Music & Dance

Axwell /\ Ingrosso enthral audience with high-octane sounds

Axwell IngrossoAfter calling it quits, cohorts of the erstwhile trio Swedish House Mafia have come back as a team, Axwell /\ Ingrosso. Having debuted at the Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall’s Island in June, they recently wrapped up their gig in Bangalore at Sunburn Arena. At the concert, which was the first for the duo in India, they debuted new songs from an album due later this year like This time we can’t go home, Can’t hold us down, Sun is shining and so are you and On my Way. Their set also had a sprinkling of songs from Swedish House Mafia and from Alesso and Ghecko.

This album, for Universal Music Group’s Def Jam Recordings, is one of the firsts for the duo, as SHM never released an LP of their songs. Says Sebastian Ingrosso, “We’ve been working for almost a year on this album. But we are almost done. We are going to start releasing the singles soon and we are really excited for what’s coming.”

Despite riding a wave that popularised electronic dance music across the world, the brand of music they love to listen to is very different from what they produce and doesn’t always include progressive/house elements. “When it comes to listening to music, electronic music is very low on the list. Both of us listen to a lot of rock, hip-hop and folk. I listen to classical music sometimes,” Ingrosso confesses, to which Axwell adds, “We love listening to stuff we don’t normally get to hear in our line. Sometimes I go on to Spotify and just discover new music.”

A year since their last show in Bangalore for ‘One Last Tour’, this show rounded off their debut in style, as they enthralled the audience with high-octane sounds and a cacophony of pyrotechnics and SFX. How did it feel to be back in Bangalore? Ingrosso responds, “It was really really exciting. The weather is nice and here there’s a certain energy in the air. Last time, it was phenomenal but we didn’t know we would ever come back to India. But the feedback we got on social media for this tour is equally overwhelming; the excitement that we have come back to the city is great.”

Their gig at the Ultra Music Festival 2013 marked an end of an era in electronic dance music, as they parted ways to pursue their solo careers. Will they ever come back again as Swedish House Mafia? “No, that’s not we are thinking about right now,” informs Axwell.

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Gypsy Grooves on the Stage

Gypsies, ostracised from mainstream culture, are survivors, nonetheless. Often seen as ‘outsiders’ and despite being scattered across vast geo-cultural spaces, they are united by a common thread – the richness of their music and dance.

Through the years, their lifestyle has influenced many early forms of modern dance forms as disparate as north-Indian Kathak, Spanish flamenco and Egyptian belly dance. Giving Bangaloreans a glimpse into what a Gypsy life is like and how they have influenced modern day culture, a dance performance part of The SaraLuna Dance Project will be held on Saturday.

The SaraLuna project comprises of Indu Manohar and Kavya Viswanathan

The SaraLuna project comprises of Indu Manohar and Kavya Viswanathan

The project, founded in June this year by Studio Tarang – an open cultural space for dance and drama, traces the journey of the Roma people – often referred to as the ‘gypsies’ – through their diverse dance forms. “It will be an evening of dance, showcasing flamenco and belly dance. Many modern forms that we see today owe much of their early development to Spanish gypsies or gitanos and Egyptian gypsies known as the ghawazi,” says Indu Manohar, one of the founders.

 Indu, who dances kathak, odissi and flamenco, dons the hat of Luna and her friend, the belly dance instructor, odissi dancer and co-founder of Tarang, Kavya Viswanathan is Sara. Indu adds, “Kavya is a globetrotter. In order to learn the dances of the nomadic community, she had travelled around the world. In fact, she was in Turkey earlier this year and will chase down the last gypsy dancers of Egypt in November.”

Together, reflects Indu, they “seek to explore the contradictions of the gypsy existence through dance – they are united but diverse, nomadic but have a home in music and dance, persecuted but imitated, assimilated but kept estranged.” They also hope to study the different Romani trail dance forms that have come in contact with different cultures and civilisations through intercultural performances.

Saturday’s event will herald a series of performances throughout the city in the coming months. The dancing duo aim to raise awareness about the community’s immense contribution to culture around the world and also throw light on their current plight through workshops, classes and social activities. 

The SaraLuna Project will be held at Opus in Vasanthnagar at 7.30 pm on September 6.


 

First published in The New Indian Express on September 4, 2014

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Swiss films come to Bangalore

With the ‘Swiss Film Week’, taking place until September 1, the Swiss Consulate in Bangalore looks forward to celebrate a century of German teaching in India. Around six films — 4 fiction films and two documentaries — will be showcased at the festival at Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan. Rolf Frei, the consul general throws more light on the idea behind the screening as he says, “In Switzerland, we have four official languages; the most widely spoken one is German. The films we have chosen are films made by renowned Swiss filmmakers. By showcasing these films, which are in German, we aim to acquaint the people with our cinema culture.”

The festival will kickstart with a screening of ‘More than Honey,’ a documentary by Markus Imhoof, which was the country’s nomination for the ‘Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film’ in 2013. ‘More than Honey’ examines the causes for the dwindling population of bees across the world. In the course of 91 minutes, it captures insights from a Swiss beekeeper living on an alp, a brain researcher in Berlin, a pollen trader in China and more, documenting their lives.

Frei is confident that the festival will receive a good response and is eager to reach out to more people around the country after the screening in Bangalore. “We want to take the festival to five other cities. We are yet to finalise the details.”

The films

Film: Die Standesbeamtin (Will you marry us?) by Micha Lewinsky

Duration: 90 min

Screening: August 30, 8 pm

A civil registrar, Rahel Hubli has long given up on finding the ‘love of her life.’ But her outlook is set to change when her childhood friend, Ben, suddenly shows up. Love soon blooms between them. The movie, released in 2009, packs in humor, music and romance as Rahel tries to circumvent a marriage proposal from Ben as she is already married.

 

Film: Der Kreis (The Circle) by Stefan Haupt

Duration: 101 min

Screening: August 31, 6 pm

Released in February this year, the story is set in Zurich of 1958 at the underground organisation, Der Kreis which pioneered gay emancipation across Europe. The protagonist Ernst Ostertag, a young teacher falls in love with Robi Rapp, a German cabaret artist. Torn between his bourgeois existence and his love for Robi, Ernst joins Der Kreis and witnesses the rise and fall of the organisation.

 

Film: Der Verdingbub (The Foster Boy) by Markus Imboden

Duration: 108 min

Screening: August 31, 8 pm

A 2011 film, it is the story of Max, a 12-year old orphan who goes to work with a farmer, Bosiger. But here, Max, instead of finding a loving home, gets treated like a workhorse and is constantly humiliated and abused by the farmer’s son, Jacob. When his teacher stands up against the brutality, it only makes matters worse for Max at home. The only saving grace for him is his friendship with Berteli, who was also taken on to work at the farm. The story continues as he dreams of living in a fantasy world with Berteli in Argentina, where everything is hunky dory and where even hayforks are made of silver.

Film: Vaters Garten – Die Liebe meiner Eltern (Father´s green – The love of my parents) by Peter Liechti

Duration: 93 min

Screening: September 1, 6 pm

The film examines the strained relationship between the director and his parents. For decades, they avoided meeting each other as much as possible. The film follows a re-encounter years later between them. In the process, Peter understands more about their individual personalities,  their marriage and the love they have for each other which helped them sustain the bond for 62 years.

 

Film: Die Schwarzen Brüder (The Black Brothers) by Xavier Koller

Duration: 98 min

Screening: September 1, 8 pm

Die Schwarzen Brüder (The Black Brothers) is a poignant story of a young boy, Georgio, who is forced to work as a chimney-sweep in Milan. Saddened by his misfortune and the abject condition he is living in, he forms a community – ‘Black Brothers’. Together, they defend themselves against the attacks of street urchins called Die Wolfe. The film traces Georgio’s struggle in Milan and his escape back to Switzerland.


First published in The New Indian Express on August 28, 2014

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Two artistes, three villages, one Bus Project

Should art only be confined to closed spaces, the high-end galleries and convention centres, catering to only the elite and the art enthusiasts? Two artists, Martin John and Saji Kadampattil have attempted to answer this question and in doing so, have tried to reimagine the idea of a performance space. They embarked on a journey a year ago in Thrissur on what they called ‘The Bus Project’.

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‘The Bus Project’, was a travelling stage that moved from place to place and interacted with local audience in villages like Manakody, Pazhuvil and Mattom. For the production, the duo used a bus as a performing arena and developed shows around it. The objective, Saji reiterates, was to move away from the conventional theatre spaces and cultivate the idea of an interactive theatrical display. Saji recalls, “We got a bus and altered it. We created two performance spaces –the bus opened on the side to become a platform where actors staged their plays and we converted the top as well. It was like a carnival on wheels.”

They used the bus as the central theme for the production, Odichodichu – Oru Bus Natakam, delving into the history and evolution of the mode of transportation which has become a life support for thousands of people in Thrissur and everywhere else. Saji says, “We had staged which revolved around the premise of ‘a disappearing bus’. The bus veers off in the wrong direction and falls into a deep ditch. The play is a parallel between two worlds — one that takes place inside the bus and the other, of the people who are trying to pull the bus out of the ditch.” Then there were workshops on sculpture making and painting and music performances.

By offering grants, the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) has supported the artists in their endeavour to make theatre accessible to the public. Arundhati Ghosh observes, “This was a very interesting initiative of building an audience for theatre. Unlike others who drum up an audience by distributing flyers and making announcements, their idea was simple — to take theatre to the masses and make theatre accessible to everyone.”

Will the bus travel to other cities in the country? “We haven’t been able to do that due to roadblocks pertaining to certification and bus permits. We are helping them get in touch with civil authorities regarding this,” says Arundhati.

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First published in The New Indian Express on August 21

 

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‘I make music because I love it. Not for fame’ — singer Manjeet Ral

Here’s my interview with singer Manjeet Ral of the Singh is King fame and a member of the erstwhile band ‘RDB’ — an acronym for Rhythm, Dhol, Bass — , about his latest music ensemble ‘Manj Musik’ and upcoming collaborations. 

Manjeet has just completed a project for Dr Cabbie, a comedy caper co-produced by Salman Khan. Set in Canada, it is the story of a young Indian doctor who embarks on a coming-of-age journey. And keeping with the Indian-ness of the movie is the title track ‘Daal Makhani’ created by Manjeet. “They loved the work I had done on Shera di Kaum from Speedy Singhs (2011). Hence they asked me to produce the title song for this movie and one other song. The title track fuses all the fun elements. It will officially go live on YouTube on August 19 and subsequently on TV.” 

Apart from this, he has collaborations with Vishal-Shekhar and Sunidhi Chauhan lined up as well, he tells us.

Manj Musik was born a little over a year ago, following the demise of his brother, Kuly. For Manjeet, RDB was a symbol of Kuly’s musical prowess, his dedication and their combined effort. So he didn’t want to show disrespect to his brother by continuing the band on his own. “RDB was intrinsically what Kuly and I created. I didn’t want to take credit for RDB’s music,” he says. 

Ask him to describe his music style and he quips, “It is a good mix of western and eastern beats. My sound is influenced by everything from hip-hop and house to rock and classical genres. I feel my music is very experimental. Very futuristic.”

Having spent his childhood in the United Kingdom and then relocating to Toronto, Manjeet enjoys a significant clout in the international music circles. He has worked with quite a few international names, most notably the likes of Ludacris, Snoop Lion, LMFAO, T-Pain and Public Enemy. “It was an amazing experience. They are very professional in their work and they taught me a lot about music,” says the star, who is also the ambassador in India for 50 Cent’s brand of headphones ‘SMS Audio’.

But in no way, he feels, he has reached the pinnacle of success yet. He avers, “I am still climbing the ladder and I have a lot to achieve before I can say my music is the best. I make music because I love this, not for fame. I do it for the people who come to listen to my music and I feel accomplished when they appreciate my efforts.”

Manj Musik comprises of Manjeet Ral, his wife Nindy Kaur and Raftaar (who doubles up as the lyricist). To know more, visit facebook.com/ManjMusik

Published in The New Indian Express on August 18, 2014

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Of music that transcends various genres; here’s DJ Funkagenda, the DJ who takes life one day at a time

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder

UK-based music producer and DJ Funkagenda’s music doesn’t belong to one genre. There’s a bit of house, techno, progressive, dubstep, drum and bass– it is ‘dance music,’ something that every music lover can enjoy. After a performance in Mumbai, he was in Bangalore on August 17 as part of the Vh1 Supersonic Club Night tour. “My set was something different — something with bigger builds and drops,” he says about his gig and goes on to talk more about his music in general.

Over the span of his music career, which began when he was 20 years old, he has collaborated with many renowned artistes like Fatboy Slim, Black Eyed Peas (for the album ‘The E.N.D.’), Basement Jaxx, Moby, and Dirty Vegas. And then there are the festivals and clubs he has played at across the globe. He recalls an interesting experience when he was in India a few years ago. He says, “Once after a show, I had gone to bed and was sleeping soundly when I was woken up by a knocking sound. I answered the door, and it was two guys who had been at my show. They had snuck into the hotel, found my room and wanted me sign posters and take pictures.”

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder had always been musically inclined. His favourite memory from his childhood days was when he would watch his grandfather work on a few backing tracks. His musician grandfather, along with his dad, was his biggest musical influence. He reminisces, “Once during the music sessions, when my granddad went out of the room, I started playing the notes. When he heard me play, he exclaimed, ‘Wow, was that you? You should start playing.’ That Christmas he got me a keyboard and the next thing I knew I was completely immersed in it and learnt to play other musical instruments too.”

As a young boy, he played as a keyboard player in various rock and jazz bands and a bass player in a folk band. But it wasn’t until he started making dance music that he really knew what he wanted to do with his life. “I love the energy of the dance floor and the way the music moves people,” he opines.

His original mix, ‘One day at a time’ is his personal favourite as it was written at a time when his life went through an upheaval. He recounts, “I used to have an alcohol problem when I was younger. When I moved out to the states, I was homesick. Moreover with all the changes that were happening in the music industry then, I began to doubt myself and where I was. It was a really difficult time and I started seeing a counselor about it. And then there was this moment when I just said to myself, ‘I’m not going to drink again’. And literally the day after that, I wrote ‘One Day At A Time’. It was a turning point in my life.”

Funkagenda has already completed two shows in London and Lithuania. After the India tour, he will be jetting to Los Angeles for quick shows in Orlando and Houston, before driving up to the ‘Burning Man’, a week long event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. He adds, “I am also currently working on an album, so that’s the main thing on my plate right now. I also have a lot of exciting tours coming up.”

Published in The New Indian Express on August 16, 2014.

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Healing lives through ‘Ascent of Harmonies’

Back in 2009, musician Vinay Rao conducted a music workshop at the Loreto Day School in Sealdah, Calcutta. Loreto educates children who come from well to do economic backgrounds as well children from impoverished and abusive backgrounds, who live on the school premises. This inspired the 24 year old, who is part of the band ‘Fourth and Main’, to start his own musical programme to enrich and empower lives of less privileged children through music. Vinay says, “Seeing how music helped the children at Loreto, I had the desire to start a similar program on a regular basis in Bangalore.” Thus Ascent of Harmonies (AOH), a Bangalore- based registered Non-Profit music outreach programme was born.

AOH

In a chat, Vinay tells me more about how Ascent of Harmonies aims to impact young minds.

About the programme

The children who live and study here have been rescued from various circumstances. There are children who used to work as laborers, beggars and some who have been abused. There are also many who come from dysfunctional families, those who have dropped out from other educational institutions due to various reasons and orphaned children. These are children who are recovering from physical and mental abuse and we want to help them through music therapy.

We work in collaboration with the APSA (Association for Promoting Social Action) Dream School Project in Bangalore. The Ascent of Harmonies was officially registered in 2011 and our music outreach program in collaboration with APSA began in July 2013. We have been working with them over the last one year.

 

The music education program is for 20 hours, 5 days a week. We have daily music classes and when required additional practice sessions. Currently our curriculum is focused around guitars and vocal classes. We wish to expand the program by including keyboard studies. We also teach English as a second language (ESL) through lyrics and songs.

 

The experience has been phenomenal in terms of the impact we were able to make. We have over 40 students at the moment.  

AOH 1609657_1409420529307744_101554053_n

How do you sustain the programme?

Since we teach the children for free, we were fortunate to raise funds for this program in India and also abroad. We have also used crowd funding programmes like Indiegogo.

Looking ahead

We want the program to grow over time and make a larger impact in terms of music education and therapy in India. We hope to provide this opportunity of music education to more children who do not have access to it. We plan to raise awareness primarily through benefit concerts and through other musicians.

Managing your music career

My passion for music and the outreach program are linked. I do not differentiate between them. I get to teach music and use this as a means to help people while at the same time working on my own material with my band.

 

Published on July 14, 2014 in The New Indian Express. 

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Music and lyrics to drive home a point

Where the mind is not clear

And you are wondering why

‘Cause they look at you strangely

And condition your life

I am taught what love is

And what one should mind

I learn what hurt is

And lonely is my life

The head grows heavy

And the world is going round

I look for someone

And they are all not found

(Chorus)

Give us love

Give us moments

Give us time

Not just tokens

No symbols of care

No symbols of air

Baby baby baby

It is time for us to dare

I take my little time

The moments and many nights

I see I am human

Touch, pain and the sighs

As the mind is now clear

And I stand for my rights

It’s not about lust

Or love or a cry

There is no point listening

To all their advice

Let us take what we wanted,

It is our feel for life

(Repeat Chorus)

So your mind is upheld

And we are not too shy

Just give us some loving

No reason to hide

We seek little rainbows

Not colours not lies

We don’t want the pot

Of gold not the high life

We are just simply loving

Making gay

Making life

Don’t throw us the dice

Until its coloured

With life

(Repeat Chorus)

This is the song Head Held High, a song that tells the poignant story of a gay individual.

A portrait of a homosexual person’s pain and struggles, the number is presented by a band called Friends of Linger, which inherently believes in the inclusion of such individuals in the larger community.

In a society that does not accept gays and lesbians and denies them their human rights, the band hopes that this song will drive home the message of tolerance.

I spoke to Sharif D Rangnekar, writer of the song and vocalist of the band, to know more.

Excerpts:

Birth of the band

The idea was to get a chance to perform live on stage. It took shape when a few of us expressed a desire to perform while out on one of our karaoke nights. Thanks to Adhir Ghosh, a well known guitarist who was part of bands like Five8 and Kitchen Sink, we finally formed what is called the Friends of Linger. We then began to sing songs that had purpose — music that would send out messages of inclusion and tolerance which is what all of us believed in.

The song

This song is an ode to the gay rights movement in India and elsewhere. We were inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s Where The Mind Is Without Fear. Fear is what sexual minorities live with.  The song is a story about the journey of a gay individual who lives and grows in a society that is overtly heterosexual, which is always in denial of the existence of homosexuals.

With some hard-hitting lyrics, it attempts to tell listeners what dilemmas such individuals go through and how they accept who they are. They need the confidence to demand what is theirs — basic human rights. We hope that more voices are raised in support of the marginalised LGBT community.

The reception

In just three days of the release, the reception has been amazing. It has been viewed by over 14,000 people across the world. The song has reached LGBT groups in Tampa and Vancouver! We even have young gay men in cities such as Bangkok calling the song an ‘anthem’ of sorts. All we ask for is the change in the attitude of the society!

A personal take

Homosexuality is god-given. It is as natural as heterosexuality. An assumption that majority rules is unfair and is a reflection of a society that believes might is right and therefore to bully or dominate is an acceptable form of violence. I think India’s view on democracy is under question at this point.

What’s next for band?

We are hoping more people share this track and word-of-mouth spreads awareness. We would be performing at different venues in the months to come and this song would be on our set list. We also plan to create more tracks related to social issues and love.

You can watch the video here

Friends of Linger is:

  • Vocals: Craig Cranenburgh, Devyani Shankar, Deepak Sharma, Robin Mathew, Sharif D Rangnekar, Smiti Malik, Sophie Jane Allen, Varun Kapoor.
  • Guitars: Adhir Ghosh
  • Bass: Steve Peter
  • Drums: Aveleon Vaz / Siddharth Jain
  • Keyboards: Shiv Ahuja / Rohit Gupta
Friends of Linger - a Delhi-based concept band

Friends of Linger – a Delhi-based concept band

 Smiti, Devyani,Sharif, Adhir 14

Published on July 19, 2014 in The New Indian Express. 

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Culture, Music & Dance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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