For its new project, home-grown world music band Maati Baani has collaborated with 50 musicians from 20 countries — all via the internet.
Subway performers from New York, folk vocalists from Kutch, and guitarists from Iran, all find a place in The Music Yantra. City-based band Maati Baani’s latest project is a unique global collaboration with 50 musicians from 20 countries, which took place entirely online. The six-part series fuses genres ranging from disco funk and electro to rock and jazz.
Its first song, Lagan Laagi, and its behind-the-scenes episode, was released on YouTube on February 26. Known for songs like Balma (2013), Tore Matwaare Naina (2012) and Rang Rangiya (2014), Maati Baani has always relied on the video sharing platform to release its music.
The duo behind the band, Hindustani vocalist Nirali Kartik (32) and composer/producer Kartik Shah (37), stress upon the fact that the core of Maati Baani is collaboration. You’d be hard-pressed to find a song that they haven’t teamed up with other musicians for.
The idea behind The Music Yantra was to explore how technology can help cultures meet. “There are so many negative things happening in the world — be it in terms of the environment, politics, social, or religious space. We don’t want to preach; a song cannot change the world. But it can work as a healing balm, and bring hope and smiles to listeners,” says Nirali.
Embarking on a Journey
Putting The Music Yantra together took a year and was not only a creative but also a logistical challenge. Eighty per cent of the performers that feature in the series were complete strangers to Nirali and Kartik. “If we’d need a Mexican mariachi player, we’d do an online search, and some 50 people would pop up,” says Kartik. The duo reached out to over a hundred musicians in the process, some of whom backed out halfway into the project.
Varying time zones proved to be another problem as jam sessions would sometimes happen over a Skype call. Kartik shares the process of their online collaboration: “We’d first mail them a basic recording of our composition. We would write down the parts we’d want them to play, and send across staff notations. Additionally, they were free to come up with something they think will work well. Sometimes, we’d end up using that bit rather than our original idea.”
Language, too, posed its own set of issues. “We wanted to connect with a Japanese drummer, who didn’t speak English. We contacted somebody in Tokyo to become our translator on Facebook. But after some miscommunication, he admitted he’d been using Google Translator and didn’t speak English,” laughs Kartik.
Maati Baani’s USP lies in the way it approaches fusion music. Thanks to her strong classical music background, Nirali’s vocals are rooted in a distinct Hindustani element. Kartik’s exposure and fascination with world music brings funk to the table.
A visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels, Belgium, changed the course of The Music Yantra. “It’s a huge four-storied building, which features rare instruments from across the world. Apart from a picture and information on the instrument, you can even hear it. It blew me away,” says Kartik.
After that trip, Maati Baani restructured some elements of its songs to make room for unusual instruments (see box below).
Back in time
While Kartik is a self-taught musician, Nirali started learning music when she was 9. “I always wanted to grow up and be a classical musician. Things changed when I met Kartik. He was good at everything other than classical music,” she laughs.
The couple met at a café that Nirali’s brother ran in Ahmedabad, the city where they both grew up. The duo formed Maati Baani in 2012. Nirali says, “As a musician, you are a brand, and people are consuming your music. So, we treated Maati Baani as a start-up. We donned multiple roles and thought as producers, marketing professionals, and sponsors would.”
Apart from being a part of Maati Baani, Kartik freelances as a composer for ad films, and Nirali performs at classical music events. Even as they wrap up work on the last song for The Music Yantra, they are already looking forward to beginning work on season two.
5 rare instruments used in The Music Yantra
Tar: Featured in one of our rock songs, this small instrument from Iran sounds as if mother nature is dancing and violent, both at the same time.
Musical Saw: It sounds like an opera voice, making it hard to believe how such a harsh instrument can make the most beautiful sound you can ever hear. And you thought it was only used for cutting wood.
Jodiya Pawa: This sounds just like the desert of Kutch where it belongs. Often played in Sindh and Pakistan, it uses “circular breathing” techniques where the breath is continuously blown into the mouthpiece to maintain a constant drone.
Shawm: An instrument from the Renaissance period, this is a European version of the Indian Shehnai.
Bass Clarinet: This form of clarinet has a deep bass-y sound. When Jesse from Amsterdam played this instrument, we could feel our stomachs rumbling.
— By Maati Baani
To follow The Music Yantra on Maati’s Baani’s YouTube channel, visit youtube.com/user/Maatibaani