EarthSync, the Chennai-based music label, that produced the astounding Laya Project two years ago, is hosting its annual music festival this weekend. If in Chennai, don’t miss this. Music lover or not, it’s bound to get you.
Yotam Agam and Sonya Mazumdar, the two passionate people behing EarthSync, have been, for the last three years, documented folk, tribal and native music from all over South Asia and mixed them in their own sophisticated studio called Clementine, to produced syncretic sounds that can’t be labelled just “fusion” or “electronic folk”. They enhance the depth, flavour and melody of the ethnic sounds, with funk, electronica, jazz or other layerings.
For Laya Project, a DVD and CD of music recorded in six tsunami-affected countries—Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar and India—a team of seasoned sound recorders, producers, cinematographers and other technicians travelled through seaside towns and villages for two and a half years, recording first hand, their songs, instruments, and the sounds of their sea. It was aired on National Geographic in 2008.
A highlight of this weekend’s festival is a collaboration between music producer Patrick Sebag and sound designer Yotam Agam. They have remixed some of EarthSync’s folk productions to create a new, electronic album. Dancers rom various parts of South Asia and West Asia will perform along with the music on stage.
The evening performance of the day-long festival will be by Ajmer-based Israeli composer Shye Ben-Tzur, who wil perform with his group consisting of Rajasthani vocalists and percussionists in a piece called Shoshan. Ben-Tzur is known to have developed a style of his own, which is called Hebrew Qawwali.
Years ago, he had seen a jugalbandi of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain in Israel and decided to come to India to learn Hindustani classical music. Before that, he was part of a rock band called Sword of Damocles. He sings qawwalis in Hebrew, accompanied by Rajasthani folk tunes and beats by local musicians.
In Ben-Tzur’s compositions such as Daras Bin, none of the sounds that go into one piece get drowned, yet it makes for a syncretic whole. Says musician Aneesh Pradhan, founder of Underscore Records, “The collaboration between qawwali singers and him provides an interesting musical and textual juxtaposition of cultures that seem far apart and are yet connected in many ways. I am extremely interested in knowing how he proposes to take this collaboration with the qawwali singers forward. Will he add more songs to their repertoire or will he also experiment with the formal structure of compositions?”
Seasoned lovers of this genre might some of these answers in this concert. Others, just go for the musical trip.