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Reliving rock
Amrita Prasad | Monday, 20 March 2017 AT 09:50 PM IST
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For Delhiites and thousands of Dire Straits fans, who flocked to Gurugram (Gurgaon), on March 17, the evening was a memorable one. As dusk passed into night, lights illuminated The Leisure Valley Park, which turned into a paradise for vintage music lovers who saw their favourite band perform live hits like Money for Nothing, Walk of Life, Brothers in Arms, etc. Dire Straits, the legendary English band was co-founded by Mark Knopfler, the lead guitarist, songwriter and lead vocalist, along with his brother David Knopfler in 1977. The Dire Straits disbanded in 1995 and Knopfler went on to have a successful solo career.

Terence Reis (left) and Chris White

Later, Chris White and Terence Reis collaborated to form the Dire Straits Experience on an invitation to play some shows. Last weekend, the Dire Straits Experience embarked upon its first-ever tour in India and the band performed live in Gurgaon and Bengaluru on March 17 and 19, respectively, with Chris on the flute, saxophones, percussions and vocals, Terence on the guitar and lead vocals, Chris Whitten on the drums, Simon Carter and Danny Schogger on the piano, organ and keyboards, Tim Walters and Paul Geary on bass guitars and vocals.

The group was here to support the cause of providing sustainable drinking water to villagers in Rajasthan through the ‘Seagram’s 100 Pipers Play for a Cause’ initiative and ‘Be Remembered for Good’. A part of the concert proceeds will be donated for building water conservations structures in Rajasthan. Chris (White), an original member of the rock band, has worked with artists such as Paul McCartney, Aztec Camera, Chris DeBurgh, The The and Mark Knopfler. Here’s catching up with Chris prior to the Delhi concert.
 
You’ve been in the music scene for four decades now. How would you define the evolution of music?
Things have changed a lot, especially in terms of the incorporation of technology into music. The evolution has helped the band in modifying and embracing symphonic changes to our 1985 album, Brother in Arms, during our live performances. Upcoming musicians have started performing at pubs and restaurants, similar to musicians of the 1970s, taking music a full circle. They (upcoming musicians), however, have to cope up with the vast competition introduced by internet. Anybody can become popular by uploading his or her performance online and become an overnight sensation. Earning through music though will be a challenge for this generation —  owing to the competition. Also, there is a great chance of losing talent, however, there will always be an abundance of stars.

Many legendary musicians passed away in 2016-2017. How did it impact you as an artist?
Definitely the loss of such huge musical stars jolted us and everyone who loves music including us, is deeply saddened by the loss. Certainly, there can’t be another David Bowie, George Michael, or Prince, and we miss them, but having said that I also believe that music is a live thing, hence there can never be a void. If there is a star presently, there will be another one tomorrow. Every generation will have a new star. And I have great faith in the future of music.  

What do you have to say about your association with Seagram’s 100 Pipers Play For A Cause?
It is the band’s first time in India and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to come and play and we are very excited. I do believe I’m one of the luckiest people on earth to do the thing that I’m passionate about. Since I come from a humble background and there was a time when it was Dire Straits that got me through and it was the Brothers in Arms that really changed the career of the band. Then we were definitely flying in the nice part of the airplane and not in the back and staying in good hotels, but it’s not where I come from. For me, personally, to be involved in an initiative like this, feels absolutely right because that’s where I belong and to be able to give something back is an opportunity not to miss out. I think getting involved in the social cause is a very individual thing. When I say it’s an important thing for me it’s because of my roots and my life’s experiences. I don’t know how many people get influenced, but if you can change one person’s mind, that’s a job well done!

In Terence Reis, I think we may have found the only person on the planet who is able to play and sing like Mark Knopfler, but maintain his own integrity and identity,” says Chris White from The Dire Straits Experience. After Mark left the group to follow a solo career, Terence had big boots to fill and he did it with excellence. The lead guitarist and singer, Terence not only replicates Mark’s guitar and singing style in an accurate manner, but performs with such gusto and passion that it is easy to think that you are watching the original Dire Straits in its early 1980s prime. Terence’s music and voice hits every target, without a false note of mimicry.

At a press conference held a day before their performance in Gurgaon, we caught up with the humorous and humble Terence to know more about the band and why 

it is important for artists and musicians to get involved in social causes. 
Though their music has evolved, the band has tried to retain the originality of the music down the years.  But doesn’t that make it repetitive? Terence answers, “We don’t try to copy but we play something different every night and we try to make things fresh. That’s how we make mistakes too and often get noticed (laughs!). The band’s music remains intact with its roots. Dire Straits Experience has a great blend of ancient music that in its essence continues to emit lyrical inspiration. I am a traditionalist and trace the band’s roots to a fusion of cultural mix present in England of funk, American and jazz that combined with rock to form the band’s originality.”

Over the span of four decades, every song that the band has composed — Sultans of Swing, Brother in Arms, Money for Nothing, Romeo and Juliet and so on have been all-time hits. However, Walk Of Life is one song  that people from across generations have appreciated immensely. What makes it a favourite? Both the musicians (Chris and Terence) show surprise to hear that Walk Of Life is loved to such an extent here. In fact, it is one of the easier Dire Straits tracks to play when compared to others. Commenting on this happy and upbeat number, Terence reveals, “Dire Straits’ manager Ed Bicknell told us that when they recorded it, Mark didn’t even want to put it on the record because he said that the drum is speeding up and Ed said, ‘You’re an idiot. It’s gonna be a hit’, so he said that they’ll put it on anyway, so let’s put it and there you go!”

While speaking on the recent trends of EDM and pop music, which, according to some, have murdered rock music, Terence says, “I just don’t think label (genres) means a thing, may be, I think, it probably looks good that something’s there, something new is happening in music. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. I remember being a student in the 80s, saying that guitars are finished and no one is going to play the guitar anymore. All the music would be done on computers. It doesn’t really interest me if something is called rock or pop. If you see, the song book of Dire Straits, it is a mixture of rock, pop, blues and folk.”

About artists supporting a social cause, Terence says, “I think we have things going on in the planet right now where it’s worrying that people are retreating to their corners. We probably need to work together more now. I come from Africa where there’s famine, drought and much more. I think there are certain elemental things which you have an opportunity to work on with the people involved with the cause and as Chris stated about the integrity behind it.”

The author can be followed on Twitter @amu_prasad
 
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