A new wave of fusion is taking the stage in India. Gone are the days when covers are imitated to the very last note and blind reverence of bands from the west takes importance. In this short piece, I shall take you through the bands that have strived hard to marry the sounds of the east and the west.
The most prominent of the bands’, in my opinion, is the Raghu Dixit project. Having initially started off as Antaragni (the fire within), the band has undergone numerous changes in their line up to form the present band. Raghu’s knack of blending folk music from Karnataka and the bass and drums is only a small step towards making music that sounds uniquely different from any of the other bands around. It was a bold step, considering fusion bands generally didn’t last very long. ‘Hey Bhagwan’ (click for video) is his single off the first self-titled album “Raghu Dixit Project”.
A peppy lively number, it can get anyone to his or her feet. Raghu Dixit project has songs in Hindi, Kannada, and English, reiterating the ease with which his music is accepted across the length and breadth of the country. If they are playing in your city, you have to make it a point to catch them live!
Close in the heels of the folk music from Karnataka, comes another band that hails from Chennai. Junkyard Groove. Ameeth Thomas , the front man of Junkyard Groove has an infectiously mad presence on stage, and infuses some of it in his songs. Which is what Folk is all about. The celebration of the being. Here’s a song from their album called 11:11 funnily called ‘Folk you’! You will most probably be ‘folked’ if you’ve explored the above two albums at length!
Moving from the South towards Delhi, a slightly mellower, but equally intriguing band caught my attention. This band – Advaita – is an unyielding mixture of Hindustani vocals and instruments as well as the electric guitar. They’ve won the Jack Daniel’s Rock award(2013) for best album for their most recently released ‘The Silent Sea’. The band consists of an 8 member ensemble, each of whom are seeking to inspire even the most ‘music dead’ of individuals. The band is fronted by Chayan Adhikari, who plays the acoustic guitar and sings in English. His vocals are supplemented by Ujwal Nagar who sings in Hindi. On their website, they describe their beginnings as
“ some of us who had been wandering and finding our paths in different spaces and styles of music, met each other and converged to form a band which we believed would transcend pre conceived boundaries and make music that would come straight from the heart and speak to the soul.”
Which is precisely what they manage to do with their music. Their music video, ‘Rasiya’ is an ethereal display of the band as well as the familiar sights of Delhi. This video is most possibly my favourite amongst the video’s I will highlight in this article.
Moving further North, an emerging singer Aabha has made her presence felt with her band, Aabha Hanjura-Sufistication. Sufi music has a stronghold in North India, particularly Kashmir, where Aabha hails from, and she brings a fresh wave of folk music to the country. Her eclectic music exposes the never heard instruments such as the rebab, Kasmiri sarangi, kashmiri santoor, duff and tumbaknari (kashmiri percussion) Here’s her latest music video. Through her video, Aabha manages to entwine the spiritual sounds of Kashmir with the seething distortion of the electric guitar. What comes off it is an engaging music video “Kithe Nain Na Jodi”. A young man having succumbed to the lure of drugs disregards a lover who cares for him and wants him to quit. The video moves to a point where he realizes his folly and runs back to her, thus saving the both of them. Her soaring vocals and mournful wails sting you into realizing that love is the answer to the darkest of demons that plague our lives. The video ends with the lovers reuniting and a beaming Aabha beside them. Who says music wont save you as well!?
Moving to another impressive band that has shaken the bastions of pre conceived notions about what alternative is all about. That is ‘Agam’. A band that has a hard hitting sound , will lure the headbangers as well as the crowd that loves Indian Classical music. With every song equally as gripping as the other, Agam brilliantly manages to marry Carnatic vocals with Progressive Rock, which is a feat, I don’t think any other band can hope to imitate. A band that hails from Bangalore, Harish Sivaramakrishnan, the lead vocalist sings in Tamil,Malayalam,Hindi and Punjabi. Here’s their video called ‘Malhar Jam’ which they performed as part of Coke Studios.
These are just a few of the fusion bands that have taken the scene with storm. It isn’t far from christening the new genre as Indian Rock. And they sure as hell are here to stay!
Learn more about Sharath Krishnaswami.