Although now associated with Bangla Rock, Kolkata has always been a hub for musicians and music lovers and has always been able to maintain a vibrant independent music scene without any influence from Bollywood or rather mainstream music. Its glory days may be behind it but it warms the heart to know that there are still musicians there who want to push the boundaries of conventional musical sensibilities to create new and exciting sounds and pieces that are absolutely mesmerising. One such band is Kaivalyaa, whose mission seems to be to combine as many diverse genres of music as they possibly can to create a sound that can be truly classified as fusion. Not only do they mix various musical styles but the vocalists also sing in many languages flitting back and forth between languages and genres with remarkable ease.
Fusion music often becomes a caricature or a parody of the styles it is inspired from but this is not the case with the music created by Kaivalyaa. Their songs are large, bold and ever-so-slightly theatrical – making it quite clear why they are so popular during their live shows. Hindustani classical ragas are woven intricately with rock, jazz, pop and the blues making their songs harmonious and interesting. Yes, their songs have lyrics in Bengali, Hindi and English but that does not mean you need to take a languages crash course to understand their songs. The music conveys the mood and theme so well that is seems like the band, consciously or not, has decided to rely more on music than the words. Kaivalyaa would be considered brave enough just for being a fusion act, but they have gone one step further and have also decided to record lengthy tracks that often clock in at over 7 minutes. This is very brave indeed considering Kaivalyaa is their debut album.
Kaivalyaa is the brainchild of siblings Anuja Dutta Majumdar and Pathikrit Majumdar. Anuja and Pathikrit are the vocalists for the band with bass guitars and programming taken care by Pathikrit. Apart from the Majumdar siblings, the band consists of Sandip Bakshi on keyboards and piano and Surojato Roy on percussions. Although not part of the band, they get additional support from Bodhisattwa Ghosh and Mohul Chakraborty on guitars. Their eponymous debut album, released on the 1st of January 2014, is an unrestrained ode to life – our deepest dreams, love and our relationships with our loved ones.
The album starts off with ‘Megh – A Dark Intruder’. Despite the ominous name, the track is peaceful and even uplifting and talks of passion and new beginnings. Due to the guitar dominated intro, you will almost expect an alt-rock track to continue but the tabla appears and changes its course. The Megh Raag is weaved beautifully into the track and Anuja does a beautiful job seamlessly switching between Hindustani and western vocals. The track swells gradually but never goes overboard and just when you get very involved in the song, the outro echoes back to the beginning and the track mellows out.
‘Yaman – The Reminiscent’ is a treat to those who love the fusion style and definitely a personal favourite. Pathikrit’s vocal prowess, experience and passion are shown off beautifully in this song and almost make you ignore the accompanying vocals and music. Deeply moving and intricate, his rendition of the Yaman raag is mesmerising. The whole composition truly captures the nostalgia, sweetness and happiness that accompany a flood of memories.
The following piece is a definite contrast as ‘Alochhaaya’ leans more towards the soft rock and jazz genres despite the large sections of Hindustani vocals. It gives a very Bangla-Rock feel that does not sit well with the preceding tracks and some of Anuja’s melismas and breathy vocals sound forced and uncomfortable. Overall, ‘Alochhaaya’ is a tad disappointing as the vocals and different musical interludes do not blend well making the track less cohesive.
Redemption comes in the form of ‘A Pennyworth of Wishes’ – a foot tapping, fast and peppy number. Unlike the other songs on the album, this one has been sung entirely in English and has an unchanging tempo. Also, this song was released as a promotional single and it talks about the chaos of life and how we all hold on to our cherished dreams and wishes. The unusual mash-up between the keyboards and tabla is surprisingly good and the track is so enjoyable you’ll forgive the fact that it’s so different from the rest.
‘Megh – A Deserts Wait’ is an extension of ‘Megh – A Dark Intruder’ and as the tracks are cleverly separated by three songs, it removes the monotonousness of having two very similar tracks on the album. By using the metaphor of rain quenching the thirst of a desert or ‘Morobhumi’, this song poetically describes what a long wait feels like.
Their self-titled album ends with the title track – ‘Kaivalyaa’. This track talks about one’s journey to finding contentment in one’s true purpose and living through what can only be described as an existential crisis and the peaceful composition compliments the lyrics very well. A subdued, emotive number; it makes for a fitting final track.
Kaivalyaa is soothing, unusual and bold. Tracks like ‘Yaman – The Reminiscent’, shows the immense promise that this band has and there is no doubt about the fact that they have the potential to emulate the success that bands like Advaita have. Yes, sometimes the different instruments and vocal stylings do not come together as harmoniously as one would like but fusion is a tricky genre and considering that this is their debut album, we should be expecting truly mind-blowing music from them in the future. They have the finesse that seasoned artists do and every member is immensely talented, which shows in their complex compositions. The word lovely may seem a bit affected but it is the perfect word to describe this album.