It happens when you go to cover a programme and end up being one among the overwhelming crowd that has literally neither gender nor age bar. Back on your desk, you struggle for an intro and decide to lean against an ellipsis and a question mark which resembles the silence that you could have listened to had you been there in Kochi ahead of the show for which hundreds waited patiently this weekend that coincided with the Valentine's Day.
Waiting for the show to begin, I asked a youth, a man nearing his middle age and a retired couple, what brought them there, and they all said – “Boney M.”
Such is the marks that the trend-setter band of the late 70's left in the minds of a great section of the people of this piece of land called Kerala, when they heard the name coupled with Kochi, they wanted to do nothing but throng the venue to listen their favourites live, daring distance and age. Thus Boney M, which has become synonymous with pop music for Keralites for over three decades, lived a performance at Emperor's Courtyard near the Kaloor International Stadium here on Saturday.
Though the Boney M seemed incomplete in a strict sense to at least a few – for it has all new faces now, except for the irreplaceable Maizie Williams who leads the show – once the curtains went up on the show, the crowd had no doubt. They hummed, waved clapped and shook legs to their years-long favourites. The 11-member troupe, headed by Maizie, was in Kochi as part of their Boney M tour which they began last year. The event was organised by Oman-based Black and white media and Open mind.
Presenting Maizie Williams and her band members to the audience, India's own pop singer Usha Uthup said she was blessed to get an opportunity like that. Saying that she is a fan of all Boney M hits, Uthup honoured the 63-year-old model-turned singer Maizie with a shawl. Perhaps unknowingly underscoring the cultural currents between two distant lands, she started with her masterpiece “Ente Keralam” and merged it with Boney M's ever hit “By the rivers of Babylon.”
What followed was the real show. Though the gathering remained not-much affected with the opening pieces by the supporting Mai Tai band, when Maizie had the entry, along with her two girls , Samantha Scott and Rosemary Martin, and the boy, Kelly Martin, the scene changed. The hits came one after another.
Maizie asked, “Did you get your tickets,” and the audience got it right and replied, “Yes, the one way ticket.” And we had “The one way ticket, one way ticket, one way ticket to the blues.” The band introduced each song as if they were going to narrate a story, once that of “a brown girl in the ring,” making the audience croon, “traa la laalalaa” and then that of a “Daddy cool.”
The show titled “The Greatest Hits: Boney M, Ft. Maizie Williams” proved the header to be true by showcasing all the hits including “Ma baker”, “Hoorey Hoorey It's holi-holiday,” “Baby do you wanna bump” and “A brown girl in the ring.” When they sang the tale of “Malaika”, a folk tune in Swahili, the learned audience of Kochi kept a gentle silence, and when it was the turn of the mysterious Rasputin of the Tsarist Russia, the same crowd went into a frenzy singing along, “Ra Ra Rasputin, Russia's greatest love machine...”
Bringing alive the legacy of the Boney M, the band put on a variety of wardrobes for each session, all colourful and glittering. The orchestra men supported the singers with nothing but their talent. The rapper made the show all the more live and eventful.
Maizie said the show was coming to a circle with “By the rivers of Babylon”, and those on and off the stage sang it together. Perhaps the audience so strongly wished the show to continue that Boney M asked the crowd whether they wanted something more. Hence, “No woman no cry” – the one and only Bob Marley's reggae piece which the Boney M had been re-crooning stage after stage.
While the entire audience go for a standing ovation, Maizie says, “Any time is Boney M time and Boney M time is any time.” And the unending rounds of applause from the eldest to the youngest among the audience prove it even as the music turns off, though only through the loudspeakers.
What they said
For Singer Franco the Kochi edition of Boney M was a dream come true moment. “ As a kid, I used to go to my maternal grandparents' house to listen to Boney M songs as I didn't have an advanced music player at my home. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, an all thrilled singer said.
Madhu, a businessman from Palakkad, said he came all the way to Kochi along with his wife and two sons exclusively for the programme. “As college students we used to listen to Boney M songs. I wanted to come here because we may not get such a chance again.”
Retd. Engineer Ramachandran Nair said, "I have been listening to Boney M ever since the band was launched in 1976. We listen to other bands including ABBA and Beatles too. But no band could offer the thrill Boney M has." His wife Mrinalini, a retd bank employee, agrees with him.
Sooraj, a youngster into real estate from Vyttila who came for the concert with his wife Sharmila, said: “I have been listening to Boney M from my early years. They are all time hits. I'm sure, the next generation too will enjoy their songs.”
What she said
And, Maizie unaware of what others said and elevated by the spirit the land showed, said, "Kochi is an experience. We got wonderful support from here.”