India Habitat Centre has been welcoming more rock bands into its diverse calendar of events. The YP (Youth Parliament) Foundation is an NGO that provides, among other things, a
India Habitat Centre has been welcoming more rock bands into its diverse calendar of events. The YP (Youth Parliament) Foundation is an NGO that provides, among other things, a creative outlet in the forms of art and music, for slum children in Delhi. This inaugural Blending Spectrum Festival was an evening to celebrate the good work done by the organization. In addition to the documentaries, paintings and photography on display, the audience was treated to a small but healthy dose of Delhi rock.
Music Basti’s five band-members are also volunteers with the YP’s program for children of the Shastri Nagar basti. Together with a couple dozen rag tag kids for their choir, Music Basti played only one song, a delicate, slow crooner called ‘Ye Pal’, a tender track with a Lucky Ali vibe. Sadly, the children, who were rather playful and unruly five minutes before getting on stage, suddenly shrank into shyness once on stage, barely able to force out their singing voices. Once the applause arrived, however, the children clapped and giggled as their stage fright evaporated. So it was a total bummer that this expansive set-up played only one song! After that enthusiastic crowd response, one might imagine that the kids would have done better on a second song, and then a third perhaps. Hopefully, Music Basti will continue their efforts so that we can all enjoy a Slumdog School of Rock some day.
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Fresh off their gig at Ambience Mall, Gurgaon, with Indian Ocean the previous night, East India Company was in fine form. The group is primarily the vehicle of singer-songwriter-producer-keyboardist Papon but the live instrumentation involves four supporting musicians, two laptops, two synthesizers, one bass, one guitar, drum kit and a range of traditional percussion. EIC is known amongst the growing community of young Assamese in Delhi for fusing folk songs of their Assamese heritage into funky, electrified crossover pop dhamakas. As such, a large crowd of dedicated followers and groupies cheered rabidly as EIC finally began their set after taking a long time setting up.
EIC’s versions of Mirza Ghalib’s ‘Khuda Hai’, Atif Aslam’s ‘Tere Bin’ and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Mast Kalandar’ journeyed from ambient downtempo to jangly, pop-rocking, p-funk to happy hardcore drum & bass. Papon’s vocals are often filtered through an array of effects so that they drift like electromagnetic winds over the tight, pulsing, dancefloor-ready rhythm section. No matter how “globalized” the world gets, it’s always a good idea to cater to local tastes and I would say that EIC does a pretty outstanding job at reworking these Sufi-pop classics to cover braver sonic territory without sacrificing their mass appeal. This generally results in a Talvin Singh-esque mélange of wizened ambience, slaphappy walking basslines and the constant titter-tatter of tablas.
Yet, EIC shines brighter when performing music a little closer to the home and heart. Hoping to bring the vibrant rhythms and melodies of Assamese folk traditions onto the national stage, EIC’s wild, jungli rendition of the traditional “Bihu” song invokes a similar energetic spirit of harvest celebration as the Punjabi bhangra. Wah-guitar syncopates with djimbe like water with oars of a boat, as Papon takes breaks in between verses of the traditional boat-racing song to explain to the non-Assamese speakers what’s going on in the song: the boys asking out the girls, after the boat races. Papon may be considering a further career in live comedy as well, perhaps, as his banter between- and during songs helped liven up the atmosphere considerably. On his new original composition, ‘Kyon’, he does at least drop a hint of greater things in store this year, such as his upcoming solo album.
I highly recommend East India Company as a band to see live. You’ll be thanking me when they play the song with the audio sample of a thunderstorm synchronized to bursts from the fog machine, leaving you the distinct impression of watching the mist rising over the deep waters of the Brahmaputra.
Posted, and pictures, by Suhrid Manchanda