Thursday, August 18, 2005

Tsunami Aid concert by Unni Krishnan

Tamil Aid & Colombo Hindu present film music of Unni Krishnan

Text by Ashanti OMkar
Pictures by Ben Ganeshwaran (
& Akin Falope (

Unni Krishnan's London buzz

The frenzy levels were reaching the peak when the doors opened and in filled streams of people who were eager to see what Unni Krishnan, exponent of Carnatic (South Indian Classical) music and singer to some of the most melodious film songs in recent times, having a career spanning over 10 years, had to offer, at his first ever ‘Light music’ concert in the UK. The Fairfield Halls in Croydon being a very apt for this momentous event, as they are prestigious and the acoustics there are excellent. As the seats filled up, Rathika, the announcer came on stage to introduce the show - she is presenter hailing from Sri Lanka, who has been in broadcasting for many years in India and the UK. Very good at her job, she introduced the band who had come from Trivandrum, Kerala, the sound engineer being Tennison, Jegan on keyboards and track programming, Prakash on guitar, Zakaria playing the rhythm section, mainly electronic, as there was no acoustic drum kit and Suresh on the Tabla (quite amazing and dexterous with his playing, may I add). With this, she also introduced gorgeous Ganga, the singer with a sweet, nightingale like voice. Ganga started her career as a backing singer for AR Rahman and has not gone on to become a solo singer with many regional dialect songs under her belt - one to watch out for in the future no doubt.

Honey voiced Unni Krishnan, who can be termed as ‘sweet’ in all instances, the man who has won numerous awards and has sung over 700 songs since his first, National Award winning ‘Ennavale’, for AR Rahman, came in for the introduction, with great applause from the audience. Casually dressed in jeans and polo neck with a jacket, after the Ganesha invocation, an auspicious start to the show by traditional dancers, he went into a song he cited as one of his favourites that he has grown up singing, ‘Shankara’ - the famous song from Shankarabarnam, sung originally by the great SPB. His voice filled the auditorium and hence, the concert set off to a great start, especially when he reached the crescendo of the song with great ease, his vocal prowess was immediately evident. Ganga then showed her talent with a solo number, ‘Ededho Ennam’ from Punnagai Mannan, a famous song, which she rendered with great precision. The concert then went on, with songs from nearly all the music directors in Chennai (Kollywood), like AR Rahman, SA Rajkumar, Harris Jeyaraj, Yuvan Shankar Raja and so forth. Some of the highlights were Unni’s first ever film song, ‘Ennavale’ (sadly marred by the completely programmed track, leaving the musicians with nothing to do), Ganga’s Malayalam song on the Lord Krishna, the song ‘Ra ra’ from Chandramuki which was performed without practice to perfection, Unni’s rendition of ‘Roja Roja’ from Kadhalar Dhinam; Unni’s award winning ‘Un Samayal Arayil’ and the surprise of the concert, British Asian singer, 14 year old Sindhuja Srianantha, whose melodious voice captured the hearts of the audience with her performance of the tough song, ‘Paadariyen padipariyen’ from the film Sindhubairavhi. One of the drawbacks on the show was the fact that the music was programmed, albeit badly, hence causing many glitches. It would have been much nicer if the band played live instead of switching on tracks for the accompanying music.

Tamil Aid - Tsunami relief with a difference

Said Warren Vaheeswaran, of Tamil Aid: “All 18 of us are a bit like 25-35 professionals 7 women and 11 men. Working on raising the funds by standing orders, events, and talking to large charities who will look into isolated projects. This Charity was a brain child of 6 of us (including me) who went to a local Tamil TV station and then to a volunteer group who had access to North and East of Srilanka, to help post Tsunami on the 28th of December. We did a tremendous job in two weeks by getting that group Charity status, did a lot of PR, organised the volunteers, coordinated with UK mobile users who were helping in the area. Also in the process we raised over £1million pounds from individuals, companies and in the underground stations. However we were disturbed by how disorganised the expatriate Tamil organisations were with personal egos at the forefront. We realised that a state which was affected by a 25 year civil war and Tsunami can not get better with such foreign organisations help. Hence we decided to start up a charity with young professionals who had no personal agenda, without a leader but with a combination of leaders. We have not blossomed yet but people have begun to have high trust in us that the money is going to the right sources and we have become the first transparent charity with 0% admin cost helping the affected.”

On being the forefront on Tsunami relief with no political inclination, Tamil Aid has one motto - it is to get relief by fundraising with no overheads, this being tough and strenuous on the pockets of these willing professionals - their arduous labour of love has already reaped benefits: “The 65k child care centre project is a Unicef approved project given to us by an approved Sri Lankan NGO. We have committed to raise this money by June 2006 to look after 250 children who have become orphans recently. As a Charity we have 0% admin cost and hence we expect the profits of the Unnikrishnan estimated close to £10k will go towards this project ASAP with whole of the monies expected to be transferred in early September. All of us have committed to take time to visit this area individually to make sure that the money is well spent under the guidance of the NGO. Alaipayuthey organisers approached us to work together as they see us as an ethical, transparent organisation and we also we put their name onto the building which will be built especially with their money. We used the Tamil Media - e.g. the various cable and satellite channels, who have members within our team to give a huge amount of massive free PR for this event. We even got Unni Krishnan down for interviews prior to the event; no doubt all this helped fill the auditoriums for a good cause.”

Membership can have many spiritual benefits and with the right credentials, it is something that could prove very fulfilling indeed: “To become a member you need to have the same ethics as us (as stated on the web) and send us an email on Or call us on the unique number 08451 261204 set to coincide with the Tsunami date 261204. We are in the process of organising yet more fund raising events however our problem is controlling the security fears of the Tamils these days.”

Events are often the best way to raise funds and awareness amongst communities, hence the future plans are Tamil are: “Ideas of monthly fixed dinner and dances (similar to Bombay nights at the Sheraton are discussed). I am also very close to Asiana whom we can use to create some events for the Tamil public to create awareness and raise funds. We are also trying to talk to some big charities to see how we can some funding from them in order to rebuild some of North & East.”

Colombo Hindu College Past Pupils Association UK

The concert was orchestrated by Tharmarasa Prabaharan, President of the Past pupils association, he showed utter determination and complete faith in the cause of the Unnikrishnan concerts in the UK. From organisational aspects where he and his very competent team leveraged the expertise of Tamil Aid to make the events a success, to the sponsors, like Chennai Dosa, Barclays and Vx Telecom who helped with the monetary costs of pulling off such an event. With the support of Kingston Mayor, Yogan Yoganathan and dance teachers like Mrs Menaka Raviraj and Srimathi Vasanthakumari, who trained up their students to “add colour to the event” as Unni Krishnan himself said, by colourful dance visuals, the event was no doubt one of the most successful Tsunami fundraisers in recent times.