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On Bard’s 400th death anniversary, Stefan Kaye puts his sonnets to music

music Updated: Apr 23, 2016 13:46 IST
Paramita Ghosh
Paramita Ghosh
Hindustan Times
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British musician Stefan Kaye is the founder member and keyboardist of the band, Jass B’stards. Seen here, Stefan (left) with two other band members.(Stefan Kaye)

British musician Stefan Kaye, the founder member and keyboardist of the band Jass B’stards, is a prominent member of Delhi’s musical underground. On the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare, Kaye’s band will be putting up a special performance setting Shakespearean sonnets to original music.

Jass B’stards is one of Delhi’s most popular ‘alternative’ bands. But Shakespeare has canon stamped all over him. Is it a good match?

Hah, well, I never said it would be a good match! Shakespeare’s work is steeped in popular culture. They have numerous interpretations across many artistic mediums. We are merely continuing a tradition in that sense.

Read: The Bard and language | How Shakespeare changed English forever

Dance is a big takeaway from a Jass B’stards performance. How will you make people dance to Shakespeare? Or is that why you chose sonnets as they are closest to lyrics?

If people want to dance, it is more likely that they will dance to the band’s music. And, yes, we chose sonnets since the form lends itself well to musical interpretation. The emphasis on this show though is performance, quite possibly most of the dance will happen on the stage!

Stefan Kaye’s other band, Ska Vengers:

Y ou are the ‘master’ of many bands -- Emperor Minge, Ska Vengers, The Jass B’stards. Any reason why Shakespeare will be best served by The Jass B’stards?

The core musicians of The Jass B’stards (myself on keyboards, Tony on the bass guitar and The Late Nikhil Vasudevan on drums) are also the core musicians of all the bands you mentioned. There is more flexibility with The Jass B’stards. Often, we collaborate with other performers. We will incorporate some music from The Jass B’stards and Emperor Minge and have written some new music around the sonnets that have been chosen and will be sung or recited by some of the many guest performers.

Read: How well do you know William Shakespeare? Find out with this quiz

Will there be any Indian touch to the Sunday performance? What should one look forward to in today’s performance?

One of the featured vocalists is Tritha Sinha, a trained Hindustani vocalist. Some of the instrumentation will take on an Indian classical feel in places. Mostly, the music will be more akin to Western classical, jazz and punk.

We will be performing a song called ‘How Candy Died’ featuring Samara Chopra, aka Begum X from The SkaVengers, on vocals and a brilliant Russian ballet dancer/contortionist, Yaroslava Yaraslava. This is a long piece with multiple styles and a startling central dance piece that would not be suitable for the faint of heart!

Other artistes are: Ritika Singh, Amba Suhasini and Palash Dave on vocals; Mathias Durande on the guitar; Stephen MacEntee with the trombone; Rohit Gupta plays the trumpet; Nathalie Ramirez, the flute and Katerina Peropskaya, the violin.

Read: Delhi’s Jazz scene is more than just sax and violins

Your influences are eclectic -- Schubert to RD Burman. In what compositions have they been of most help?

We are performing one piece of music I wrote based on a poem by William Blake called Human Abstract. It is an epic of sorts that features a theatrical dance performance. This song more than any other I think distills my influences from the likes of RD Burman, Schubert and also Philip Glass and Mexican mariachi.

What’s the big difference in the Delhi audience versus that in Mumbai.

A Delhi audience is more likely to take an experimental outfit at face value.

At: British Council, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, 8 pm. For details, call 01204569000