A concert to bring sounds from the hills of Darjeeling to the Capital | music | Hindustan Times
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A concert to bring sounds from the hills of Darjeeling to the Capital

A mix of bands from Bengal’s beautiful hills are here in the Capital to sing for a cause

music Updated: Jul 22, 2017 07:49 IST
Manik Sharma
Manik Sharma
Hindustan Times
Darjeeling,Gorkhaland,Musicians of Darjeeling
Bipul Chhetri has made his name by performing in the local language and bringing Nepalese folk music to the mainstream.(Photo courtesy: Bipul Chhetri)

For more than a month, there was no internet. There were disruptions in cellphone connectivity, free movement on the streets and fresh supply of food. This is not the story of a curfew in Kashmir. This is the story of the Darjeeling hills that have been in lockdown for more than a month now over the Gorkhaland movement. How does one tell the story of a place embroiled in conflict? You do it through the one language that everyone agrees on – music. Musicians for Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai that will be held at The QLA on the 23rd aims to fill the gap between information and awareness, all through an evening of stellar music.

The hills of Darjeeling have their own quiet relationship with music. “It is a case of little opportunities. At least one member of every family in the Darjeeling plays an instrument. There is, maybe, a guitar in each house. But what does one do with it if there is no place to play?” Pranai Gurung, whose blues band BLU will be performing at the concert, says.

BLU, a blues band, a participating band at the concert. (Photo: BLU)

Gurung, who has been living in Delhi for 14 years now, believes any format of music would find it hard to survive, let alone become a way of living, in a place tied with conflict.”My parents still live in Kalimpong. I try to talk to them all day. Two to three miles from my home, a couple of weeks ago, a few people died in an altercation between the forces and the local people. Our objective, with the concert, is to not take a side in any of this, but to say, that there can be a peaceful alternative,” he adds.

As far as the concert is concerned, the idea was born not as a mark of protest or a way to politically address the situation in Darjeeling but to make people aware of what is happening. “It has been more than a month. The state has come up with an economic blockade, which means they are not only blocking internet and connectivity, but also food. People are now dependent on local produce or whatever is flowing in through Sikkim.” The media, he feels needs to tell this story objectively. “So we thought it was a good idea to raise awareness, through something as light and universally accepted as music,” Yangdup Lama, a bartender in from Delhi, who is part of the core organising team, says.

‘We have been doing gigs for social and charity causes since 1991,’ says Subir of Parikrama, one of the oldest rock and roll bands in India. (Photo: Parikrama)

As part of the concert, audio-visual packages that will share information about the movement in the Darjeeling hills will be played. Lama insists the concert does not seek to politicise, in any way, the question of identity or citizenship that is at the heart of the conflict.

Language, whether it is the imposition of Bengali in this context or public ire over the Tamil songs A R Rahman recently played at a concert in the UK, has become a matter of debate of late. In the case of music, the debate is all the more baffling. But in day to day life there are valid concerns. “There is a real risk of wiping out a culture or of a history when you seek to impose one on the other. Nepali folk music or its languages could become extinct if they are not preserved. But this conversation cannot take the route of violence or aggression. This has to be resolved peacefully,” Bipul Chhetri, who will be performing at the concert, says.

Chhetri, like Gurung belongs to the Darjeeling hills. But unlike most of his peers, he has made his name by performing in the local language and bringing Nepalese folk music to the mainstream.

Susmit, a participating musician (Photo: Susmit)

In terms of the concert, the tableau on offer is varied. From Chhetri’s Nepalese folk to Chayan and Smiti’s acoustic duo, through Shadow and Light’s Hindustani classical wrapped in contemporary music there is a real mix that only reasserts our multi-culturalism. For those concerned about language, there will be Nepalese, English and Hindi. In a way the concert is evidence that there is a greater, more urgent language out there. And nearly everything else can peacefully coexist; a sentiment that is echoed by Subir Malik of rock band Parikrama, the most popular act on offer.

“We have been doing gigs for social and charity causes since 1991. For some reason, in the last three or four years, the situation has only worsened. The moment we were asked, I knew we wanted to be a part of the effort. This is the best language we know, of music and love,” Subir says. As for the larger picture, the most immediate concern for everyone performing is the possibility of somehow being of help.” Aggression won’t help anyone solve anything. As the saying goes, when two elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled,” Lama says.

What: Musicians for Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai, an awareness concert

When: July 23, 6 pm

Where: The Q’LA, 4A Marg, opp Qutab Minar, Kalka Dass, Mehrauli. Passes available with a donation of Rs 500 at the venue. Entry on first come first serve basis.

Nearest metro stations:Mehrauli, Chhattrapur