Indian Musical Revolution by Nisha Narayanan, Red FM
Every corner of India reverberates with unique music, sounds and accents that are specific to the local community and their cultural practices. The spectrum of music in India is astounding and reaches far and wide. From lucid folk songs of various native tribes to the complex structure of classical music, from a potpourri of filmy music to new-age fusion experiment, from rock bands to progressive trance and psychedelic - the plethora is endless. Currently, India stands on the brink of a musical revolution where musicians, composers and producers are experimenting with all kinds of musical genres to create their own unique sound. With growing optimism and enthusiastic acceptance from the people, the live music scene in India is also dramatically evolving and seeing a major breakthrough.
An Intellectual Property that has been a brainchild and very close to my heart, RED LIVE has been an on-ground vertical to establish and redefine a common ground for music, whether experimental or otherwise. This is based on the insight that our listeners yearn to get a holistic exposure to the excellence of Indian music and just want to let their hair down and look for an outlet to do so. Kolkata, rich in culture, heritage and music is a perfect culmination of blends to start what we call The Yellow Taxi Project. Kolkata is synonymous to yellow taxis and what better way to occupy a distinctive space in the contemporary musical revolution to personify the culture of the city, than to have a concoction of the yellow taxi and music. A progressive partnership amongst folk and alternative musicians who are not only holding on to traditional musical practices, but also incorporating diverse melodious elements to innovate original sound is what we propose is the need of the hour.
The essence of Bengal is strongly rooted in its multicultural traditions that goes hand in hand with quintessential cosmopolitanism. People in Bengal breathe and live music- from Tagore’s poetical lyrics to Nazrul’s liberating tunes, from devotional Shayama sangeet to contemporary band culture. Introducing a spectacle of auditory excellence, the Manganiyer Seduction is a mass ensemble performance created by Theatrical director Roysten Abel. Set up on the stage is a four storey bank of small pods, each one framed with lightbulbs. Each pod is illuminated when a performer begins to sing converging into a crescendo as the ensemble grows in numbers. The ‘hair standing’ climax is augured by a simplistic yet spectacular light show as all the pods glow and dazzle. It is an enigmatic place to be, to watch a performance like this live, whether you’re young or not so young.
It is no surprise that all strands of music have somehow been inspired from the Baul music, which is indigenous to Bengal’s folk tradition. These wandering minstrels bring back fond memories of the ‘Lal Matir Desh’ or the land of red soil, that refers to Birbhum district of Bengal which is the birthplace of Baul music. Mystic baul saint Lalon Fakir had spread the message of social reformation and communal harmony thorough his incomparable philosophical songs. Later, Tagore himself wrote and published Lalon’s songs in Prabashi magazines, since those songs were practiced in oral tradition form. This rustic sound of folk tunes can be found among every community in India. Breaking away from the rules of strict musical grammar, changing times see a syncretic flow of different features of homegrown music, which seamlessly unites with contemporary popular music.
We all know how Indian music has influenced the world’s most renowned musicians – Beatles collaborated with Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan and Purna Das Baul performed together over 20 concerts. Legendary Lalon Fakir’s music inspired poet Allen Ginsberg. In fact, sitar has been used widely in jazz by Miles Davis Tony Scott, Bud Shank, Alice Coltrane, and others. Master composer Claude Debussy’s composition has imprints of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Sufi music. Such is the power of Indian heritage! Presently, Bollywood composers Shantanu Moitra, Anupam Roy, Pritam are constantly making new music heavily influenced from baul. Our aim is to bring alive that spirit of musical union. We are excited that Kolkatans will be treated to a host of live indigenous music - Sufi, baul, Rajasthani tribal folk, folk fusion and contemporary folk, on one stage. Unfortunately, so many people run after eclectic electronic sounds like EDM forgetting that there is such depth in our folk traditions. In my limited understanding of Music and its details, I can confidently say that Folk Music is Trance Music! It has groove, it has the vibe, it has the energy and can be quite hypnotic.
For the love of everything beautiful and things that evoke the senses and invigorates your mind, this summer, re-connect to your roots while you recreate and soothe your soul. A folk music festival that is so experiential in nature, it will surely strike the spiritual chord in the hearts of Kolkatans. Drawing closer to the beauty of one’s own heritage, one must celebrate the precious tradition and culture one continually holds on to while giving space to unceasing newness that every innovation brings! The event will see a spectacular line up of indigenous artists – Arko’s Fiddler’s Green, Tirtha, Kartick Das Baul along with headlining acts from the Sufi maestros Nizami Bandhu and The Manganiyar Seduction.
To sum it up, I am told it might rain on that day, tell you what, it’s even better if it rains. Folk music and petrichor goes hand in hand, don’t they? What’s love without music in the rains. Here is another music festival (with a difference) to swing by - The Yellow Taxi Music Project... hoping that you would encourage us by being a part of it and more importantly enjoy it! A festival of sorts with baul artists, Sufi artists, Rajasthani folk artists and some great Grub to binge on!