Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Music has always brought the world together; it touches souls and works well when words fail. Taking Indian music to the world has been an effort of banglanatak MusiCal. The organization has collaborated with folk musicians from Bengal and Goa under ‘East West Local (EWL)’. The band consisting of four musicians from Bengal and three from has come together again to work on a new album ‘Ananda Lahari’.
The collaboration is a brainchild of Amitava Bhattacharya of banglanatak MusiCal. The band which performed at the Malaysia International Performing Arts Festival in November 2014 and other festivals across India including Sufi Sutra focuses on world music based on Bengali folk. The band released its first album, TransBangla at WOMEX 2014 at Santiago De Compostella, Spain. “Not only was it a big hit in the world music scene but also entered the Top 30 World Music Chart in 2014,” says Bhattacharya.
The seven member band has Debalina Bhowmick (vocals); Elvis Lobo (acoustic guitar); Carlos Gonsalves (percussion–darbuka, kajon, duff); Steve Francis (bass guitar); Mohan Tati (flute); Sonatan Das (dhol and khol); and Sumanta Das Baul (vocal, khamak and dotara). Wanting to make a difference, the band occupies a niche space in the Indian music scene. It was the success of the first album and the performances that propelled them to work on a second album.
Ananda Lahari is an album of eight tracks including two instrumental numbers. ‘Lahari’ is a jugalbandi between the dotara and the darbuka; while ‘Anandi’ is an instrumental that has the khamak, guitar, darbuka, flute, dhol, khol and bass guitar.
The vocal compositions are based on traditional Bengali folk of various genres including Baul (songs of wandering minstrels spreading love and peace), Jhumur (lifestyle music of tribal communities of Purulia Bankura) and Bhawaiya (lifestyle songs of Rajbanshi communities of North Bengal and Assam).
‘Aaul Jhaul’ and ‘Deen ki Daya’ are Baul numbers by Sumanta; the four songs: ‘Belonging’ (a Bicchhedi number) ‘Gold Sand’ (a Jhumur), ‘Chatga’ (a love song from Chittagong) and ‘Chand-mukh’ (a Bhawaiya from North Bengal) are sung by Debalina.
The artistes say that after working together for two years their bond is getting stronger and they are evolving as a peaceful band. Debalina says: “I enjoy the journey and I feel at home while singing for East West Local. Singing with Elvis, Carlos and Steve brings me happiness.” While Elvis loves the coolness of the band and says that it has brought out the best in him, Carlos says that the band has given him the window to world music. Steve adds: “Respecting each other’s music is the brand of EWL and thus it is a true celebration of diversity.” As for Mohan, he loves the instrumental approach of the whole music planning.
Bhattacharya says that since the album is a collaborative between musicians of Bengal and Goa, and recording facilities and skilled personnel at the Directorate of Art and Culture are good here, they decided to record here. Also, Bhattacharya says: “banglanatak dot com is quite active in the music and folk scene in Goa through events like Sufi Sutra and Bengal Goa Folk Mela. This provided us a third connect with Goan audience. I firmly believe that there is huge opportunity for musicians of both Goa and Bengal to present World Music together in the international scene.”
It’s quite interesting to know details and influences behind these compositions. While the instrumental part of the album is planned by Carlos, Elvis and Steve, it is the Debalina who has planned the vocal and the accompanying Eastern instruments. “It is an excellent product of good teamwork. It is a contemporisation based on traditions,” shares Bhattacharya who adds that there are plans to shoot videos for two songs for YouTube.
A music lover himself, Bhattacharya firmly believes that music has the potential of developing both entrepreneurship –to engage youth in creative industries– and cultural heritage. “It also has the potential of strengthening people to people connect and bringing peace to the world,” says Bhattacharya who has been working to bring rural and urban musicians from Bengal and Goa to come together and plan the musical journey ahead.
The ensemble is contributing in its own way to world music by overcoming barriers of language, celebrating cultural diversity, encouraging contemporary thoughts while respecting traditions. “In our small way, we do exactly this. Understanding the song, composing music and spreading love through music which is the mantra at EWL. Whenever EWL performs, it invites a guest artist, as a gesture of inclusiveness, where the overall idea is to spread peace to the world.