This is the time to be Indian and as authentic as you can possibly be,” says Jishnu Das Gupta, bassist of Bangalore’s folk band, Swarathma. The band collaborates with Australian folk singer Old Man River at a live performance tonight at Hard Rock Café in the city.
“Our manager introduced us to Old Man River. We in fact just met him on Monday and jammed with him only a day before the concert to rework Ee Bhoomi and Bolo Kya Hai to play live in Mumbai. That’s the perk of being a folk musician - you live life on the edge,” smirks Jishnu.
The kurta-clad boys have been wielding horse puppets on stage while singing about everything that is authentically Indian for the past three years. This year, the band has played at music festivals in UK and Turkey; released an iPhone application and got filmmaker Shekhar Kapur to direct a music video.
Old Man River aka Ohad Rein is no stranger to India. The original gypsy, Rein has performed with the likes of Damien Rice and is recording an album, Trust, which bears an Indian watermark. It will be co-produced by Indian record-maker Daman Sood, who has previously worked with Jagjit Singh and Abida Parveen. “I’ve always had this dream to go to India and record something,” Rein says.
Though the musical training of Rein and Swarathma is worlds apart, they are trying to create a unique synergy. Can we call it fusion? “No no. It is not fusion,” Jishnu asserts. “We’re definitely not trying to ape world music and add extra instrumental solos of alaaps in the songs. There will be more harmony. You’ll see.”
For Swarathma, there is lots more on the plate. Their first music video Pyaasi, for which they collaborated with Shubha Mudgal, just released as well. “Shekhar Kapur was creative consultant to the video that was shot in the wind-swept arid desert land of Rajasthan,” says Jishnu.