Listening to the bits of Malayalam that come in between his English, it is difficult to put him down to one place. Let him continue as a ‘world citizen’, he tells you with that trademark smile of his. He is not kidding, John Anthony has really been around the world, in different circuits, playing music with a guitar tied around his neck for more than three decades. Some time ago, he had come to Thiruvananthapuram, where he began his journey, tying up two of his passions — music and environment. His band Karnatriix found two more members —Jyothikrishna and Rahul. Together, they will launch on Tuesday what could be called a historical locomotive musical tour.
“The idea came in my talks with the DRM (Divisional Railway Manager) Sunil Bajpai. He was telling me about the railway week from April 10 to 16 and we thought of doing something through music to spread awareness about the problems faced by the Railways,” John says.
The list of problems John heard of shouldn’t surprise any regular visitor to railway stations in the state. There is of course the never-ending task of keeping it clean. But a more serious issue is the number of people who risk lives by crossing the tracks to get on a train, and the number of suicides on the tracks. “Most of the time, it is the shock of seeing a train appear so suddenly — it covers a hundred metres in 3.5 seconds — that stop people on the tracks as they try to cross it. They are frozen with fear.”
These issues will come out as songs and statements in the loco tour that John and his team have planned. The tour begins at Kanyakumari on Tuesday, when they will have a half-an-hour performance at the station at 7 am. The band will then get on a train and stop at seven more stations, performing at each of these places, on the platform.
“We will have two other teams travelling ahead of us to set everything up in advance.” Rahul, who turns DJ Raul for the band, will sing a Malayalam song and Jyothi, an English.
That’s not all. At each station they perform, artist Pavi Sankar will paint on a canvas. John will also offer ‘kottukonam varikka mango’ saplings to be planted at each of the stations they stop at. They will travel through Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, and come back through Kottayam and Kollam to the capital for a grand finale on Friday. “We will take a break on Vishu, and finish on Friday, with veteran singer Rajasekaran Jesudasan, who was once known as the Mick Jagger of South India, joining us.”