SHASWATA KUNDU CHAUDHURI, Kolkata: A big wall of sound. That’s the first thing that hit us at the Sarathy Korwar concert. Performing in Kolkata at The Vault, the London-based percussionist’s band was not quiet when making their melodic point. Dressed in orange-red jerseys with ‘Fly Immigrants’ written on the front, the band stretched the sonic spectrum to its imaginable limits to drive home the point.
In India for a four-city tour to promote his second album — the critically acclaimed More Arriving featuring rappers from Mumbai and Delhi, Sarathy’s creations belong to an intense breed of experimental music flowing on jazz arrangements.
The major undercurrent of the band’s soundscape was fast and furious. When it did relapse into peaceful lulls in parts, it was more like catching a breath before breaking into another high octane sprint.
Sarathy’s drumming was fluid, encircling his bandmates’ instruments and going in for rapid drum rolls – agile and deadly. The saxophone and synthesizer tried to keep things lighter by virtue of their sonorosity, unlike the bass which was the monster in the dungeon-like venue, reverberating off walls with big booms.
Mumbai-based rapper MC Mawali from hip hop crew Swadesi was part of the line-up while Kolkata rappers StreetFood Music were guest artistes. Mawali’s insightful and gritty lyrics thrown mindlessly inside the eclectic music mix added a raw edge.
StreetFood Music rapped spontaneously in Bengali whenever they found space and drew warm applause from the meagre turnout. The two songs they performed on were totally improvised but none missed a step.
When the band performed Coolie, a track from More Arriving, things really heated up. An off-key saxophone played the intro, its mid-range sound tweaked by processors to make it psychedelic. Suddenly, the sound totally changed to a funk beat and took on a colourful form, sounding alarmingly similar to stuff one hears during wedding processions – loud, raucous and randy. But this sound had class, making the drink-sipping crowd hit thumkas with their hips.
“Those were groovy tunes they played,” said Nancy, a concert-goer. She was amongst the 30-odd people who turned up for the gig. Even though high-end pubs effectively limit the probable herd to upper-middle classes, one could surely expect a better turnout.
Does the fault lie solely on ineffective marketing? Or should one look at the audiences’ reluctance today towards paying money to watch indie musicians perform? Most importantly, what does it reveal about the support for the city’s independent music scene? Food for thought.
Naturally, this was a big blow for the organizers financially, because the logistics of getting a foreign act (and a big name) is quite staggering. Moreover, such a poor turnout is not a positive incentive for the band to come and perform again. Only the city will suffer if it loses out on such performances.
Check out the video of Sarathy Korwar’s song ‘Mumbay’ featuring MC Mawali: