There is simply so much interesting and surprising music happening all across the subcontinent. Here is a just a glimpse of some of the eclectic sounds coming from the mountains, the delta, the plains and the oceans of South Asia.
Different Medicine (Maldives)
Mixing elements of Psychedelia and Prog Rock this group serves up a different medicine indeed. With a sound that is more akin to early Pink Floyd than the sun lashed paradisiacal islands of the Indian Ocean, this song is pleasing in its improbability. Understated vocals suggest the glisten and sparkle of ocean waves while a bluesy guitar meanders like a toddy-soaked fisherman on his way home from a night out with the boys.
Ali Azmat (Pakistan)
Welcome to the Kafkaesque nightmare world of Lahori rocker Ali Azmat. A founding member of Junoon, arguably, the Land of the Pure’s best rock band of its time, Azmat puts together what could be a rocking soundtrack to a dramatic sequence in a Lollywood sci-fi thriller. By turns bizarre and funny, one wonders if there is not a political sub text hidden somewhere in this amazingly creative pastiche of out-sized insects and hirsute villains. If ever there was a reason to know Punjabi!
Tashi Dorji (Bhutan/USA)
Tashi Dorji, is one of America’s great unsung musicians. In particular, he plays a guitar like nothing you’ve ever heard. He makes the strings sound exactly as if you were in a Himalayan monastery, joining in on a Buddhist prayer session. There is that wispy, slightly atonal drone that flutters with the prayer flag. It hesitates and gets going again but never really stops. Dorji uses his guitar as a drum too, an old trick. But to make it sound like a Tibetan hand drum is something fresh! You can’t help but feel the cool breeze coming up the valley to transport you into another world.
Faruq Mahfuz Anam aka James (among other monikers) is one of Bangla-rock’s big stars. A veteran of the scene in Dhaka and among the Bengali diaspora, he leads a rocking performance of Bijli, an appropriately title for a song with the electric blues at its core. An accomplished guitarist, James keeps the train moving swiftly down the tracks with his scratching and occasional picking but it is the two lovely ladies on either side of him that steal the show. One for her voice and the other for a wicked handling of the harmonium!
Cadenza Collective (Nepal)
What a way to wrap this week up! A bit of jazz (Afro-funk, no less) in and from the heart of Kathmandu! Part antidote, part catalyst Cadenza Collective came together like an essential chemical reaction to challenge the rock-culture of Kathmandu’s night life. Well awarded for their efforts, the Collective has collaborated with international stars while tearing through the Himalayan kingdom’s cultural space like an avalanche.