Earthsync Fest Promoting Subaltern Music
Syed Ali Mujtaba
While music communicates across boundaries, traditional music often remains confined to certain geographical locality and practiced by certain traditional community who play them during festivals, death, birth or marriages in the Indian countryside. In order to draw out this form of music from its narrow moorings, the EarthSync music festival (http://www.earthsync.com/flashIndex.html) recently organized in Chennai saw the performance of traditional musicians on the same platform as those of classical and contemporary music traditions.
The EarthSync Festival was a spectacular evening in the world of music. Artistic stage design, video screening, food court and an exceptional musician line-up come together to create a compelling, contemporary experience. The festival in the urban context was on a mission to reintroduce traditional music to new generation by making it look very contemporary.
The fest was a celebration of musical unity in all its rich and harmonious diversity. Musicians interacted with each other beyond music disciplines and cultural boundaries. Different styles and genres flowed from one to other, each complimenting other to create a very unique musical experience. Folk, sacred, Carnatic, classical, Middle Eastern, western and electronic, all came together to celebrate the spirit of sound.
The Earchsync festival was a three a part show. It opened up with the sound of pads and bells, gongs, venna, and fender Rhodes. Carnatic vocalist Anuradha Vishwanathan and Dr K A Gunasakaran flexed their vocal chords to the maximum. Chants by Monks from Tashi Lhunpo monastery filled the atmosphere. Sufi musicians from Nagor, (Ajmer of south India) performed along with Tapatham and Tudumbattam groups.
Music director, Paul Jacob on the bass jammed with percussionists K.V. Balakrishnan, G. Parthasarathy, A. Saravanan and Chen Zimbalista, Veena player Punya Srinivas and violinist B.V. Raghavendran. Other musicians that performed were B. Hemanathan on the Nadeswaram, Bikram Singh on the flute, Kartick & Gotam on pads and bells.
There was a wide range of instruments put on display during the performances. Pads and bells, pad and loop, gongs, fender Rhodes, bells, pad and fx, morsing, fx, duki tharang, kanjira, drums, violin, veena, tavil, Nadaswaram, bass and bass dholak, harmonium etc.
The second part of the programme was held in the food court where exhibition of still photographs by Timur Angin was on. It also saw video screening of tracks of Laya project done by the Earthsync.
The star performer however was DJ Ma Faiza (www.mafaiza.com) who demonstrated her skills in elctro folk. Bikram Singh supported her on flute. Faiza born in Africa to Indian parents has evolved as a DJ in London, playing at some of the biggest parties and festivals on the planet. She writes for several global publications and is an artist and producer. She heads Masti Music (www.mastimusic.com) an electronica-influenced record label based in Pune.
The third segment was much more scintillating than the previous. It began with blowing up of drone, long horn by the monks of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery. After that Nagor sufi singers took the stage by storm. Their folk songs in Tamil made the audience go in trance. A few to jumped and danced in ecstasy during their performances.
There were altogether ten numbers in the last segment. The tapatam jam was a musical delight and song Hai La Sa was the super hit number. The festival came to close with solo performance by Anuradha Vishwanathan and was joined by other musicians making it a memorable evening.
“ It’s through performance that music tradition thrives and the true spirit of music is best experienced through live performance, ” said Ejaz Ahmed, an IT professional who watched the festival from the beginning till end.
“The Earthsync festival was born out of deep respect for musicians and music. It was an attempt to encourage musicians evolve their unique style while uniting music forms of other cultures with the rich ethnic music of their own roots,” said music director Paul Jacob who had set musical scores for Tamil actor Sharat Kumar’s 100th film 'Thalaimagan'.
EarthSync is a world music record label based in Chennai. Through its hi-end recording studio Clementine, EarthSync is committed to nurturing folk, tribal and native music – the roots music through which cultures express themselves across time. Using technology and electronica to bring a subtle and fresh perspective to roots music, EarthSync manages to grab the ears of a wide audience by creating a fresh sound experience.
The label also produces world music visual projects to document rare and unique performances in native locations, some of which have never been documented before.
The Laya Project,(http://www.layaproject.com/flash/flashindex.html) an EarthSync production, is a visual musical project based on the folk music of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Myanmar and Maldives - six Asian countries affected by the tsunami of December 2004. Some of its musicians were farmers, fishermen and non-professional musicians, who were recorded and filmed on-location.
Earthsync festival is a noble idea to nurture and promote traditional musical form. It adds on to the richness of the musical tradition of the country. Such efforts need encouragement and support from all the quarters.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can contacted at email@example.com