In the foggy ruins of time I have met Sunbeam Motha – and not in his musico avatar.
In the early nineties of the previous century, just out of school, I attended a meeting of the Society for Afforestation and Verdant Earth (SAVE) – coordinated by urban governance expert Vinay Baindur and others whose names I now forget – after-hours in the conference room of Electronic Relays India off Residency Road.
Only Sunbeam, of course, was entirely unforgettable.
Then an adolescent with a bodybuilding ego bigger than my corporeal form could ever attain, I was deflated by the sight of his sinewed, veined forearms. They looked immensely strong.
He was also intense and articulate, with a blood-quickening old-world vocabulary completely devoid of all the IT bullshit that has corrupted Bangalorese now. When he spoke, he roused. Over his rugged good looks, he wore an aura of Bodhisattva-like compassion and mysterious free-spiritedness.
It was July, and one evening after a meeting the monsoon held us all up for two hours. Topically, we found ourselves chatting with Sunbeam about rain and rainforests. He invited us over to see an afforestation project he had started near Bannerghatta. The following weekend, my friend God and I trekked behind the National Park to a barren hillside stubbled with new saplings. Sunbeam wasn’t there – probably held up by another of his many passions – and somehow our paths never crossed again. I hope his forest survives.
There was another side to Sunbeam Motha – one every Bangalore musician worth his pedigree knew of and revered. And because Sunbeam is now no more, we will all pay tribute to his memory and to the Music Strip, which he pioneered in the early 1980s. The Strip got its name from the place where it was allowed to be held – the avenue behind Queen Victoria’s statue in Cubbon Park (then, as now, the Police Commissioner forbade holding the gig anywhere else).
Time chases its tail this Sunday, when the Music Strip reincarnates as The Live Gig. Join us and many others at this fond and nostalgic revival. We’re on nearabouts 4 PM.
Sunbeam’s photograph – courtesy Sheila Remedios