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Delhi bands that offer more than fantastic music

Many of the good ol’ regular weekend gigs in restaurants, pubs and clubs are not quite what you’d call regular anymore. Apart from churning out new content, bands are becoming spiffier with presentation...

brunch Updated: Jun 01, 2013 18:04 IST
Manit Moorjani
Manit Moorjani
Hindustan Times
Changing Their Tunes,bands,words

Many of the good ol’ regular weekend gigs in restaurants, pubs and clubs are not quite what you’d call regular anymore. Apart from churning out new content, bands are becoming spiffier with presentation, and offering more than just their fantastic music.

One band’s been playing old-style gypsy and cabaret music with scenes from old Bollywood movies playing in the background. Another one’s music seems like it’s ’80s Bappi Lahiri mixed with Kurt Cobain. Still other musicians play their gigs as artists paint the theme of a graphic novel alongside. Sometimes, there are live dancers.

There’s a lot of noise, a lot of clutter. But we’ve looked though recent memory and every corner of Delhi to find the best. Meet the artistes stretching the definition of concert and rethinking cool.

Here’s presenting: collaborative art group Kuru Circus & Orchestra, audiovisual collective B.L.O.T., rock band Ganesh Talkies and Peter Cat Recording Co.

Kuru Circus&Orchestra
The canvas is spreading. At the Kuru Genesis Megashows in Delhi and Bangalore, artists Ari Jayaprakash, Sameer Hazari, Sid Barik, Bhanu Pratap and others paint live in front of an audience, as some of the most celebrated desi-Western musicians perform in tandem. Under dim lighting, the shows also have a video component – alternating between visuals of their live art and video compositions – showing on the adjacent projector. Often, there are live dancers too.

The complete environment replicates the art and music from the graphic novel, The Kuru Chronicles created by Ari Jayaprakash and written by Anisha Sridhar. “The idea is to involve the audience in an overwhelming way. There is an overload of sensory experience – they can check out the making of the art while listening to music,” says artist Ari Jayaprakash. “Every evening and every show is unique as different artists (along with guest artistes) collaborate on a common platform.”

By bringing together acts and performers such as Tritha, Chintan Kalra (ex-Parikrama), IP Singh (from Menwhopause), Rajashri Sanyal (from Faridkot) and Rohan Kulshreshtha (from Peter Cat Recording Co.), Kuru Circus & Orchestra provides a treat for music buffs, who can eventually buy some of the artwork made at the auction after the show. “Our music can be best described as primeval trance with the feel of Vedic chanting, although the genres vary,” says co-organiser Pankaj Mullick. The, circus, moves next to Mumbai and later to Kolkata, the city where the tale of Kuru (in the graphic novel), is set.

B.L.O.T.(Basic Love of Things) musician Gaurav Malaker and graphics and film enthusiast Avinash Kumar have taken the electronic music experience (clubbing, as we call it) to another level. They place large screens and projectors all over the venue and play videos that include film clips, stop-motion animation and graphics, tuned to the beats of live EDM (electronic dance music).

These guys take show-planning very seriously. “The basic idea arose from the concept of scoring music for a film live or ‘live cinema’ as we like to call it,” says Kumar. “We also experiment with 3D content for our gigs,” he adds.

Back in 2007, when the duo launched B.L.O.T., only a handful of venues were willing to experiment with electronic music as their primary form of entertainment for the evening.
Today, the audience at their shows is a mixed bag. While many people dance and trip to the music, swaying from side to side, there are always others who are practically glued to the videos throughout the party. But everyone enjoys the music.

You can even check out their new graphic designs and animation on their blog:

Ganesh Talkies
The members of Kolkata-based band Ganesh Talkies grew up in the ’80s and ’90s watching Bollywood movies and listening to whatever Western rock music they could lay their hands on. It left a deep impact on them. So, they’ve come up with their own peculiar brand of music: desi inspired lyrics with a punkish rock feel, till they burst into Bollywoodesque melodies on the guitar.

The band, which played in Delhi at Downstairs at Zo earlier this year, is very Bollywood. It’s named after an iconic but defunct Kolkata cinema. All their gigs have themes – Raja-Rani, Disco Dancer, Chor-Police – and the band comes dressed accordingly. The names for their gigs are inspired by Bollywood as well: their opening show was called First Day First Show, another was Pyar Ka Tohfa. Lead vocalist Suyasha Sengupta says, “All five members of our band share a passion for Bollywood. As funny as it may sound, I love Bappi Lahiri as much as I love Nirvana or Coldplay. So when we make music, influences from both sides come into play.”

Peter Cat Recording Co.
In the pre-television days, people would tune in to the radio, sit and strain to listen to music. Peter Cat Recording Co (PCRC) has popped right out of those sepia-strewn memories. “There was a sort of weird hope back then. One had to sit and listen and concentrate. The sound of a man singing out of a radio, like it was talking to you, sets the perfect mood for my music,” says vocalist Suryakant Sawhney aka Surya. “Nowadays music has become part of the background, so much so that the background is being replicated to form music,” he adds.

PCRC’s blend of cabaret music, that sounds romantic as well as aggressive, conceals tones of old Bollywood. You can even find a Star Wars-sounding sequence somewhere, if you look hard enough. The influence of Bollywood with its ever-so-melodic sounds of the ’60s and ’70s cannot be missed here. “Memories of listening to Mohammed Rafi or Kishore Kumar, or the first impressions of old Bollywood movies like Muqaddar Ka Sikandar have a feel that we try to incorporate in our music,” says Surya.

So what’s the band really like? If there were ever a gypsy musician on Indian streets back then, this is what he would sound like.

From HT Brunch, June 2
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First Published: May 31, 2013 18:08 IST