Tag Archives: Tipriti Kharbangar

Wanderlust and Music: The Busking Man Chronicles

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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! 

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Ten Stories Up by Soulmate

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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.

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

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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.”

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NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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NH7 Weekenderone of the country’s largest music festivals, finally made it to Kolkata, much to the delight of the city’s music-hungry population. The fourth and final leg of this event was to be held on the 14th and 15th of December, and with the completion of exams at most of the city’s educational institutions, the organizers seemed confident of wooing the huge student community to the venue grounds. In fact the Kolkata leg had a lot going for the city’s music lovers. With the highly discounted ticket prices when compared to the three other NH7 Weekender venues, the tickets rates for the City of Joy were a complete steal! And for the student population there was even an under-21 ticket to add to the bouquet of benefits.

The mouth-watering lineup comprising of more than 40 artistes, spread over 6 stages was surely enough to whet the appetite of even the most cynical music-lover in town. However, the venue chosen to host the 2 days of musical madness left many disappointed. Ibiza Resort, located on the outer fringes of the city in South 24 Parganas, was indeed almost in the middle of nowhere. Not only the distance, but the traffic jams and shitty roads were also a big downer, and due to these factors there were many who ultimately decided to skip the NH7’s debut in the east zone. The organizers too, must have had sleepless nights, owing to the initial negative feedback about the venue. But finally on the day of the event, the Kolkata music-lovers did not disappoint and the massive turnout on days 1 and 2 was enough indication that despite all odds, Kolkata’s love for music would always prevail over long distances, bad roads and traffic jams.

The action on the Day 1 started approximately at 3:30 PM. The layout for the 6 stages in the festival grounds was well thought out by the NH7 team and thankfully most attendees were spared the long-distance-run between the various stages. In fact the biggest conundrum for gig goers was trying to prioritize which artiste’s performance to watch, since many performances would be going on simultaneously at different locations in the venue. The timings of performances at the Dewarists stage and at the Bacardi Arena were the ones that caused the most consternation and those not too adept in time-management had a trying time juggling their schedules.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Many music-lovers from the North-East turned up in huge numbers to catch Shillong’s blues giants Soulmate up on the Dewarists stage at 4:30 PM. This gig pulled in huge crowds, and having always been a favorite among the blues lovers in the city, Soulmate went all out to impress one and all with a virtuoso performance. And there was no getting away from the mesmerizing vocals of Tipriti Kharbangar that literally blew the crowd away.

Mumbai metallers Demonic Resurrection were already getting proceedings underway at the Bacardi Arena – the first of three back-to-back metal bands to be performing on Day 1. Demonic Resurrection were hell-bent on bringing brutality to a new level, and in their allotted 40 minutes this veteran metal act managed to captivate the crowd with songs both old and new, including ‘The Unrelenting Surge of Vengeance’, ‘The Warriors Return’ and ‘Bound by Blood, Fire and Stone’ – all tracks from their last album A Return To Darkness. The crowd loved every minute of their performance but 40 minutes were hardly enough to satisfy the metal hungry crowd. It would be approximately another hour until the Bacardi Arena lit up with the second metal act of the evening.

In the meantime, over on the MTS Other Stage, local boys Ifs ‘n Buts were having a ball playing their brand of indie music with the help of a few friends. Unfortunately this particular stage was plagued by music “over-flowing” from the adjacent music arenas and it was not really the best way to take in the band’s acoustic set. While Ifs ‘n Buts were busy enthralling their faithful fans, city heavy weights and NH7 veterans Pink Noise on the Dewarists stage and Mumbai’s Zero over at the Red Bull Tour Bus were both getting ready to up the volume. Choosing which act to catch that evening was indeed a painful decision. The veritable flip of the coin seemed to be the only way to decide which band’s performance to watch.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Zero’s energy and verve on stage belied the fact that the band was making a comeback and playing in the City Of Joy after almost 10 years. In fact, it almost made it seem like they had never been on a break! For 40 odd minutes the band dished out a host of evergreen favorites like ‘PSP’, ‘Hate In Em’, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Mariachi’ – and for those 40 minutes the Kolkata crowd was in a complete state of trance. Zero easily delivered one of the best performances of the day and those who attended their gig at the Red Bull Tour Bus stage, left fully satisfied.

Amidst the Zero mayhem, another local musician and singer-songwriter, Tajdar Junaid, was getting ready for his performance at the MTS Other Stage. Tajdar’s recently released album What Colour is Your Raindrop has received critical acclaim from most musical quarters, and for fans of his mellow, lounge-influenced acoustic style of music, it was indeed a treat to see him perform in his hometown – more so since it was his first performance in Kolkata after the release of his album. Tajdar did not disappoint the crowd with his set that included tracks like ‘Aisle’, ‘What Colour Is Your Raindrop’, ‘Though I Know’ and ‘Dastaan’. One of the highlights of this gig was when ace guitarist Warren Mendonsa came up on stage to collaborate with Tajdar. All in all, this was a most satisfying performance.

Day 1 was mostly about the metal mayhem that was to take place at the Bacardi Arena. Judging by the number of metal-heads who had lined up in front of the stage and also taken up strategic positions in and around the vicinity, it was definitely not an advisable place for the faint-hearted to be. After Demonic Resurrection’s early evening assault, the next act to occupy the Bacardi Arena was Delhi’s masters of disaster Undying Inc. Right from their first song, these metal mongers were relentless and they forced the crowd into submission with their raw and powerful aggression. Front-man Shashank Bhatnagar was indeed in his elements that evening, and he had the crowd roaring with approval with his crowd-surfing antics. Shashank was like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, and he expertly orchestrated the crowd into one bloody moshpit after the other – and his efforts culminated in a massive wall-of-death during the song ‘Ironclad’. The fetsival had momentarily turned into a war-zone, and the number of injuries and blood stained faces around the pit area bore testament to this fact. Undying Inc’s setlist included the popular ‘Manimal’ and ‘Contagion’ from their album Aggressive World Dynasty and also their new single ‘Pit Mechanics’ from their new EP Ironclad – and their performance and stage presence that evening left an indelible mark on the minds of every metal lover in attendance. The band certainly upped the ante as far as performance standards go, that many Indian metal bands would find difficult to meet.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Meanwhile comedy rock band Vir Das’ Alien Chutney was over at the MTS Other Stage, busy regaling the crowd with their trademark sense of humor. It was the band’s debut performance in the City of Joy, but the huge cheers that followed each song they played would certainly have made it seem like they were Kolkata veterans. The biggest cheers were of course reserved for the song ‘Manboobs’, no surprises there! Vir Das’ on-stage banter, especially about the political leaders of West Bengal also had the crowd in splits.

Day 1 was nearing its end, but there were two huge artistes left before the day finally came to a close. Over at the Dewarists stage, Papon and The East India Company were facing some technical difficulties which delayed their show for approximately twenty minutes. Papon was on the check-list of most music lovers since many of them had never seen him perform live before. And true to their expectations, he and his troupe did not disappoint. This was one artiste who could sell out shows and still remain original and true to his music and he demonstrated this by enthralling the huge crowd with songs from his album The Story So Far and tracks like ‘Boitha Maro Re’ and the popular ‘Banao’. Papon and The East India Company were indeed a class act and hopefully they will be in town soon for more shows.

About 10-15 minutes before Papon and his band of merry men had started wowing the crowd at the Dewarists stage, over at the Bacardi Arena, the sea of black-tee clad metal maniacs had again started to huddle around the arena area. For the Kolkata metal community, THIS was the event they had been waiting for – finally, a metal band of international repute would be performing in the City of Joy, finally Kolkata would get to be on the international metal map.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Dutch metal giants Textures had previously been to India three times – and having previously performed in the south (Bangalore, 2009), the north (Delhi, 2010) and the west (Pune, ) in past tours, it was befitting that the band finally completed their Bharat yatra by being named as one of the headliners of Kolkata’s NH7 Weekender leg. And they gave to the city’s ardent metal fans a performance that they would not forget in a long time. The show began with the slow melodic instrumental ‘Surreal State Of Enlightenment’ but once this completed the band launched themselves into a set-list which pulverized the crowd with its sheer brutality. ‘Messengers’, ‘Old Days Born Anew’, ‘The Sun’s Architect’, ‘Laments Of An Icarus’, ‘Black Horses Stampede’ and ‘Sanguine Draws The Oath’ were just some of the songs that regaled the crowd that evening. However with the mosh-pits getting more brutal by the minute and with the metal-heads baying for blood, it took two of the band’s more popular compositions, ‘Awake’ and ‘Reaching Home’ to finally appease the crowd. Textures were truly majestic that evening and they won the hearts and minds of everyone who was fortunate enough to attend their power-packed performance.

And so Day 1 of the Kolkata NH7 Weekender ended with a bang – and there was not a single unhappy soul at the end of the day’s proceedings. Even the bunch of young metal-heads who were feuding over Textures’ drum sticks went home happy when the band finally resolved the situation by offering a plectrum to each of the aggrieved parties.

Another bright and sunny December day, and the expectations of the crowd were sky-high after the success of Day 1. There were some very big names scheduled for Day 2, including a few young acts from Kolkata. And in fact two of the day’s openings acts were The Monkey In Me on the Red Bull Tour Bus and Ganesh Talkies on the Dewarists Stage, the latter opening their set with the song ‘Style’. The band’s flashy style of music was accentuated by their colorful but loud outfits. Their catchy music had the crowd dancing, jumping and doing all sorts of crazy stuff, especially when the vocalist Suyasha Sengupta requested the audience to show some “Bappi Lahiri moves”. Their set included ‘Roadside Romeo’, ‘Pyaar Ka Tohfa’ from their EP Three Tier Non AC and some new material like ‘Dancing, Dancing’ and ‘Brother From Another Mother’. A fun band, especially if you aren’t allergic to the Bollywood style of music.

Day 2’s opening act on the Bacardi Arena was New Delhi’s The Ska Vengers. This 8-piece band was making their Kolkata debut and they were easily one of the best acts of this two-day music fest. Right from the word go, these merchants of ska got the crowd dancing to their compositions which included set regulars like ‘Rough And Mean’, ‘Bam Intifada’ and The Velvet Underground rendition of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. The Ska Vengers had a great gig, and special mention must be made of their female vocalist Miss Samara C whose charismatic stage presence hypnotized the Kolkata crowd.

Over on the MTS Other Stage fans of Gangtok’s Girish Pradhan were busy being enthralled by this singer-songwriter’s set-list that comprised of originals and classic rock covers. Girish started his set by playing an instrumental version of ‘Hotel California’, and followed this up with a string of originals that included ‘Loaded’ and the ever popular ‘Angel’. The set also included ‘Hey You’ and a brilliant cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’. Girish Pradhan’s amazing voice and vocal range stunned the crowd and he easily won over the hearts of those in attendance.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

As soon as Girish ended his set, it was back to the Dewarists stage because Swarathma was the next act to be performing. Their set included popular originals like ‘Duur Kinara’, ‘Topiwalleh’, ‘Kooraney’ and ‘Ee Bhoomi’. During the performance of their song ‘Pyaar ke Rang’ vocalist Vasu Dixit came off stage right in the middle of the audience, which got the crowd going. Despite the obvious language barrier in some songs, Swarathma’s gig was indeed a fun one and there was no doubt that the crowd would be remembering the band’s performance for a long time.

And over at the Red Bull Tour Bus, local lads Write In Stereo were getting the crowd to groove to their indie dance music. Heavily influenced by the band Mutemath, this quartet impressed the crowd with their compositions that were mainly instrumentals and included ‘Tokyo Kyoto’, a composition influenced by their love for anime, space and sci-fi.
The Bacardi Arena in the meantime was fast filling up, for Mumbai’s electro-rockers Pentagram, who were soon to start their set. It has been a while since this band has performed in Kolkata, and their fans were on tenterhooks waiting for the show to begin. But once it did, a huge roar erupted from the crowd. Pentagram began proceedings with their track ‘Identify’, and their set-list also included tracks like ‘Lovedrug Climbdown’, ‘Drive’, ‘Mental Zero’, ‘Tomorrow’s Decided’ and the popular ‘Voices’. The crowd had a ball, and this was evident from the number of bean bags being thrown up in the air and bouncing all over the arena area. Vishal Dadlani’s showmanship and Randolph Correia’s guitars were stand-outs in the band’s performance – with Randolph’s guitaring especially sounding raw and powerful throughout Pentagram’s electronica blended grunge set.

It was time for The Supersonics to join the Kolkata NH7 party and right from the word go this Kolkata quartet let fly a host of popular tracks – both new and old – much to the delight of their faithful fan following, who were attending in huge numbers. The Supersonics were playing in their home-town after a very long time, and not being familiar with their new material, their home support cheered the most for their older originals – ‘Hey Aloha’, ‘We Are We Are’, ‘In Memory Of’, ‘Fable Of A Lonely Fish’, ‘Have A Drink’ and the crowd favorite ‘Yeah Whatever’ were just some of the songs on their set-list for the evening. All said and done, this was a pretty good performance by these Kolkata homeboys.

The event was fast approaching its climax – after twp days of non-stop walking, jumping up-and-down, standing and head-banging, our legs were starting to feel a wee bit heavy and we also had this constant buzz in our heads. So running around the venue to catch the different performing artistes was turning out to be a tad bit difficult for our weary souls. In the final hours we kind of parked ourselves in front of the Red Bull Tour Bus area, which was pretty empty – but it also gave us a good view of the Bacardi Arena as well, where Delhi classic rock veterans Parikrama were already in the midst of their NH7 gig. Like Pentagram, Parikrama too were performing in Kolkata after ages – and these Delhi rockers were successful in wowing the crowd with a set-list that seemed to comprise of originals only. Quite a surprise, this, since the band have rarely played a set-list of predominantly original numbers in Kolkata. It was almost like they were playing a greatest hits compilation and for a change, the Kolkata crowd had the chance to savor their originals like ‘Am I Dreaming?’, ‘Vaporize’ and the ever popular ‘But It Rained’, which was the band’s closing number.

Kolkata’s Nishchay Parekh was up on the MTS Other Stage during Parikrama’s assault, and being one of the rising stars of the current indie explosion in the country, most people at the venue wanted to check him out. Nishchay’s music has a certain freshness about it, which adds to its cool quotient and it was these two factors which helped him to win over his audience that evening. His set-list which had the songs ‘Ocean” and ‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’ were extremely well appreciated.

Back at the Red Bull Tour Bus Mumbai’s hard-core kings Scribe were busy causing mayhem and promoting the pleasures of moshing. Front-man Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy was in his usual over-the-top mood making the crowd laugh with his outrageous comments, although for the most part he let the band’s music do the talking. This was in fact quite a tame show as per the usual high Scribe standards – and the sound was also a bit muffled at times, although most listeners didn’t seem to be too bothered with the sound aspect since they were either too busy moshing or playing around with the beach balls that the band had thrown down from the stage. Scribe’s set-list was interesting but was well short of being “amazing” – and apart from the crowd favorites ‘I Love You Pav Bhaji’, ‘1234 Dracula’, ‘R.S.V.P.’, ‘Calender Khana Lao’ and ‘Cops!  Cops!  Cops!’ the band played a cover of the Fear Factory song ‘Edgecrusher’.

After two days of non-stop music, the Kolkata NH7 Weekender was about to come to a close. There was not a single unhappy soul at the venue, and India’s “Happiest Music Festival” had lived up to its reputation. As Karsh Kale Collective + The NH7 All Stars lit up the Bacardi Arena for the final time, the crowd totally lost themselves to the music, and the dancing and cheering seemed to go on and on. It was truly a wonderful conclusion to a festival that having promised so much was successful in delivering on all counts. To say that NH7 Kolkata did well would be an under-statement – this event was a rip-roaring success and for once everyone, including the fan, the organizer and the artiste, would seem to be unanimous about this fact. One can only hope that the success of the NH7 Weekender Kolkata leg will encourage other event organizers to allow this city to host similar such events in the near future. But if for some reason this fails to happen, well, we always have NH7 Weekender Kolkata 2014 to look forward to!

Reviewed by,

Prasanna Singh and Joy Chakraborty

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Soulmate at Someplace Else, Kolkata

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Mahindra Blues Festival Day 2 at Mehboob Studios, Mumbai

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Soulmate at Firangi Pani, Mumbai

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A talk with Soulmate at The Mad Festival 2012

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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

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Tales from the Mahindra Blues Festival

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A two day saga of one of the most compelling gigs anyone could have watched through the last weekend, when Anand Mahindra announced that he wanted to recreate the feel of the Montreal Jazz festival in India, brought a spark to music lovers, thus leading it to becoming one of the biggest festivals Mumbai has ever seen. The event, held at the infamous retro looking Mehboob Studios in Bandra was specifically designed to create a blues like atmosphere, with 3 venues, rather stages to choose from, out of which one was strictly for the ‘not so free’ flowing booze. Among the artists who were invited this year were Shemekia Copeland, a Grammy nominee, defined as one of the finest blues singers, (potentially the queen of the blues) and daughter of legendary Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland. Then came Matt Schofield, a British bluesman widely regarded as one of the most distinctive and innovative guitarists to have emerged in this generation, and rated amongst the top ten blues guitarists of all time (Guitar and Bass Magazine) putting him right up there with icons like Eric Clapton. Next on the list was Jonny Lang, a Grammy award winner who topped the Billboard New Artist chart when he was 15! And finally of course, the one and only, Mr. Buddy Guy! Need I say more?

On the 5th of February, the gates opened up to the first day of the festival, the buzzing smiles and people waiting for their favourite bands to kick in. Luke Kenny’s Mojo Juke Box, a rather amateur sounding blues band with Luke Kenny on vocals, began playing their set. An hour later, at 8.00 p.m. sharp, Shemekia Copeland with her enthralling voice (which carried right till the end of the hall without even a mic!), was absolutely spectacular, and she dedicated almost all her songs to all the ladies in the house. Sorry boys! Looks like she loved the women better. Nonetheless, she managed to engage the crowd and made them sway to her tunes. Post Shemekia was the last act of day one, Jonny Lang. A rather young handsome looking lad with a Bryan Adams feel to him, he shredded his guitar like never before! However by this time, people had started leaving the venue, fervently waiting for their blues icon Buddy Guy to play the next day.

Sunday, the 6th of February, saw large crowds pouring in. Celebrities like Dolly Thakore, Kunal Kapoor, Gaurav Kapur, and not to forget our very own Anand Mahindra were all spotted walking around in the confines of the studio. What surprised us all was that every music set began on time and ended right when it was supposed to. Of course Buddy Guy wouldn’t conform to that rule! Come 5 o’ clock, the Kolkata based Saturday Night Blues Band started playing covers like ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, and ‘Red House’, resulting in a brilliant, rather splendid show by this skilled band, which was formed in October of 1999.

Following them was the very famous blues band from Shillong called Soulmate, with Rudy Wallang on the guitars, and Tipriti Kharbangar (Tips) on lead vocals. Their showmanship was immaculate, and the weird robotic dance moves and expressions by Tips never ceased to make people fall in love with them! They played their originals including the song which has always been a hit amongst Soulmate fans, called “I am”, and another one called ‘Blues is my Soulmate’ (how apt could that be?) which were sung to perfection that evening, with this band going all out on an international stage and sharing their passion for the blues just like the rest of them.

Subsequent to Soulmate, Matt Schofield kicked in with some mind-boggling riffs, his band comprising three members including himself, a keyboardist cum bassist, and a drummer. After the set completed, a fifteen minute break kept the people lining up outside stage 3’s entrance, and a few humming the blues like me who couldn’t wait any longer to see the ‘74 years young’ legend, Buddy Guy! And finally amidst a packed hall as Luke Kenny announced his name, you could sense the place vibrate, almost like thunder! It took him a good ten minutes to get up on stage. And there he was! The legend himself, with his guitar strumming to the likes of bands like Cream, and the infamous John Lee Hooker.

Buddy Guy is well known for his antics with his guitar, and that indeed is what he did, twisting and turning the instrument at different angles, playing it behind him, walking into the audience, and throwing away his many plectrums into the crowd. Yes, it was the ‘go crazy, feel the blues mood’. Once he started, there was no stopping him; it was pure magic on stage, as if it were set ablaze! His walk into the audience cost a lot of people a lifetime of memories, which they would probably share with generations to come. For me though, the part was where he in between a song would go ‘oh shucks!’ really did it for me! Another rather engaging act was when he sustained a note for over a minute, and his helper came up on stage with his cup, as he took a sip and started off a riff which blew everyone’s mind. His charisma on stage had transcended into this magical night, which was beyond compare to all of us. And later that evening it felt as if a galaxy of legendary blues superstars had come down to earth and played together. A final impromptu round with Shemekia Copeland, Jonny Lang, and Matt Schofield, ended with Mr. Guy’s guitar string breaking, as he yet again flung it across into the audience, marking the end of a whirlwind experience of a never before seen festival dedicated just to the blues. We take our hats off and bow down to those who respect this genre of music. All I know is yes, indeed it left me with this song in my head ‘You’re damn right I’ve got the Blues!’

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