one of Gyan’s closest friends, on bass. “In that portion, we’re going to do the kind of music we did with Lew at that time. Then, Bruce Lee Mani will join us for a more ’80s oriented set.” Mani has performed with Skinny Alley on several occasions in Bangalore. The last portion of The Gyan Connection will see a Skinny Alley set that’s more in tune with their recent shows. The set will also see an appearance by Warren Mendonsa. “While Warren hasn’t really performed with Skinny Alley, he was one of the current guitarists that Gyan really liked.” Mendonsa also accompanied PINKNOISE at their beautiful set at the Bangalore edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender (report) last year.

The Escape Festival of Arts and Music takes place at the Lake Resort, Naukuchiatal, from May 24 to 26. Tickets are priced at Rs 2,500 for a season ticket, and can be bought here

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