Groove #3 / Blog

Benny and his many hats

An experimental fusion of live music and studio sounds; an open air theatre and a few hundred youngsters waiting to go berserk; and the man whose voice marks the centre of an electronic funk and pop band: Meet Benny Dayal, this time on vocals for Groove # 3, which performed live at Festember 2012, NIT-Trichy’s flagship intercollegiate event.

Catching up with him a little ahead of his show, touted to be a maximum crowd puller at Festember, Metroplus got him talking about the band scene in the state, the audience for non-film music, his involvement with three distinct bands and of course, his mainstream releases. “While this is my second time at NIT Trichy (he performed at NIT once in 2009), my act for tonight is strictly non-film music,” he says. Geared with around 16 numbers, the band will play music that is original and technically sound. “And it’s outdoors this time,” he adds referring to the newly erected open air theatre set up. While his involvement with western music bands dates back to his days at the Madras Christian College, Benny is presently an active member of three bands: “Subject to Change has been around for a while now, but Functuation and Groove # 3 were formed about a year ago,” he says. As for the music scene in Tamil Nadu, he feels there are a lot of great bands in the circuit these days. “Bands like Junkyard Groove, Skrat, Pajama Conspiracy, Captains of Hook, Grey Shack and Staccato and Wolf’s Lair are coming up with some great original music,” he says. While the number of female band members continues to graze the lower end, he notes that bands like Staccato and Pajama Conspiracy have female members. Shoving aside the idea of band loyalty, Benny feels working out of three completely different mindsets deepens his understanding of music. “When you work closely with other musicians that match your calibre, you tend to move towards music that is original and not shy of experiments,” he says, adding that he has been venturing into song writing as well. So, what kind of an audience exists for music that comes tagged original slash experimental? “At the moment it is a niche crowd, which is intelligent about music,” he says. Admitting that at some places there is a palpable reluctance to accept new music, he says it is painful to see people from the audience walking away as soon as something new is played. However, Benny is hopeful that very soon “more people who can appreciate new forms of music will make up the audience.” On why film songs are such popular requests even at strictly non-film concerts, he thinks it might be because people know what to expect. “Often when you perform an original, you tell yourself it’s good if the audience is still listening to you!” Having just finished a stint with Coke Studio, where he performed alongside the likes of Karsh Kale and Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Benny says he is presently working on a collective album for Karsh Kale. “While I’ve shifted base to Mumbai and am concentrating on Bollywood more, I do have a couple of upcoming Tamil releases as well,” he says. We wrap up with the hope that the night’s crowd has an open ear.

Groove #3 Heat It Up

Funk and jazz are genres that have always been commercially and creatively more viable in the southern half of the country. It has less to do with stereotyping and more to do with the general prevalence of similar strains of ethnic arts – like Carnatic and Hindustani – in the suburbia, that identify with the aesthetes of open jam improvs.

In Chennai and thereabouts, these skills are epitomized by Groove #3, the city’s most potent new jazz combine. They started off in January 2010 as a three-man jazz band (hence, the ‘3’ reference), with Naveen Samson on lead guitars, David Joseph on the drums and Dhivyan Ahimaz on the bass.

Dhivyan was eventually replaced by Napier Naveen Kumar, and the line-up was further reinforced with the full time arrivals of keyboardist Leon James and eclectic percussionist Allwyn Jeya Paul.

More than the intent, it is the combined experience and expertise of all these musicians that makes this band such a force to be reckoned with. While Leon James is a renowned Illayaraja and AR Rahman acolyte, Allwyn Jeya Paul has featured prominently as part of Kailash Kher and Hariharan’s stage ensemble, besides freelancing for most film music directors.

Naveen Samson and David Joseph themselves have done a lot in the interim, while Groove #3 has been bred as an idea. Naveen is a renowned guitarist in Chennai’s local gospel music circles, but musically, he’s also strolled across the divide to the other side to support Elton John and Shakira on stage.

David Joseph, for his part, has been ‘instrumental’ in the rise of La Pongal, the distinctive Tamil Electro-Folk Band. Add to this this Naveen Kumar’s finely honed, Berklee College of Music bred sensibilities, and this begins to seem like a conception of the highest quality.

The band has reneged on the need for a permanent vocalist, instead choosing to spread their time with cued-in session vocalists – their usual favourites being Benny Dayal and Harshitha Krishnan. Benny Dayal is, obviously, a more proven name, but Harshitha reserves her place for the reserves of soul in her voice, effortlessly replicating some timeless Aretha Franklin traditions in there.

But the decision to hold off on recruiting a vocalist makes sense, since Groove #3’s music doesn’t necessarily cry out for words to explain meanings. Sometimes, it all seems a little trip-hoppy, but that’s only the range that the music traverses, relapsing just as easily into the syncopated rise and tumble of Jazz hooks.

Day 1 at the Mad Festival

Over at the Callaloo stage, Groove No. 3 took the stage right after Vayali, and showcased a brand of funk that one has come to associate exclusively with Chennai. Featuring some stellar vocals courtesy Benny Dayal, these guys pulled off some nice grooves, with some tight drum and bass playing. The crowd, sparse at the beginning, built up through the show. Save for Benny though, the stage presence was lacking. ‘Nowhere to Run’ was a clear stand-out, although their set was a tad disappointing on account of the number of covers in it. Among the covers though, the funky rendition of ‘Summertime’ stood out. The next time round, an all original set would be a welcome change.

The Puravankara Indigo N Blues fest scores top marks- NME Magazi

Groove #3 Chennai jazz and funk band Groove #3 were up next, and put things straight into gear funkadelic. Eccentric lead vocalist Benny Dayal channelled his inner Stevie Wonder and belted out one head-bobbing number after another, as he switched between colourful cartoon hats, and glided and stomped across the stage. Benny revealed that they’d completed exactly a year that day as a live act; so they promised a set that would blow everyone’s socks off.

They started with an instrumental jam piece, then moved on to a slick but not groundbreaking cover of bob Marley’s ‘Get Up, Stand Up’, and a supremely catchy funk jam version of the jazz standard ‘Summertime’. But what really got the crowd on their feet were the band’s two originals—‘Nowhere to Run’, where Benny sang the verses in one long breath, and the slinky, bass heavy ‘Baby You Got Me’. Each musician, who also got extra props for their Soul Train-reminiscent apparel, was technically perfect—not a key or beat or groove seemed out of place. The only question we had was: when are these guys getting out an album? Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Now funk jam is a tricky genre, and can easily sound messy if you overdo the bass and don’t keep the beat steady. But these guys seemed like well-restrained pros, and got the otherwise doozy crowd going whooping with their infectious, faultless sound. We’re hoping to see more of them soon!

Unwind Centre echoed with a mix of jazz, rock and fusion music

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Unwind Centre echoed with a mix of jazz, rock and fusion music when four bands of different genres performed in the city recently. The first band to hit the stage was Groove # 3. Divyan, who won the best guitarist award, pooled in his friends to form this band. After a successful stint at the Alliance Francaise, Madras, show, this was the band’s second big live show. “The band is great and the funk jazz music they play is new to the city and it is also a pleasant change,” says Karthi, ardent music lover.

Groove #3

Groove #3 is a band with 'Funk' as its genre. A three piece band having the bare needs of a funk band, we play the sub-genres of funk and fusion funk as well.

Members: # Naveen Samson - Lead Guitarist # David Joseph - Drummer # Divyan Ahimaz - Bass Guitarist

Genre: Funk

Groove #3

Groove #3 is a band with 'Funk' as its genre. A three piece band having the bare needs of a funk band, we play the sub-genres of funk and fusion funk as well.

Members: # Naveen Samson - Lead Guitarist # David Joseph - Drummer # Divyan Ahimaz - Bass Guitarist

Genre: Funk