The Unwind Center and a Summer of Love
Syed Ali Mujtaba
The Unwind Center (www. unwindcenter.com) celebrated its 10 years of being in Chennai with a vocal music festival - called “Summer of Love” on May 31, 2008. My friend, John Christian, the director of the Unwind centre, had invited me for the show. John who uses to live in the US returned home to start a English music school and do some social service in Chennai. He called the place the Unwind center where young children were taught English music and to play the western musical instruments. Now there are two Unwind centers in Chennai and one in Bangalore.
Every summer the center organizes English music concerts. I still remember as a reporter, I had gone to cover the June Rock concert JRO in 1998. There has been looking back for the Unwind center since then. It has been hosting local musicians and bringing musicians from abroad as well. I have attended the one, in Bollywood music director Sandeep Chauta participated. Sandeep the music director of the movie “Maast,” jammed along with local guitarists for quite a long time. The next Unwind activity was my interaction with Pakistani Sufi band Junoon. My write-up on this can be checked in the following links.
The 10th year celebration of the Unwind center was called a summer of love. “Summer of Love” is not just a catchphrase but has a purpose, learning to love the people around you more, is the main theme, said John explaining to the audience gathered at the Museum theater Egmore. It’s to provide clean music without drugs and alcohol; it’s to counter the gun culture that’s becoming popular in our schools, and the bomb explosions that are recurring these days. Finally, “Summer of Love” is all about showing concern and compassion towards the underprivileged that need more than just NGO projects, John concluded.
Ahead of the “Summer of Love” festival there was a training session from April 15 to May 20, comprising 12 days of vocal training, one-and-a-half hours every day. There were three batches comprising of more than 10 people who learned 10 songs by artists of their chosen stream. The tutors from Chennai, Bangalore, Coonoor and the U.S taught the best choral to them. It all culminated in a two-day live performance On May 30 and 31, combining voice and dance called “Summer of Love.”
It was quite fun being there at the Museum theater. Most of the English songs of the 60 and 70s were sung. There was the Beatles, the Carpenters, ABBA, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, Brotherhood of Man and Billy Joel, Cat Stevenson and many others. The talent of students trained at the Unwind centre that actually formed the main part of the signing was amazing.
My friend Swaroop, was the main person conducting the entire event single handed, as well playing the guitar. He had a great interactive session with the crowed and made every one sing with him playing the guitar. The entire audience was involved in the singing activity and it was fun to see the old and the young get distracted from their mundane activities. Swaroop really had a big hand in that.
In between well known local soloists and rock musicians too gave their performances. However, my find was Ms Suniti Sarthi, who is a student of the Unwind center. Currently in college, she has already become a rage on the college cultural festivals. She sings Whitney Huston with so much of confidence, that one can close once eyes and visuals the song in the movie “The Bodyguard.” Suniti already has started getting musical offers and I am doing a video interview with her soon. This girl is going to go places and its early days for her.
As part of the summer festivities, the voluntaries of the Unwind centre every year distribute thousands of packets of cool butter milk to the traffic policemen standing in the hot sun and also to the construction workers in Chennai. The unwind center have also built accommodation for the widows and other destitute. It’s also running a school for poor children.
I have been following the activities of the Unwind centre for the last ten yeas and can certainly say with confidence they are doing great service to the cause of English music in Chennai as well serving the humanity in this great city.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org