Advaita – The Silent Sea and more   Leave a comment

When you hear a band like Advaita, you feel inspired; especially if you have grown up listening to or learning Hindustani classical. Advaita is that essential dip in that ocean.

 

It was raining and I was stuck in a traffic jam that took an hour to clear. I was in a bus and it was hot, sweaty. “Mere yaar” started playing on my IPod. I drifted away. The harmonies spun layers of memory and I suddenly missed someone. A man in a temple. Steady, unmoving, all-gazing. As I searched his face he said nothing, but spoke everything. I wanted to go near him, be affectionate. But I couldn’t. He was stone. A decked up Krishna standing amid a sea of devotees. Mere yaar, was all I wanted to sing.

 

My first tryst with Advaita was in a compilation album that had artists from world over. “Mere Yaar” is a song from their first album.

When I saw the band for the first time in Coke Studio, I was intrigued by their humility. It echoed the old-Delhi hospitality which is so rare these days, especially among a young bunch of rockers. The name of their first album is actually the hallmark of their character – grounded in space. They seemed both of the ground and the wind. They had their sails up alright! They were also the first act shot on the sets of Coke Studio. And it was a one-take all okay sound-wise. Of course there were improvisations and customizations to be made. But they stood, listened and experimented and refined. All done with an air of regal patience. Ujwal effortlessly belted out note after note of the harkats with the sophisticated nonchalance of a businessman coolly negotiating deals at the counter. But it was Suhail who entered the song conquering the sound with the sharp evocativeness of the sarangi, an instrument symbolic of Mughal splendour. I felt like I was thrown into a haveli with Persian jaali windows looking out to the Yamuna meandering quietly across the landscape. Such is the elegance that is so definitive of Advaita. Everytime Suhail wields his wand over the sarangi, passed down to him over generations of legendary artists, one feels like there is love being made behind the purdahs. Going the extra mile in sustaining a note after the initial gusto adds a different signature to the entire composition and there is an exchange of wordless dancing between him and the rest of the sound.

Through their new album, The Silent Sea, I feel like he takes the sound to an ecstatic breathlessness and just as it is about to collapse, gently sets it down, starting it back from a scratch. There is more restraint and passion held strongly. Together in this sea Chayan swims like a fish, carving out intricacies with his English vocals. The beauty in his singing is that he sings without trying to be a Led Zeppelin (though he sounds like him) or the idols most Indian male singers have grown up emulating. In a setting that seems to be driving full speed into the roots of Hindustani he sets the gears spinning into a zone that is refreshingly meditative cutting across the classical intensity.

Some of my favorite tracks in their new album are Gorakh, Mandirva, Spinning and Mo Funk.

Words has a dark, brooding side to it, like the clash of the ocean against itself, stirring up a storm,

Ga Ma Pa Ni Pa, so titled because of these opening notes played in dhrut gat on the sarangi, is a rendition by Suhail,

Spinning, by far my favorite, feels like it was written on an empty beach with tears falling on the sand towards the end,

Mo Funk is a techno rap of bols that gets twisted into a mantra sung in the Carnatic style…a good bit of experimentation from Ujwal!

Mandirva lingers and is a spinoff of the original sung by Pt.Jasraj in Raga Bheempalasi with coaxing vocals by Ujwal. The guitar riffs and bols in the background seem to color it more strongly with anger though.

The Silent Sea, the title track, placed last, ends with a note of disturbed incompleteness, and a yearning.

Their album is truly international style with artwork for every song in the inlay booklet, and notes of gratitude to the people who shaped their journey.  Overall there is integrity to the band that sets it apart for me.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, playing these tracks over and over again.

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Posted March 6, 2012 by Deepti G Gujar in music

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