Tag Archives: Rudy Wallang

Wanderlust and Music: The Busking Man Chronicles

Share

People, when beset with the pointlessness of a 9 to 5 routine, often take to dreaming of an escape. Quitting their job, grabbing a backpack, heading out on roads less trod. Meeting people so incredibly inspiring and seeing sights so uplifting that everything they knew about life is changed. Forever and for the better. And that’s where the fantasy ends as we grunt in response to the shrieking of an alarm clock or a demanding boss. Or so goes the story we are all fed to ensure a grudging loyalty to monotony.

Debojyoti Nath, however, managed to forsake that loyalty and break out of the mindless interaction between phone and computer screens that was replacing actual human communication. He took on the avatar of The Busking Man and got people to look up from a glowing LCD to watch him strum out a tune. And he did it in all 29 Indian states becoming  the first one to do so. He started with….well, he tells the story better :

“I was working for Radio City 91.1 FM in Delhi and saw a lot of mindless violence and fighting all around me in the city, in India and pretty much all over the world. After I left Radio City I started working for ScoopWhoop.com as their Social Media Manager and realized first hand how human socializing and interacting was getting limited to their phone screens or laptops. I was also going through a difficult phase in my life where everything around me was falling apart and where I wanted to do something I loved. And one evening it just hit me that I should take my guitar out to the streets, play my music and spread the message of Peace and Love and be the change I want to see happen in this world. I love music and travelling and meeting new people and making them happy in whatever little way I can. So I decided to start busking in Delhi while working. My first busking session happened on a Sunday at Connaught Place on a November evening. I busked a couple more times in Delhi with an amazing response and soon after decided to quit my job and busk all across the 29 states of India within 7 months before I turned 30 on July, 2015. I started busking from the 1st of January 2015. Everything fell into place, I would play music on the streets, I would in my own little way talk about and help spread the message of peace and love and also travel and meet new people. It was the perfect amalgamation of all my dreams.”

And so it began. But, of course, anyone wishing to replicate his lifestyle is probably wondering about the pitfalls of busking in a country where its not a thing ( and by “not a thing”, I mean a lot of people don’t know the word exists). Debo however says a potential busker has very little to worry about :

“Considering that busking is something unheard of in India and never been done on the scale I was doing, it actually wasn’t difficult at all to busk in India. The only difficult thing for me was when I first set out to busk. I was insanely nervous and scared and had no idea how people would react. But once I took out my guitar and started playing, everything was super fantastic after that and the people loved it too even though it took them by surprise. So the only difficult thing for me was to convince myself that I could actually do it and let go of all inhibitions.” 

And he has met other buskers, though not too many. He jammed with one in Mumbai, met two others in Delhi and found a few in Darjeeling who regaled the skies with the sarangi and were singing traditional folk songs.

Wanderlust and Music: The Busking Man Chronicles

But there is more to Debo’s art than merely eschewing the shackles of repetition inherent in everyday existence. It emphasises “peace and love” and uses the much-spoken of topic of conveying harmony and espousing the undesirability of violence. To quote the man himself :

“Everything I did while on my busking tour had everything to do with peace and love. Peace and Love is not about being hippy. Peace and Love to me means that people live in harmony and not harm or kill each other. Like I once said, I’d rather see people holding hands or people kissing on the streets and being there for one another than people holding guns, sticks or stones and killing each other. Wherever I busked on the streets across India people came to me and would ask me about the little Peace and Love placards I display and I tell them the same and till date each and everyone agreed to the fact that this world could use a little peace and love. This is the age of advertisements and so I think it be fair to say that this was my way of advertising and endorsing peace and love. I strongly believe there is hope in this world which is plagued with depression and fleeting humanity and it doesn’t take much to be kind and caring to one another. And like the Dalai Lama said, the planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” 

And it has been rewarding. Turns out, if you give the world a chance and open yourself up to it by taking a chance, its not all that bad. When asked about Debo’s memorable experiences, he had plenty to say :  

“…every place was memorable in its own way. The thing is that every place comes with its beautiful memories. My memories range from bridging religions, to composing impromptu Hindi songs in the North to connect with people, to playing songs for children still suffering at the site of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, to meeting some of the most amazing people along the way who shared their lives with me, to having an eunuch slap me and then become friends, to playing bhajans for the old women at an old age home, to meeting and singing with the kids at Dharavi, to meeting fellow buskers and jamming with musicians in a train, to shooting an impromptu jam with a French guy in Goa, to helping raise over Rs. 5000 within a span of three hours for the Nepal Relief Aid in Darjeeling, to meeting Rudy Wallang and Tipriti Kharbangar of the famous Indian blues band Soulmate and spending my most memorable time with them, to playing songs for an auto rickshaw driver in his auto, to reaching McLeodgunj with just Rs. 250 and having the best time there, to being detached from the world of technology when my phone stopped working which was a blessing in disguise, to simply taking a shower under a waterfall in the wild!”

So, one can’t blame him when he articulates his affinity towards the life of the busker in the following words:

“Busking gives me the pure unadulterated joy of connecting with people through music. It is freedom in the purest form to me. Busking also helps me become a better performer, because its not just the music itself but how you present it to people and how you keep them hooked.”

Wanderlust and Music: The Busking Man Chronicles

And he’s reaching hearts, because he has been all over the country. While he asserts that every location he has crossed has been “fantastic”, he singles out Bangalore, Delhi, Shillong, Darjeeling and McLeodgunj as the top 5. Future buskers, heads up?

Debo admits that the life of the busker isn’t for the majority, especially since the majority are led to believe in the sacrosanct nature of the stagnant, unchanging, predictable existence that is unfairly idolized. But if one did try it…

“If there are people who would love to adopt the busking life, I can assure them that it will change their life in many ways. But personally I would love to see more buskers in India and not just playing music but doing all sorts of performing arts like painting, dancing, street plays, comedy, tricks etc. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see an outburst of art on the streets? I remember that I would tell people to make the streets their stage. People could go about doing their jobs and taking care of all their family or personal business but hit the streets for a couple of hours on weekends or whenever they have free time. It would certainly bring back the glory of human interaction and socializing and not just limiting all these basic human traits to just a screen.” 

And it has certainly changed his life. To the extent that now, he cannot imagine it without taking the guitar out on the road. He might be on a hiatus after a 7-month sojourn around the country, but as he puts it : 

“I don’t think I will ever stop busking. I will keep busking for as long as I possibly can and whenever I feel like it. That’s the best part that whenever I want I can just take my guitar out and hit the streets and start playing anywhere.” 

Don’t get him wrong. It wasn’t all flowers and unicorns as he traipsed across unknown lands inhabited by unfamiliar souls. Fear was real. But so was faith in people.

“There are always safety issues everywhere but I also try to remain cautious and careful as much as I can. I have to be honest that I was a little scared when I was travelling all through the North East and also in Kashmir. But once I was in those places the people were very kind to me and I never faced a problem anywhere. The thing is if you approach people with genuine kindness and love you will always get that in return. People everywhere have been exceptionally kind, loving, supportive and caring to me.” 

The romance of Debo’s busker’s life seems far too poetic to belong to the laidback guy who, in his words:

“keep telling my friends or anyone I meet to take a break and enjoy what life has to offer and pursue what you love doing the most. I love listening to music almost all the time. I love watching a lot of documentaries and I love reading too. I have a keen interest for reading about or watching biopics of successful people and understanding what drives and motivates them. Apart from all this I would love to be an avid listener basically meaning listening to people talk about their lives, issues and problems. “

This apparently contradictory individual has had his share of revelations :

“One thing I realized during this busking tour is that there are loads of people who just need someone to listen to them. If people could open up more about their worries and troubles and talk about themselves, it would cure many people of depression. People need that release. So during this entire tour I became the perfect stranger for most people to open up to and pour their heart out to me. I would love to do this professionally someday, so fewer people have to depend on anti-depression medications or visit psychiatrists. I strongly agree with the quote from the movie Into The Wild which says “Happiness only real when shared.” I just want to see people happy.” 

Framing himself into an informal therapist inviting people into the confessional chamber of his music might be the attribute that most succinctly provides a glimpse into the change enacted within him by his movement towards freedom.

And freedom it is, to pursue interests more conducive to a world less terrifyingly abhorrent. He leaves one, and only one message for anyone that has listened to him singing ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Cant Help Falling In Love’ by Elvis, ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, ‘Redemption Song’ by Bob Marley, ‘Shaam’ from the movie Aisha, ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’ and some of his original compositions like ‘Love Is For All’, ‘Nafaratey Bhulao Yaar’ or ‘Let There Be Peace, Let There Be Love’. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s a reasonable cliché, one we could really profit from paying greater heed to :

“always follow your heart and reach for your dreams because there can be no greater happiness than that. And you should always follow your heart because it will never steer you to the wrong direction. I wish everyone loads of love, peace and happiness.” 

The Busking Man in his element: 

Support him by visiting: 

Facebook page: Facebook.com/thebuskingman

YouTube Channel: YouTube.com/deetornadokidd

SoundCloud Page: Soundcloud.com/debojyotinath

 

And watch out for the book that he is planning to write! 

Comment

Ten Stories Up by Soulmate

Share

The enduring persistence of blues music is extraordinary. Its roots date back to the turn of the twentieth century, and since then there have been an incalculable number of musicians who have pushed the genre in new directions and refined its sound. When playing music in any genre with about a century of history behind it, there are really just two ways to approach it: experiment and innovate, or play it straight, being careful not to deviate from the established rules that define the genre. In today’s scene, the Shillong-based band Soulmate is one recent band to carry the banner of blues music, and while they fall squarely in the latter category, on their newest album Ten Stories Up, they have honed in on the classic electric blues style to create something truly wonderful.

The core of the band is the duo Rudy Wallang and Tipriti “Tips” Kharbangar who both sing, play guitar, and handle the songwriting. This is their third album after playing together for over a decade and they have gained significant acclamation in the process. It’s not difficult to see why; before getting into anything else, it needs to be said that these two are incredible musicians. Wallang’s guitar leads and solos are sharp and fluid, and Kharbangar’s singing is stunningly powerful. Only one of them will sing on each song, and while Kharbangar is clearly the better singer of the two, it’s unfair to say that Wallang’s voice is bad; he’s a good singer in his own right, but his more straightforward voice is out-shined by her strong vibrato, powerful belting, and dizzying melismatic melodies. That’s fine though, because Wallang’s guitar is just as emotive; on one song, he will make his instrument slowly weep (‘Sadness’) and on another it beckons you to come and dance (‘I Will Be Around’). Because of the difference in singing however, the songs where Kharbangar takes the lead tend to be more interesting. Ten Stories Up is at its best and most masterful when her voice and Wallang’s guitar go back and forth, challenging each other to be more stirring, more impressive, more striking. At these points on the album, such as those on ‘Lie’ and ‘Tell Me’, you’re just fortunate to be along for the ride as each passage continually reaches deeper into your soul to grip you tighter.

While these moments are no doubt impressive, the repetitive song structures across the album unfortunately dampen the impact. Each song follows more or less the same pattern: while a foundation chord progression or riff is repeated, sung verses and instrumental solos alternate until the song ends. It’s a bit too straightforward and lacking surprises, and while this may be the nature of Soulmate’s brand of blues, it still feels like the album didn’t quite earn its one-hour run time. Because the album dedicates so much time to guitar solos, there aren’t any that really stand out as exceptional. None are bad, but at times the sheer number of solos sprinkled throughout the album feels a little like over-indulgence.

However, that’s not to say that these songs grow tiresome– there are some brilliant arrangements and dynamic choices that give a lot of the tracks enough personality and variation to keep them from all sounding identical. The main overdrive-coated riff on the opening track ‘Sunshine’, for example, is surprisingly hard-hitting for blues, but it transitions half-way through to a mellow chord progression with much cleaner and soulful guitar. On ‘Hear Me Woman’, Wallang utilizes a much grittier guitar tone that, along with fast licks and rapid, aggressive strumming, punctuate the slower, rounder organ and bass patterns that form the basis of the track.

Near the end of the album, the two faster-paced songs, ‘I Will Be Around’ and ‘Keep the Blues’, feature loud, quick riffs and rolling drums that offer a nice break from the other slower tracks. One such song, ‘Lie’, though it plods along, is perfectly smooth and pensive for most of its run time; it’s the type of song that makes you want to just sit down after a long day and sip a cup of chai (or maybe scotch, depending on the day). It’s meditative and melancholy until it explodes with Wallang hammering on the guitar and Kharbangar almost yelling in the final minute. ‘Tell Me’ is likewise just as sleek and gentle, but it is more wistful than somber, and it combines some marvelous electric piano jamming with temperate guitar leads and lively scat singing. In contrast with ‘Lie’ however, the band wraps all these elements in a subtle decrescendo, and though all the different melodies still sound like they are meandering around as they play, the final dynamic shift invokes a sense of delicately letting go.

On the production side of things, Ten Stories Up is crisp and clean; all the instruments sound like they have plenty of space to breathe. This greatly contributes to Soulmate’s sound– every note on the solos comes through clearly, and it only adds to the emotion conveyed. You can hear the pick hitting the strings, fingers sliding across the fretboard, and feedback bleeding through the chords. While these things can sometimes be viewed as unwanted sound artifacts to be eliminated, here they grant another layer of soul to the playing, and it reminds you that this music is very much human– unsynthesized and exquisitely imperfect.

While Ten Stories Up doesn’t offer anything particularly innovative for blues music, it doesn’t seriously suffer because of it. Rather than reinvent the wheel, Soulmate seems much more interested in crafting a thoroughly solid blues album, and in this regard they achieve great success. This album is steeped in the blues tradition, and it is here that the band flourishes by striving to play the best blues possible. Perhaps the best track on the album is their rendition of ‘Nobody But You Lord’. Previously sung by the legendary American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, their intense and impassioned interpretation of the song links Soulmate with not only the blues tradition but the gospel music tradition also. Both of these musical streams have their roots in African American culture, and those who first began the styles poured their beliefs about God, themselves, and their struggles into their music. It’s honestly astonishing how well the band is able to embody the spirit of this old music form, and that is something that needs to be praised. Soulmate succeeds in continuing to carry the torch of blues music in India, and the fact of its international popularity points to something beautiful. In creating a tightly performed blues album, they have given another example of how beliefs and modes of artistic expression still have relevance to people displaced by time, distance, and culture.

Comment

Soulmate’s latest album ‘Ten Stories Up’ now available online!

Share

After a long wait, the digital version of Ten Stories Up by Shillong-based blues band Soulmate is finally out! “There are ten songs in the album as the name of the album suggests. The album’s about ten years of Soulmate being together. We have played all of them on the road before recording them, so people are familiar with a lot of the songs already. We hope that they sing along,” said Rudy Wallang during our interview with the band at The Mahindra Blues Festival 2014 (read full interview here.)

Ten Stories Up is now available for purchase on OKListeniTunes and Amazon.

Comment

Managerial goofup at JU’s Sanskriti disappoints Soulmate fans in Kolkata

Share

Jadavpur University’s annual fest Sanskriti has run into an unprecedented hitch in 2014 when they announced the appearance of Soulmate, the iconic blues rock band from Shillong as part of their slew of headlining artists on the 14th of March. On March 12th, Tipriti Kharbangar posted a Facebook status update announcing “To our fans in Kolkata….No one has confirmed us about our show at JU but these ppl have already put up posters of ours. How is it possible??? Don’t get fooled!”

They weren’t exaggerating, for both the Sanskriti posters in and out of the JU campus, as well as the official website confirmed Soulmate’s presence. When we got in touch with Keith Wallang, manager of Soulmate, he said, “That image was taken off the web, it is not an official picture. It is completely wrong for anyone to have used that picture in the first place. Rudy is now a Fender endorsee and the guitar in the picture is not a Fender so there again they have screwed up.” This astounding portrayal of inefficiency by FETSU (Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students’ Union), Jadavpur University apparently began when event managers wrote to the band who replied with the associated Terms & Conditions. This elicited no further response from the organizers, terminating all contact between the two parties until the spate of advertising began, much to the band’s surprise. Understandably, the band will not be performing on the 14th.

While the organizers have announced the cancellation of Soulmate’s appearance, fans of the band as well as of the fest itself have expressed disappointment, especially because Sanskriti has seen some of the most efficient managerial functioning in the Kolkata entertainment scene. When contacted, Rudy Wallang echoed his sentiments about the matter, “Besides being disappointed I feel that for a festival of this stature, the least we expected was some semblance of professionalism. To keep us and our friends and fans hanging on till the very end…Someone didn’t want us there and the buck was being passed around. That’s what I feel.” To prevent similar debacles, Soulmate has issued a legal notice, largely exasperated by the fact that “the fans get taken for a ride.”

Comment

Soulmate at Someplace Else, Kolkata

Share
Comment

Mahindra Blues Day 1 ft. Walter Trout at Mehboob Studios, Mumbai

Share

 

Comment

Mahindra Blues Festival Day 2 at Mehboob Studios, Mumbai

Share
Comment

Soulmate at Firangi Pani, Mumbai

Share
Comment

A talk with Soulmate at The Mad Festival 2012

Share

What’s The Scene, India had an in-depth talk with Rudy Wallang and Tipriti Kharbangar of the Shillong blues group, Soulmate, at the sidelines of the Mad Festival, Ooty. The duo give us a crash course on what the blues means, how they imbibed the blues culture in them. We hear about how the band formed, their roots and cherished memories.

Videography: Sumukh Bharadwaj
Interviewed by:Natasha Rego

Comment