South Asian nations bond over music at festival in capital

February 23rd, 2009 - 6:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) The peoples of the region renewed cultural ties at the three-day South Asian Bands Festival at the 16th century Purana Qila in the capital Feb 20-22 when the newly-restored royal quarters amid sprawling manicured lawns reverberated with the sound of powerful music.
The refrain was “We were never more united before” - as musicians from India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Nepal sang of peace, love, friendship, angst and human relationships to a frenzied crowd of 5,000.

The music was popular rock - but the compositions were original.

The festival was organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the external affairs ministry and a Delhi-based cultural organisation, Seher.

The second edition of the festival, which was last held in Dec 2007, drew new talent from the south Asian region like Souls Sounds from Sri Lanka, Trio from Maldives, Who’s Your Daddy from Bhutan, Miles from Bangladesh, Func & Shaair and Vishal-Shekhar from Mumbai.

Delhi-based folk rock-and-blues band Parikrama made its presence felt with two new original scores, “La Chaim” (or To Life) and “Screaming Town”. “La Chaim”, a psychedelic number, influenced heavily by Pink Floyd, befuddled listeners momentarily with its opening bars, which sounded right out of a Floyd album. It was heavy on guitars.

“This is the first time Delhi heard ‘La Chaim’. We haven’t been playing it much. It is Floydish and comfortably numb. It goes into different places all at once,” lead vocalist of Parikrama Nitin Malik told IANS.

The band has just finished recording a single, called “One”, for the 26/11 victims of the Mumbai terrorist attacks and “for the people who fought and died and the journalists who worked round the clock”. “The song conveys a simple message that you can try what you want, but at end of the day, we all are affected by it,” Malik explained.

The band, which usually sticks to retro and classic rock and folksy blues, also struck a rapport with the audience by performing another special 26/11 number, “But, it rained”, which has been made into a video.

The fact that the capital, which loves music, “does not discriminate between nations so long as the music is good,” as Malik said, was evident from the response of the crowd to Soul Sounds, a gospel band from Sri Lanka.

The all-woman 25-member choir, which is playing in Delhi for the third time, won over the audience with its melody and harmony-based repertoire of semi-pop, gospel, classical and traditional Sri Lankan sounds.

The band recently won three medals at the World Choir Games, gospel music competition, in Austria.

“We like to play gospel music but we also recompose covers,” said Soundarie David, a lawyer by profession who leads the band. The thread that binds the members is that they went to the same school- The Holy Family Convent- in Sri Lanka together.

Journalist-cum-rocker Kunga T. Dorji, who heads the all-male band, Who’s Your Daddy, from Bhutan is just four-months-old on the pro-stage.

This is Dorji’s first major concert outside his small Bhutanese town of 50,000, “where people are not tuned into rock”.

“This is our first major concert outside the country and we were overwhelmed,” said Dorji, who wears his national dress “gho” on stage, along with band members, mostly young Bhutanese boys.

The band, which debuted at a month-long coronation festival in honour of the fifth king of Bhutan, swears loyalty to hard rock outfits like AC/DC, Megadeath and Rage Against the Machine.

“We play covers outside, but our original numbers are in Dzongkha - our local language. We sing of patriotism,” said the 35-year-old editor, who feels in terms of demographics, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations are the most powerful and the largest block and “has very good music, which can be used as a platform of greater expression.”

Kolkata-based Skinny Alley’s hard-hitting lyrics and finely-nuanced guitar play, touched a chord with the audience, several of whom were women. Lyricist-vocalist Jayshree, who addressed issues pertaining to the modern urban woman and human relationship in well-developed narratives, rendered substance to the compositions, which swung between classic and hard rock; laced with shades of jazz.

“I am working on experimental lyrics for Big Noise, another band I am associated with. The lyrics serve as an instrument in my new numbers. I am trying it for the first time,” the lyricist-musician told IANS.

The concert closed with electrifying performances by Maldives-based Trio, Robin and the New Revolution from Nepal and performances by Vishal Shekhar from Mumbai.

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