Delhi’s daredevils Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj yanked Asian Underground out of East London’s shadows and brought it to the glam streets of Mumbai. This was circa 2003, when someone would have pointed to the light switch if you said electronica.
Midival Punditz was one of the acts at the first MTV Lyrca Awards alongside the likes of Trilok Gurtu and Salim Suleiman, and the duo brought out their laptops to play tracks from their self-titled debut album, including the addictive Bhangra Fever. The boys knew their act from the beginning—slick, desi cool. They’ve toured with Ustad Zakir Hussain’s Tabla Beat Science, trained under sarangi guru Ustad Sultan Khan, jammed with UK-based percussionist Karsh Kale and traded notes with rising sitar star Anoushka Shankar. Enough experience to make sure their new album Hello Hello is extremely well conceived.
They step up the folk-filled synth sound with some blistering rock influences and jazzy turns on this, their third studio album. A traditional classical piece on the flute opens the album, but the track Electric Universe breaks out into hissing beats and heavily distorted vocals, turning this baby into a spacey dance number. The feet don’t leave the dance floor with Tonic, though the mood definitely sinks (trip hop does that sometimes) but that’s only until the rap begins.
Hello Hello: Saregama, Rs199.
Midival Punditz is manipulating your feet and mind again with some fat beats and dhol on the Europe-style Atomizer. The track is so 1980s that you’re almost unpacking those high-waisted jeans. Its version of Four Sticks rewinds to hippy highs—only there’s a flute, trumpet, no Bonham but some Indian beats and J Viewz vocalist Noa adding a Jefferson Airplane-esque touch to the Led Zep track.
The exciting bit is that you never know where Punditz is going to take you. When Drifting begins with a sweeping synth sound and some bhangra beats, you’re wondering if this is another Bhangra Fever, but it’s more Brian Eno minus the flute section. I’ve been waiting to hear something new from East India Company vocalist Papon for the longest time now and wasn’t disappointed with Naina Laagey. Although the composition sounds like a watered down version of Ustad Sultan Khan’s Piya Basanti Re, Midival Punditz treats it with synth fills that take you away from that space.
There’s also Sun Mere Sanam by New York vocalist Vishal Vaid, which sounds like an avant-garde Bollywood composition, and there’s feverish Desolate with Shankar Mahadevan. It’s the vocalist’s best collaboration in recent years, considering his last effort A Perfect Rain, on Shankar’s electronica experiment Breathing Under Water, fell short of expectations.
I mention this album because it’s the same circle of friends/artists involved in producing Hello Hello. Kale, who’s credited as co-producer on the album, has also stretched his creative limits here—check out the acoustic version of Electric Universe.
Midival Punditz has cracked the Indian electronica sound. No audience, be it Indian or international, will be heard complaining after a night out with these two.
Lalitha Suhasini is a freelance music journalist.
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