Saturday, April 23, 2011

StEvEn SaMuEl....

Watch Steven Samuel perform on stage and you might think the little drum kit is playing itself. Look closely and you find a little drummer, at times standing and playing, as he can’t reach all the drum pads otherwise. All of four and a half years old, Steven’s latest feat has been to give a solo drum concert before a 20,000 strong crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai, with none other than the legend himself - Sivamani. In fact Sivamani is so fond of his protege that he invites him to perform on many of his concerts. They now live opposite each other in Chennai, much to Steven’s excitement.

For Steven, music obviously runs in the family, for he is the nephew of keyboard maestro Stephen Devassy. Young Steven started experimenting on the drums when he was just two, and noone still knows how he gets the beats right, least of all his dad, Samuel Devassy, a sound engineer and Stephen’s elder brother. “Whatever he listens to, he imitates, and does it perfectly,” says Samuel. Steven began by drumming on vessels and other toys, when he was just two years old. Noticing his talent, his father got him a junior drum kit on which Steven displayed exceptional talent. His parents say that he is quite extraordinary in that he prefers to watch videos of Sivamani or Stephen performing to getting himself into trouble like usual four-year-olds. “When he is not watching cartoons, he practises. A psychologist has approached us now, who wants to study him and understand how he does it,” says Samuel.

The imitation happens to such an extent that what Steven plays has an Indian flavour to it, similar to Sivamani’s. Steven has been accompanying the choir in the church for quite a while and has started giving solo concerts at his school, Chinmaya Vidyalaya. Samuel takes Steven and his little sister Stephanie to all the concerts of Stephen and Sivamani in Chennai. “They both like Stephen more than me, I think. They hang around him when he is here and sits with him when he practises. It was Stephen who named them both,” says Samuel. Little Stephanie has also started trying her hands at the guitar. And no, they are not the only prodigies in the family, there are more. Abel, son of Biju Solomon, Stephen’s elder sister, is an accomplished keyboard player, following the footsteps of his illustrious uncle. 

Samuel proposes to enroll Steven and Stephanie in piano classes when they turn five. “I don’t have any problem if they choose music as their career. I just want to provide them with the right equipment and exposure they require,” says Samuel.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

StEpHeN DeVaSsY at Sharjah for " A.R Rahman Special Hits"

A concert titled A R Rahman Special Hits will feature performances from his sisters Raihana, Fathima and Issrath, and his "full team" of singers, according to the organisers Media Factary [CQ], but the Slumdog Millionaire-scorer will not perform. The event will take place at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on April 14th at 6.30pm and will also include singers Hariharan, Chitra, Benny Dayal, Naresh Iyer and Sadhna Sargam performing  Rahman's hits.Watch the Magician on Keys Stephen Devassy LIVE in action.

Tickets are priced 
Dh60 for gallery, 
Dh75 for seated,
Dh500 for VIP and 
Dh1,000 for VVIP. 
Call 04-3583633 for more details.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


He says that he is spiritual but not very religious, yet Stephen Devassy is one of the few Indian musicians (if not the only) to have performed for the world’s top spiritual leaders. This would include not just one, but two Popes — the late Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and even the Dalai Lama.

Given a choice, however, another instrument this young pianist would love to learn is the harp. “If I were to pick a solo instrument other than the piano, it would be the sitar,” says Stephen. In August, he’ll be peforming in Madrid for the ‘World Youth Day’ with his band, Rex, with an estimated attendance of over 5 million people, that will include His Holiness himself, again.
It all started when his father brought a keyboard to their Palakkad home and a 10-year old Stephen started taking classes. “When you are playing, it is difficult at first because your left brain is co-ordinating your right hand and vice versa,” he shares. “But when you master this, it becomes much easier.” By the age of 19, Stephen recorded the highest score in Asia, for his exam results from the Trinity College of Music, London with a score of 92.2 per cent. That and the fact, that he finished the ‘dreaded grade exams’ in three years, as opposed to the usual eight years it takes, marked his talent. “I was studying Commerce at the time, and I wasn’t very interested. So I would spend atleast 8-10 hours practising at night, then go to college and sleep,” he explains.
But a career was never on the cards at that time and the piano was purely a passion — until, financial difficulties arose and there wasn’t much choice in the matter. Stephen discontinued college and now a decade later, he clearly has no regrets.
With over 2,000 concerts to his credit, not to mention working with lengends like AR Rahman, Zakir Hussain, Mandolin U Srinivas and renowned French bass player, Dominique Piazza, things turned out beyond expectation for the young pianist. While most of the people who he shares the stage space with are much older him, Stephen emphasises that this is the best part of the experience. “Of course I get nervous, but I think for musicians, the vibes play a big role while performing. It doesn’t matter whether you have rehearsed together, it’s just a give-and-take of energy that makes for great dynamics on stage.”
What his fans may not know is that Stephen is quite the movie buff, his favourites being Amadeus (Story of Mozart), Perfume: The Story of a Murder and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Despite being actively involved in song arrangement for various films, he says, “I don’t like being locked up in the studio for too long. I am a performer.”
There is more than one concert he can recall where things didn’t go as planned. “There was a time when four out of five of my keyboards got fried because of a generator overload. We performed the entire concert on one keyboard,” adds Stephen.
This year looks to be exciting for him as he’s all-set to complete his solo album (yet to be titled), which he reveals is primarily world music. Add to this is his debut as music director in Tamil cinema, the details for which are still under wraps.
But the project most endearing to him is probably jamming with the students in his newly opened Muzik Lounge, a school of audio technology in Vadapalani, co-owned by his brother Samuel.
If you are passing by, you just might be lucky enough to catch him in action for a performance up-close, at the end of an interview like this one! He played a funk piece, and it is safe to say, with no exaggeration whatsoever, that the ‘keys’ to Stephen Devassy’s soul, are black and white. And they’re on his piano