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Why India’s original rock star Joe Alvares is singing at a Bollywood concert

Joe Alvares was one of the biggest names in Indian rock in the ’70s, and the face of English music on Doordarshan. So what’s he doing at a Bollywood concert?

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Sep 29, 2016 18:52 IST
Manali Shah
HT48Hours

Joe Alvares at his Bandra residence (Photo: Satish Bate/HT)

Singer Joe Alvares’s Bandra residence is all bright walls, with curios that look like they belong in a cottage in Goa. We tell him it’s a beautiful place, to which he says, “All musicians’ houses are. There are corners where we find our inspiration.”

Alvares (who doesn’t reveal his age and merely says he’s over 60) is dressed and ready for our photo shoot. But when he notices our photographer clicking candids, he stops him, to put on his signature mirrored sunglasses. “Nobody will recognise me without them,” he chuckles.

Alvares is a rock star. Has been one since the ’70s, when he fronted the rock band, The Savages. The band was one of the first ones in the country to cut an album, Black Scorpio. Today, Alvares is a jazz, R&B and funk musician.

It’s a little surprising, then, to spot his name in the line-up for Bollywood Music Project (this weekend). “Even I don’t know what I’m doing there,” Alvares laughs. He will perform with daughter, and Bollywood playback singer, Shefali Alvares. “Because of her, I’m enjoying the possibility of what I’m calling an invasion.”

Alvares, however, will stick to his original, English numbers in the 45-minute set. “I might be thrown out by the crowd. Or, I might just create a new story.”

A 1992 picture of Alvares (left) with Al Jarreau and Loy Mendonsa (Photo courtesy: Joe Alvares)

However, turns out, he did have a brief brush with Bollywood. In 1982, he sang Joy of Giving in Zamane ko Dikhana Hai (starring Rishi Kapoor). “I used to perform with Mansoor [Khan; director] back then. His dad [director and producer Nasir Hussain] would hear us and say he loves my singing. He wanted me to sing in his films but I told him I don’t sing in Hindi. He said, “Never mind”, and took me to RD Burman’s house (composer of Zamane... ). I did some stuff and they really liked it,” Alvares recalls.

Alvares adds that Burman offered to hire him an Urdu teacher. “He said if I learn to sing in Hindi, he will make me his number one vocalist. But I cannot think in Hindi.”

On the road

These days, Alvares is busy performing around the world. In March, he performed in Jakarta, where he got a chance to interact with one of his heroes, Sting (English singer). “We were staying in the same hotel, and happened to be in the pool at the same time. We sat by the poolside and chatted, and took selfies.”

Alvares with Sting (Photo courtesy: Joe Alvares)

Rewind

In the 1970s, Alvares was introducing India to global music. He was one of the faces of music shows on Doordarshan — Pop Time and Umang Tarang. “It [the concept] was Rajiv Gandhi’s dream. We did covers and originals,” he says.

Alvares was also a regular in the live music scene: at discos and nightclubs such as Taj’s Blow Up, Slip Disc (Colaba) and Hell at Hotel Hilltop (Worli). He recalls, “One night, at Slip Disc, we were playing a Led Zeppelin song, and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin) walked in. They jammed with us. They broke our drum kit because they played so hard.”

Be there

What: Shefali and Joe Alvares will perform at Bollywood Music Project on October 1, 4pm.

Where: Reliance JIO Garden, Bandra Kurla Complex

Tickets: Rs 1,500 onward on bookmyshow.com

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