Move over Jimikki Kammal, we have a new favorite. 25 years after A.R Rahman composed a number especially for all the Kavile Pattumalsarams here comes a brilliant instrumental version of Padakali by the band Orfeo Quintet. For the average Malayali, this was a breath of fresh air with that tinge of nostalgia. The band's version of Padakali has become an overnight success.
The members of Orfeo Quintet are still in awe of how the internet has responded to their video. The band comprises Robin Thomas, Carol George, Francis Xavier, Herald Antony, Maria Grigoreva, Benhar Thomas and Binoy Joseph, who are all seasoned musicians. While most of them are from Kochi, Maria is from Russia. The band, which doesn't have a vocalist, has even been invited by the famous BRICS orchestra to be a part of its concert at the Kremlin Palace in Russia.
Robin, who started the band, says “Orfeo actually formed some 16 years ago. Back then it was just Carol George and I. There were other members who moved out of the group. With time, all of us got busy with our personal music career. Two years ago, we came together again with a yearning to play some good music.
“When it started, the quintet was essentially a violin family with a piano. We currently have a cello, a viola, two violin and a piano along with the drums and percussion. We have not added the double bass though.”
Two years ago, the band came out with instrumental cover versions of A.R. Rahman’s famous ‘Veera Pandi’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ along with a few other yesteryear favorites. Although these were viewed and liked online, none of them received the momentum that the new cover song has got. But then what happened afterwards? Robin says, “We are all professional musicians who are active in the industry. So getting all of us together every time is quite a task.”
What makes Orfeo Quintet stand apart from the clutter of bands? Robin explains, “Our biggest advantage is that all the band members are serious musicians. Most of us have been in the field for years and are well-versed with the technicalities of complex musical arrangements. This is our biggest plus point.”
The band began as a quintet, which means a group containing five members. Robin says that the band has changed from that format for now. “The change was brought about for this video by including percussion. The band will always remain a quintet. However, In the future, when we collaborate with another musicians other instruments might come in. But basically this is a quintet.”
When quizzed about the name Orfeo, Robin puts it is simple terms and says, “It is an old form of music, a type of Opera.”
Picking Padakali was a major task for the band. “We had to pick from a huge list of songs for a stage show.
“We had to pick a song that is crowd-puller as well as one that fits well with the Orfeo style. This is not just an instrumental version. We have to keep in mind the string arrangement part. We realised people would like watching some kind of competition onstage and Padakali was perfect for it. We then sent it to our mentor and senior musician Rex Isaacs, who wrote the score for it,” he says, adding, “Preparing the score was the hardest part. We have been planning this for the past one-and-a-half years. Every part of this song was developed one step at a time and depended on which musician was available at a time.”
Still amazed at the response for the video, he says, “We did not expect this. Although we guessed musicians might appreciate it, we did not think the public would like it so much.”