Advaita, the first of an eight member band I was lucky enough to come across. Based in New Delhi (one more reason to visit Delhi), this fusion band is made up of not 3, or 4 but 8 individuals who have come together to create magic that lives up to its Sanskrit definition of Advaita – Non-duality.
Advaita encompasses the talents of Abhishek Mathur (Guitars, Electronics), Anindo Bose (Keyboards, Electronics), Chayan Adhikari (Lead Vocals – Western), Aman Singh Rathore (Drums, Percussion), Suhail Yusuf Khan (Vocals – Sarangi, Hindustani), Ujwal Nagar (Vocals – Hindustani), Mohit Lal (Tabla, Percussions) and Gaurav Chintamani (Bass).
Back in 2004, eight dudes who had the common interest of making music got together. Their sole aim was to create music that was uniquely theirs. Eight people collaborating together to create pieces that they all believed in sounds dramatic already. Crazy even. But guess what, Advaita succeeded and went on to give their debut album Grounded in Space early last year.
Abhishek, the lead guitarist shares with Gingerchai the secret behind the oneness that eight musicians share…
How was Advaita formed?
In 2004 a bunch of us from different bands and ensembles got together to try and form a different kind of ‘fusion’ band – although we don’t really care too much for the word fusion. The idea was to make soulful songs incorporating elements of the kind of textures we had imbibed from western rock and pop and merge those with Indian classical melodies and moods, but try and do it in a way that the elements blended seamlessly.
Major Influences in Advaita’s music?
There are too many and they keep on increasing. First of all, Indian Classical music and its inert spirituality and depth. From western music there’s a lot of the classic rock stuff old and new – Pink Floyd, Coldplay. Electronic stuff like Massive Attack, Zero 7, Air and of course other styles of merging East and West from Talvin Singh and Nitin Swahney and projects like ‘One Giant leap’ to the great ‘Shakti’ and stalwarts like the late Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
How different is Advaita from the rest of the Indie Bands in India?
Like many others we are unique in the kind of sound and style we are exploring. Although there are a few other indie bands doing things with folk and classical elements with rock or pop, I think Advaita has a distinct mystical sound. We want to sound psychedelic, but not in the traditional sense. We’re also unique due to the size of our line up!! (Agreed on that note!)
Tell us about Grounded in Space?
Well, it is our first album and the entire process took almost three years to finally take it out, thats a story too large for this interview. (Sobs)
But we’re very proud of the album. Special mention must be made for the support of Mr Shantanu Hudlikar at Yash Raj Studios in Mumbai. The two weeks we spent there recording the album were really memorable.
Inspiration for the lyrics behind the album?
We get inspired by life in general but sometimes the lyrics can be quite abstract like on Suspended or Gates of Dawn. Then there’s some personal stuff like Miliha or Hamsadhwani, and especially So Lost.
Am I right to assume Advaita wants to keep its music at an alternative cum carnatic approach? Is keeping the compositions mellow the motive? Well I personally loved the album.
Not really, we don’t use much carnatic music in our compositions as our classical members are trained in the north Indian Hindustani style. (It was mistake on my part to have confused both Hindustani & Carnatic.)
Frankly we don’t want to be pigeon holed into any specific sound – some of the new material is very different from what one might expect of us – a lot of it is not mellow at all.
How important is clinching a record deal?
Well, one does want to get their music out there and clinching a record deal was a big leap in that direction. But having said that; people are finding many other ways of getting their stuff out to people through other innovative means, especially using the internet. So they might argue a record deal isn’t important. The music business is changing as we speak so one has to keep their eyes and ears open.
Biggest challenge as an Indie band in India?
In this scene to survive is hard enough and then to earn and get your music heard and get shows, etc. The list is huge! In India one big problem is that our market is so much in the grip of Bollywood that there is little room for other things. This is really sad. Because India has a rich tradition in the arts and it seems these days people just want the same nonsensical emotionally plastic stuff over and over again.
The other side of it is that promoters, event companies, radio, TV channels etc just don’t want to give a chance to anything else. Our record company tells us whenever they do sample testing for their releases, Advaita’s album gets a very good response which makes me feel like – people will like us if they get the chance to find out we exist! (You bet! You have a crazy fan right here!)
That’s a very frustrating feeling for us and other indie bands like us who don’t have the resources to market extensively!
If you can tour with another band, say from the local arena, who would that be?
I don’t know – the truth is we like to make our shows the kind where the audience really gets into our vibe so we actually prefer playing alone. But one band we admire a lot on the scene is Avial.
What keeps the spirit high amongst Advaita? I mean there are 8 of you! How do you manage to create music?
We all are good friends and hang out even when we’re not practicing. For any team to function efficiently the members need to have a good personal equation and in a band like ours where there is so much going on in terms of parts and arrangements – it’s a challenge to keep it together and make music that really reflects our collective personality. Motivation is not really a problem because we really believe in what we’re trying to do.
Where does Advaita sees itself in 5 years?
This is hardly the kind of scene where one can plan so far ahead; we’re just taking it one season at a time.
People who love (____) will love our music.
a) People who love staring at the sea will love our music.
b) People who love chocolate will love our music.
Future Albums? Upcoming gigs?
Ya the next album should be out next year – we’ve got the material but we like to take time to let the arrangements and stuff mature.
More about Grounded In Space…
Abhishek shared the making of their debut whereas as an avid Indie music seeker or new music if you will, I have to say I loved this album. It has been on replay mode for some time now. No, there was no exaggeration there. The general feel one gets to this album would be along the lines of drinking hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. I’m serious dude! So wipe that expression off your face.
Considering how those who love a good chocolate bar and enjoy zoning out into the sea would love their music, I wasn’t surprised that I came out loving the tracks of this album.
It was comforting, soulful, and hardly do you hear a song where the lyrics go “Trying to find, find a way to go..” accompanied with an Indian stringed instrument in the background. Which I have now come to know is a Sarangi. The vocals were so unassuming and soothing it comes as no surprise that So Lost is one of my favorite numbers. Although I am going to repeat, the whole album rocked.
Mere Yaar, starts slow and ends up growing onto you. It continues on with English lines in between. Recall, J-pop with its English one liners thrown in just for the benefit of having a non-japanese lyric. Well, this number is NOT one of them! It was a stark difference. The lines blended in so well with its backing Hindi lyrics. That is one classic fusion piece, right there. Highly Recommended!
Several other numbers to look out for would be Raasiya, Hamsadhwani ,Ghir Ghir, Durga for a tad faster bit and I will go on, but instead I’m telling you listen to the entire album. You should catch them live if possible and fill us in here at Indie Rhythms.
To listen to Advaita…
Log onto their Myspace, last.fm or reverbnation sites to give your ears a pleasant preview before they start begging you to go grab the album.
And to keep up with their performances in Delhi and around the nation or perhaps in your non-Indian continent, social networking is a gift.
Author’s Note: Apologies for uber long breaks between articles. Attempts will be made to fill the void.
Author’s Note Continued: If you have been diagnosed with the following, it’s recommended you contact me and I will get back to you with the remedy!
- You have a favorite musician that you want featured in Indie Rhythms
- You know a budding artist and he needs a platform to spread the word
- You came across an album that swept you off your feet or made you crash into a wall even
- You witnessed this amazing live performance of an Indie band and you wanna share the experience with us (OK for this one you cannot directly contact me.)
- You think I need to do a better job
- You simply wanna say “Hi Usha, the series rocks”. (Although this can very well be done at the comment’s section)
Now all of the above would gladly put a smile on my face and perhaps a gift in your mailbox.
Thank You for Tuning in!
Note: Images courtesy of Shiv Ahuja & Abhijeet Singh Chauhan (www.advaitaonline.net)