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Wonder in his eyes

Neale Murray, the man behind Celebrate Bandra, invites you to a tribute to the two soul musicians he has grown up with — Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles


Hectic practice over the last two months has got singer Neale Murray, the one responsible for organizing Celebrate Bandra, a little under the weather. So now, the quintessential Bandra Boy, well he is 54-years-old, is resting at home to give both his body and his voice rest. “Even when I am practicing the songs, I am just playing it in my head so as not to exert myself. I don’t want to reach my peak before the show,” says Murray when we meet him at his Bandra home ahead of his tribute to Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles at the National centre for Performing Arts on Saturday.

Sharon Prabhakar
Murray and Sharon Prabhakar will be at the vocals during the tribute concert at NCPA this week. PIC/Nimesh Dave

To set the mood, he plays Ray Charles before we begin the interview. “This is essentially the music I have grown up with,” says co-founder of Fountainhead, an experiential marketing company that also organises the annual Celebrate Bandra festival.

“Last year, we had done a tribute to the magic of Motown, the Black music label that was founded in the last 1950s. Wonder still records music for them and Charles cut a few albums with them. That’s when jazz critic Sunil Sampath suggested that we do a tribute to Wonder and Charles,” adds Murray, who attributes his vocal skills (he is also a guitarist) to the years of training at the church choir.

A child of the ’60s, Murray is a fan across genres — we spot a Jethro Tull CD lying in a stack behind the Christmas tree, still decorated from last week. He then rattles off the others he is fond of. Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Crosy Stills & Nash, The Eagles and Michael Jackson. Among the new-age musicians, he is fond of Pharrel Williams, Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake. “My kids are studying at a music school in California, and they often update me about new music,” he says, adding that while his son, a drummer will be performing at one song, his daughter, a vocalist, will be leaving before the performance. Not before sharing tips on how to keep his vocal chords in perfect shape however, he laughs.

Murray, who is being accompanied on the vocals by Sharon Prabhakar, says finding musicians for the 21-song tribute was a tough job.

“Most musicians in the city haven’t played this kind of music, so they had to undergo a lot of practice,” he adds. While pianist Clifton Rodricks is the director for the night, others who have been brought include Carl Peters on bass, Cassey Fernandes on the drums and Bradley Tellis from The Colour Compound will be on the guitar. On the saxophone, aside from Anand Vaithy, is Carl Clements, a New York/Boston based artiste who has performed across the world and has performed in India as well. “We realised that he would be in town for the show and asked him if he’d join in,” says Murray.

Music sheets were sent via WeTransfer and final rehearsals with the entire team in one place will start on Monday. Murray knows delivering Wonder and Charles to an audience is no easy task. “I am only trying to live up to their legacy,” he adds. His bag of songs includes popular numbers like Fever, I Can’t Stop Loving You and I Got a Woman, among others. “The idea is to give something the audience can connect to.”

SHADES - A Tribute to Ray Charles & Stevie Wonder
WHERE: Tata Theatre: NCPA, Nariman Point, NCPA Marg
WHEN: 7 pm, Jan 9
ENTRY: Rs 300 – Rs 1,116
CALL: 66223724

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