A Biography by Mark Pressman
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
The Beatles‘ sound and the rest of the world’s music – and India most especially, have had a remarkable relationship. The nature of the band, its sound, look and the way the world heard rock ad pop music, all changed as their decade of the sixties wore on. Those changes influenced a generation, not only in Britain and the US. but everywhere. When the Fab Four went to the East in the early sixties as ambassadors of Western pop culture, they returned with a multitude of “new” Indian and Far-Eastern sounds as well as the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as their spiritual advisor. What went unnoticed at the time was that they had also, inadvertently, planted seeds in their wake from which a new generation of rockers would someday sprout. Somewhere in South India, stood a boy, waiting in line for hours to get his first listen to the Beatles’ version of ‘Twist and Shout.’ “As a child, then living at a boarding school in Madras, India, I really did once stand in a queue to have a chance to hear the sound of that band from Liverpool, the Beatles. There was one phonograph available to the students, which we were allowed to use once a week at break time before dinner… I remember being blown away completely by their music,” says that boy, Madooo, “When Hard Day’s Night came out, I knew that someday I would sing and play the guitar. And when I was in my first band, The Voodoos, we would await every new release, then go into rehearsal and try to copy the sounds.”
”Madooo” (His full name is Madhukar Chandra Dhas) did reach stardom in his native India, singing and putting on Western rock music shows. In fact, the moniker “Superstar” was practically attached to his name by the Indian press. Yet he left that fame to come to the United States. He has recently changed his stage name to Madooo, formally adopting the name everyone has called him for years. Madooo has always been one of those people for whom creative expression takes different forms. Music and art have constantly been intertwined in his life. His love of Rock & Roll brought him to these shores. And he presently satisfies the art muse as a graphic designer at Deutsch Advertising.
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
Madooo’s father originally wanted him to become a doctor. While at Madras Christian College, however, Madooo decided art was his calling. When, through his father’s influence, a seat opened up for him in a State’s Medical College, Madooo was apprehensive, afraid that he would have to abandon art. “Fortunately, the spot was lost at the last minute…otherwise I might have killed a few hundred people in botched medical procedures by now.” Madooo jokes. Madooo moved to Bombay, the heart of India’s advertising industry then, taking a job on a trial basis with the Interpub agency. A billboard cartoon campaign he had created, as well as work for Air India and a local soft-drink manufacturer, landed him a job with Lintas: India. He eventually became a visualizer (or art director). While at Lintas, Alyque Padamsee,the managing director, who also is a renowned producer of theatrical shows was in pre-production and wanted to cast Madooo as Jesus in Padamsee’s Indian production of Jesus Christ Superstar. “I wanted to play the part of Judas.” he relates, “I was worried about the controversy surrounding the play at that time.” Instead of playing Judas, chosen from a field of many aspiring actors and singers, Madooo played the lead. He needn’t have worried. In fact, he was surprised at the reception of the audience, many of whom were Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims. “Many people cried at each performance,” he recalls. The show was a smashing success, running for a year and a half, even giving a command performance for then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
Madooo says it was one of the best years of his creative life: “I would work in the agency all day, then go
straight to the theater, do the show, then head for the club where I would play with my band until one or two in the morning.” After he quit ATOMIC FOREST (one of India’s pioneer Rock-bands in the 70s), Madooo toured India, and the Asian English-speaking hotel circuit, with solo shows. In one show, he was among the first to incorporate graphics, slides of his cartoons projected behind him on stage. The projectionist was his new bride, Sophia, a model and dancer, who also performed in the show. In another show, called ‘The Evolution of Mr. Rock,’ Madooo both satirized and celebrated the Western pop music scene, parodying various singers. Eventually, he decided to go to America. “The music scene in India is very provincial; there is a limited Western pop-music audience. I was booked on to the circuit, playing five-star hotels, but there was nowhere else to go, plus, the American quality in recording was so much better.” Madooo hooked up with a Vietnamese band (playing American rock & roll) that was booked on an American tour, playing throughout the Midwest. Finally, after a stint with an Elvis-impersonating band, he and his wife found themselves at the Hershey Hotel in Pennsylvania in 1981. Deciding that they had had enough of road life, they went to New York to seek steady jobs. Madooo took a job at a local type house where he studied the art of typography extensively, working with art directors from all over New York, doing a long-term gig for Bozell, starting in1988. Ten years later he moved to Deutsch Inc. At all these places he has continued to showcase his music, winning annual Talent contests doing Elvis Presley & Jim Morrison impersonations, even gaining mentions in the trade magazine Adweek.
TICKET TO RIDE
In 1981, Madooo went to an audition by singer/songwriter Harry Chapin. Harry gave Madooo his address, requested a tape and told him he’d like to be his manager. Madooo sent him a tape. When he made a follow-up call, he was told that Harry was out on the road. And two weeks later, Chapin died. Earlier in India, Led Zeppelin visited a club where Madooo sang and Robert Plant gave him a thumbs-up after listening to him. These encouraging images have been etched in his mind, and keep his musical dreams and hopes alive. Madooo’s popularity in India still persists in certain circles.On a recent return trip, he was asked by Louis Banks, India’s top music producer, to sing on more than 20 jingles for national commercials; an earlier spot of his for Close-Up toothpaste had set records, staying on the air and playing daily at every movie house in the country for almost 10 years. Madooo finds a great deal of creative satisfaction in his work for Deutsch, but his urge to sing has him performing again. He sang with the Marble Collegiate Gospel choir, which in the last 4 years has appeared at Carnegie Hall, The Beacon, Lincoln Center, and, in 2000, at Madison Square Garden backing up Marc Anthony at WKTU’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ His first love is still rock & roll — with an East Indian flavor. He hears a voicing of mainstream rock & roll with Indian percussion instruments and musical instruments such as the tabla & sitar that is a blend of all the influences in his one-of-a-kind life. His first American CD, the title track of which he wrote for the 9/11 Memorial is available FREE for all the world to download from this website. It was intended as a message of healing.
This album is a journey back to the original reasons Madooo became a singer. When John, Paul, George and Ringo began to change the world, they changed it for people from as far away as Monterrey and Melbourne, as far flung as Kirkutsk or Kenyatta, and as steeped in their own unique musical tradition as Munich and Madras. Madooo lets us know that their legacy lives on, even today, in the voices of those whose lives were changed forever. ”
LOVE, LOVE MADOOO!
Read some of what the Indian Press has had to say:
THE EXAMINER: “The way Madhukar sang “Gethsamane” really got me in the guts and personally gave me an insight into Jesus Christ’s agony that years of Good Friday services never have”.
THE TIMES OF INDIA: “Madhukar, the sensational singer of Jesus Christ Superstar, was far and away the star of “Mr. Rock”. His throw of voice is superb – he sings soulfully with pathos and feeling”.
FREE PRESS JOURNAL: “Madhukar is the nearest there is to a singing star of Western popular music in India. His singing is second to none and as a stage artist he is incomparable.”
DELHI DATELINE: “It is difficult to remain unmoved when Madhukar sings”.
ECONOMIC TIMES: “Madhukar is a strong and inspired musico-histrionic portrait, wide in vocal and emotional range”.