Tag Archives: calcutta

Karnivool, Live and Loud at The Festival, Nicco Park, Calcutta (11/1/2015)

17 Jan

Dissidence is the mother of cohesion.

True words. We here at Top Five Records, for instance, may appear, on the surface, to be a bunch of music loving blokes, who are forever in unanimous agreement with everything that appears on the site; the sort who live in blissful harmony in the interwebs and who listen to good music that they all love. But the truth is far, very far from that.

Consider the Aussie progressive rock band, Karnivool.

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Yeah, them.

In my opinion, and I’m sure, most of T5R would disagree, Karnivool is one of the greatest, yet one of the most under-rated bands, that exist in the world today. If you’re willing to look beyond the droning monotones of indie rock, and the tedium of modern day metal, Karnivool brings to the table, an oeuvre of music, so staggering in design and complexity that it leaves the attentive listener absolutely astounded. In the three albums that they have released since their formation in 1997, they’ve explored and experimented with styles of metal and alternative rock that very few bands have even dared to try.

So when Karnivool decided to drop by my hometown I was just short of doing this:

OMG I'm so excited I can't hide it OMG

OMG I’m so excited I can’t hide it OMG

I would hazard a guess that for the uninitiated, the concert, like most progressive rock concerts, was a deadly bore. But for people familiar with Karnivool, as for those who are familiar with progressive rock music, it was a rewarding experience. Prog rock works in a funny manner. There’s this learning curve associated with most prog rock songs, and the more you hear them, the better you understand the subtle complexities involved in them; and the better you understand these subtle complexities, the more you appreciate the music. Like a movie that you’ve seen a hundred times over – which you now know so well, that the hair on the back of your neck tingles when that epic scene is about to arrive, and you relish it in its entirety when it finally does.

Ian Kenny, the vocalist, wasn’t exactly the verbose type, so he let their music do most of the talking – which was pretty much what we wanted, because it was brilliant. He did seem to be enjoying the crowd support though, and looked relatively relaxed while singing – that is saying something, because it is honestly difficult to sing live, along to music that is so multi-layered and variable in terms of time signatures and rhythm. Steve Judd, the brilliant sticksman did some masterclass work on the drums (again, extremely commendable, because, you know, prog.)

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They performed songs from their three albums, including some of my favourites – Simple Boy, Cote, Themata, Rocquefort, Mauseum. It was a fine display of musicianship and technical prowess and they kept the fans’ attention at a steady high throughout the evening, and when they finally ended their set list with a heavily requested “New Day”, it provided the perfect denouement to their act.

I’ll stop here, and let you check out some Karnivool songs for yourself. I’m sure these songs will evoke mixed feelings – some will love them, while others will find them to be a drag.

But then, as a wise man once said, dissidence is the mother of cohesion. So it’s all cool in the end.

Subhayan Mukerjee

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Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Kolkata 2014 – Day 2

12 Nov

Read our day 1 coverage here.

November is a wonderful time to have open air festivals in Calcutta. The weather, after having remained consistently lethal for the past six odd months, begins to enter a rather pleasant phase. The sky is the perfect blue. The heat doesn’t kill you any longer. The sweat dries faster. A zephyr actually exists. And best of all, unlike other places (cough cough, Bengaluru) where the rain often plays spoilsport, it remains wonderfully high and dry all day round.

So when Day 2 of the Calcutta edition of the Bacardi Nh7 Weekender kicked off on a fine Sunday afternoon, it was all smiles, laughter and cheer that rang around the beautifully set up Nicco Park grounds.

I was slightly late to the show that day, and when I reached, the first act had already begun at the MTS Discover arena – the French duo, As Animals. Their music was a rather interesting conflation of electronic and alternative, and seemed like the sort that you’d enjoy even more when intoxicated – which the lead singer Zara, going by her completely phased out appearance, probably was. But let that not deter me from transcribing the acts that were to follow.

After a brief stint with these French trippers, we crossed the English channel, and went off to the Red Bull Tour Bus to see Houdini Dax, an extremely … (no points for guessing) British three piece brit-rock suit. Houdini Dax hail from Cardiff, Wales, and they look and sound absolutely, and quintessentially British. They played a rather energetic gig upon the Tour Bus (which included a surprise Beatles cover), and the frontman even ventured down in an attempt to woo the women with his rather “fragile” paper heart. And oh! Did I mention that their bassist looked like a complete Paul McCartney knock off?

While the Houdini Dax was galvanizing a small crowd around the Tour Bus, an eclectic Indian folk outfit was slowly turning out to be the center of attraction of the evening. Maati Baani at the Dewarists’ Stage packed an incredible amount of Indian punch. They had it all – Hindustani classical, Bengali baul, rustic folk, Sufism – peppered with a dash of new age funk and world music. Fronted by the beautiful Nirali Kartik, and a host of other supporting musicians, they carved out a beautiful one hour of varied and soulful compositions in an environment that was predominantly Western-heavy.

Maati Bani

Maati Bani

Meanwhile, the ebullient (and yet another French) duo, The Inspector Cluzo had started creating a ruckus at the Bacardi arena. We went over to find a bearded frontman hurling profanities at everything that was American and British. He proudly touted the fact that their music was absolutely natural – with nothing that was pre-recorded and sampled – and all that they used to perform live, were not laptops and tracks, but their bare hands. On that note, he sent a few heavy riffs flying into the crowd while the drummer entertained us in some rather unique ways. Of the number of songs they performed, one was particularly memorable. This one, titled “F*ck the bass player”, was basically a song about the uselessness of a bassist in a band. Needless to say, they didn’t have one, but it did raise several eyebrows and ruffle many puritan feathers in the crowd.

The Inspector Cluzo

The Inspector Cluzo

The Inspector Cluzo then gave way to the Sky Rabbit on the Red Bull Tour Bus. This four piece electro-rock group from Mumbai played out a rather lackluster gig, following which we headed back to the Dewarists’ stage to see Appleonia – which wasn’t all that great either. The next big thing that we were particularly stoked about was Indian Ocean, which was still a good one hour away. So to while away this gap, we decided to remain near the MTS Discover stage, and munch on pizza slices, to see who filled in for Pentagram (who had cancelled earlier that day). And boy, were we in for a pleasant surprise.

The Ganesh Talkies, fronted by Suyasha SenGupta turned out to be The Undisputed Find of the Day. Suyasha’s captivating stage presence kept the whole crowd hooked while the extremely groovy rhythms and guitars kept a number of heads bobbing up and down. The Talkies’ set included songs from their Technicolor and Three Tier Non AC albums – the result being a heady mix of alt-rock, reggae and dance.

The Ganesh Talkies

The Ganesh Talkies

Next up, were two stalwart acts – both of which have been around for more than two decades and enjoy a cult following in the country: Mumbai based alt-rockers Indus Creed on the Bacardi Stage and Delhi based fusion masters Indian Ocean on the Dewarists’. For me, the decision was a no-brainer, and after having spent not more than ten minutes being bemused by the former, I headed off to have my mind blown to smithereens by the latter.

Indian Ocean is one of those bands that aren’t just heard or listened to. They are experienced. One’s perception of their music transcends far beyond the realms of the sensual, and borders on what could be called the spiritual. Be it Himanshu Joshi’s alaaps, or Rahul Ram’s bass riffs, or Tuheen Chakravorti’s Tabla – they manage to create those picture perfect moments when tranquility and ecstasy co-exist in harmony. Their gig that evening, was essentially part of their tour for promoting their new album Tandanu, and therefore most of the songs were new to me. The fact that they still managed to reach deep down and evoke a plethora of feelings just proved beyond doubt that they continue to be a class above the rest – even after all these years.

Indian Ocean

Indian Ocean

Towards the end of Indian Ocean’s masterclass performance, I had to take my leave to go pay a visit to the Red Bull Tour Bus where Sriram TT and his gang of garage rockers – Skrat, were setting out for a hard hitting, angst-ridden gig. This would be my third Skrat gig in a little less than a year, but it turned out to be as fun as it always had been. Belting out their heavy, riff driven melodies, and their tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“love is like pool / all colour but only balls”) they brought in a completely new dimension to the prevailing mood at the venue, which had just been charged up, rather emotionally by Indian Ocean’s poignant tunes.

Skrat!

Skrat!

Forty five minutes of Skrat later, the entire crowd around the Nicco Park grounds gravitated near the Bacardi Arena where the headliners were about to take off. Mutemath, the American alt-rock group, who even boasted a Grammy nomination to their name, were known to some, and unknown to others. But from the moment they kicked off amid a flurry of confetti and electro-rock tunes, there was not one soul who didn’t have a huge smile plastered on his or her face. I’ll confess that I hadn’t thought so highly of Mutemath before (my primary exposure to their music being a soundtrack on the Asphalt 8 Android game) but boy. Were they bloody good! Paul Meany’s eclectic vocals, his dexterity with keyboards and keytars, Darren King’s thumping beats and not to mention Todd Gummerman’s wonderful guitar work – all fell in perfectly to deliver one of the best live experiences that I’ve ever seen in my life. They performed most of their popular hits, including “Chaos”, “Blood Pressure” and their Grammy nominated single, “Typical”. In the end, they added a wonderful twist when Paul got on top of a rather bling-bling mattress (or was it a magic carpet?) and went sailing over the crowd, while simultaneously performing with consummate ease.

Mutemath

Mutemath

It was close to 10 PM when the burning embers of the fantastic evening began to fade. The lights on the stages had been turned off. One of Quidich’s supercool quadcopter-cameras whirred above my head. I looked around at the venue that was quickly emptying and  couldn’t for the life of me reconcile the pity sight with the extravaganza it had just hosted.

So there you are. That was the end of the epic Calcutta Weekender. It had been a grand success, but if I had to choose I would probably choose Day 1 over Day 2 as my favourite.

As they say after Durga Pujo here in Calcutta – “asche bochor abar hobe”,  you can rest assured that T5R will be back for it next year as well.

 

Words and pictures by Subhayan Mukerjee (@wrahool)

 

 

Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Kolkata 2014 – Day 1

11 Nov

The independent music culture in Calcutta has seen a long and meandering history. A history that begins back in the 1960s – a time when The Statesman still held the respect and the readership of the Bengalis, when the Communists were yet to form their first government in the state, and yes, when Park Street was still hip.

It has since then, gone into a period of decline, remained underground for a little over three decades, before resurfacing again, just before the turn of the new millenium. Cynics have always been ready to point out that this resurgence of alternative music in Calcutta has sorely lacked the class and exclusivity that had been the essence of the audacious, non-conformist acts from the sixties and seventies. But, the fact remains that Calcutta is, and will continue to be, a stronghold of India’s vibrant indie music scene. Therefore, it isn’t a surprise that the biggest celebration of indie-music in the country, has Calcutta on its map, every year.

Enter the Bacardi Nh7 Weekender.

We’re huge fans of this festival – you’d probably know that, if you have read this blog before – and we weren’t going to miss out on this year’s edition either. And when tickets for Calcutta went on sale earlier this year, we were probably one of the earliest to get our hands on them. The months that passed till the event kicked off on the 1st of November was pretty arduous, and it was made worse by the teasers that the Nh7 Facebook page kept exciting us with.

And then suddenly, it was there.

The first thing that struck me when I reached the venue, like it had, the last time in Bangalore as well, were the absolutely stunning aesthetics. The venue had been set up beautifully – the colours, the graphics, the stages – top notch stuff. There were colourful banners, cheerful graffiti and other brilliant pieces of art strewn all over the grounds. There were weird and whacky constructions, which piqued my interest for a while, but then remained largely forgotten when the main agenda of the evening, finally took off.

DSCN0078

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The music. Oh my God, the music.

If you’re aware how the Nh7 Weekender works, you’d know that it has multiple arenas, where bands and solo artists perform simultaneously. Thus, it is impossible to attend every single act and watch it through till the end, unless you’re a ninja who can bend spacetime of his own volition. The idea is therefore to optimise your time at each of the arenas and chalk out a roadmap, well in advance, in order to fully enjoy the experience.

Saturday thus began with the electronic/funk duo, Madboy/Mink, atop the uber-cool Red Bull Tour Bus. As a starter, their nu disco music, which came with some pretty groovy synthesizer samples and neat guitar-work, provided the right ambience to get into the mood for the “happiest music festival”. Brownie points for Imaad Shah’s hairdo, and Saba Azad’s cuteness factor.

Madboy/Mink had scarcely been performing for half an hour, when my Weekender antennae reminded me that Blackstratblues were about to kick off on the Dewarists’ stage, and this was one act that I had no intention of missing.

I had never seen them live before, but I had had the fortune of seeing their frontman/lead guitarist, Warren Mendonsa at my previous Weekender. I was therefore, well aware of the galactic levels of skill that this one man packed behind his six strings. And I wasn’t disappointed. They began their set with their hugely popular instrumental from their 2007 album, Knights in Shining Armour – Anuva’s Sky, and then proceeded to blow a few hundred minds around the arena with their eclectic collection of blues melodies.

 

Warren Mendonsa of the Blackstratblues.

Warren Mendonsa of the Blackstratblues.

Forty five soul-stirring minutes later, we turned towards the MTS Discover stage where Ankur & The Ghalat Family were setting up for a Hindi gig, and without a second thought, I rushed off to the Tour Bus to meet my old friends, The F16s. The F16s is one band that I am quite familiar with, and while they did lack on the crowd-connection front, they made up for it, by setting a large number of heads shaking, and approximately twice the number of feet tapping with much rapidity. Amongst the songs that they played, was the wonderful “My Shallow Lover”, and the trippy “Avalanche”.

After seeing them play out atop the bus, we headed back to the Dewarists’ stage, where Soulmate, the three piece blues rock act from Shillong were going through their routine sound test. Fronted by the beautiful Tipriti Kharbangar and the clinical Rudy Walland, they played a mesmerizing blues set, topping it off, with what was unarguably the sexiest song of the evening – “If you were my guitar” – after which we rushed back to the Tour Bus and sprawled down upon the ground to give our feet a much needed respite, while Calcutta Local performed in the distance.

It was roughly 7:30 PM when we hoisted ourselves once more to plod over to The Dewarists’ stage yet again. The sun had set by then, and the stage was lit up in a shimmering shade of blue. The characteristic strumming of an acoustic guitar floated out of a dense cloud of dry ice, as the ever recognisable voice of Rupam Islam broke out in all of its grungy, acidic, melody. What followed was probably the best one hour of the whole evening.

Yes, as a Bengali who has grown up in Calcutta through the 90s and the 2000s, this wasn’t my first Fossils concert. But boy, oh boy, this is one band that I don’t think I can ever grow out of. As their cult classics rolled past, I think I lost track of time, space and everything in between. (What comes between time and space, I wonder?) An emotionally charged Rupam then hailed this as a definitive moment in the timeline of Bangla Rock, a moment when Bangla, as a language has broken through its limiting shackles and onto a cosmopolitan stage, and Bangla artists were seen as equals, alongside national and international artists of repute.

Rupam Islam of Fossils.

Rupam Islam of Fossils.

After a terrific one hour of intense Bangla Rock, we took a short break to refill ourselves and then went over to the Tour Bus to see a crooning Monica Dogra, solo. Strangely enough, her iconic mid-riff was nowhere to be seen, and even more strange, she wasn’t gyrating at all. Her gyration and mid-riff were all that I remembered from my last sighting of her at Bangalore, but this time around there was none of that. Truth be told, I wasn’t really paying much attention to what she was crooning, because it wasn’t something that excited me terribly, and because I was pretty certain that I had already seen the best of what the evening had to offer. I just sat there, because my poor feet seemed like they would revolt otherwise, and because I really needed this rest before the final two acts of the evening – which as we had guessed, and as we verified, were as far apart in styles as two dissimilar things could ever be.

On one hand, there was Bhayanak Maut, on the Bacardi arena, who are often touted as the heaviest, and the baddest musicians, in this part of the world. On the other hand, there was Amit Trivedi, the far more mellow and mainstream composer of Bollywood filmy songs. We, as gentlefolk often do, decided to focus on the latter, not because we were particularly fond of Amit Trivedi’s music, but because we had run out of steam and had no inclination to headbang and die brutal and anonymous deaths at the “happiest music festival in the country”. Therefore, after spending a short while amid the frantic growling and mosh pitting at the Bacardi arena, we decided to anchor ourselves at the Dewarists’ where we lived out the evening, till the end.

Amit Trivedi with his entourage.

Amit Trivedi with his entourage.

Bhayanak Maut

Bhayanak Maut

To cap it all off, it was a pretty awesome evening. The high points had been the Blackstratblues, The F16s, Soulmate and Fossils. The not so high points had been the entire  Micromax Mega Mix stage (which I had ventured towards, a couple of times, but had found it distasteful), and the unnecessarily crooning Monica Dogra with a non-existent mid-riff. But there had been more highs than lows, and some great highs at that. We hoped it would continue the next day, and we weren’t disappointed.

Read our Day 2 coverage here.

Words and photos by Subhayan Mukerjee (@wrahool)

Raindrops and Lullabies: A Chat with Tajdar Junaid

28 Apr

Continuing with our love affair with the Kolkata music scene, one of our favorite musicians right now is the very talented Tajdar Junaid. Taj has been around for quite a while; he’s toured with Blackstratblues, provided music for Bengali art films, and was a member of the now-defunct Cal alt rock band Cognac. He’s just finished recording his outstanding debut album What Color is Your Raindrop, and plans to release it very soon. Tajdar’s songs have a certain wide-eyed beauty that reminds us of the smell of rain on grassy grounds, and we promise you’re going to like his music, too. Read on for a short interview with this gifted singer-songwriter.

Tajdar Junaid

Top Five Records: Tell us a little bit about the musical journey that paved the path for your debut album, What Colour is Your Raindrop. When did you know that you wanted to be a musician? 

Tajdar Junaid: It’s all got to do with the Led Zep cassette that my cousin played when I was 13. I distinctly remember the song was “No Quarter” and then followed “Whole Lotta Love”. By then, I was sucked and swirling inside the speakers of my tape recorder. For two years, I kept persisting to get myself a drumkit but unfortunately we didn’t have enough space to accommodate one in the house. Those two years, I played drums on the school table and irritated my classmates by playing with pens on their back. My elder brother used to play guitars and there was a chord book around. When I turned 15, it dawned on me that my dreams of becoming John Bonham will never see the day, so I might as well learn the guitar to express myself. I started off with the chord book and the first song that I learnt was the riff to Nirvana’s version of “The Man Who Sold the World”. I used to save up my “lunch money” and go and buy cassettes. Of course I’d be hungry at school but man, when you hold that Led Zep or Metallica black album in your hands, you are so satisfied!

While in high school, I started looking around for a good guitar teacher and I was glad to meet Amyt Datta. He totally opened up avenues in my head I didn’t know existed. I started practicing more and more, and music slowly became a love affair. So the decision to become a musician was not a conscious one. It has been more about sticking to and holding onto what you love because it’s a peaceful feeling.

TFR: Your album has a rather peculiar and intriguing name.  What’s the story behind it?

TJ: It’s named after a song which was written on a rainy day. It’s me asking you…”so what’s your story?”

Guess who the cute kid is?

Guess who the cute kid is?

TFR: We understand that there are eighteen different collaborators on your album – from all over the world and of all genres. How did that happen?

TJ: I feel very fortunate to have some very talented musician friends from all across the globe. Thanks to the internet, these songs travelled all across to be recorded. I heard Greg Johnson, who is a fantastic singer songwriter from NZ on a CD when I was in high school and had barely begun to play the guitar then. I wrote an email to him appreciating his music and he wrote back surprised to know he had listeners in India. We lost touch until about two years ago, when we exchanged some music again. He liked what he heard and he asked me to play guitars on one of his song. And when I started recording my album, I knew a song of mine “Mockingbird” suited his voice perfectly. I met Fred White (from the thrice Grammy Nominated UK band Acoustic Alchemy) over Soundcloud.com. We heard each other’s music and got excited about the idea of collaborating and mixing my album. Vishal Nayak , who is an old friend from Calcutta, went to study music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He played drums on a song of mine from his home studio in New York. Anusheh Anadil who is a fabulous singer from Bangladesh sang on a song too. Vache, who is from Armenia, played the traditional Armenian flute Duduk. Nitzan Sagie is a brilliant composer from Israel and I met him over Soundcloud.com. He contributed on a song of mine called “The First Year”. It’s a beautiful surprise when the universe opens up its avenues to you and you end up collaborating and making music with people who you have never met in your entire life.

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TFR: You went from guitarist of an alt rock band [Kolkata’s Cognac] to a solo singer-songwriter with a seemingly endless array of instruments and influences. Did that happen organically?

TJ: At one point of time I just got bored of playing the guitar and chanced upon Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s music which completely changed my life and made me question my existence and role as a musician. I became curious and started listening to all the music I hadn’t heard before and learning new instruments with the help of the internet, such as the Ukulele, Mandolin and Charango. I realized my way to happiness is to remain curious and keep discovering my love for music in newer ways, similar to a kid in a candy store.

TFR: You have toured as a guitarist for Blackstratblues in the past. How did that situation materialize? Have you played for Blackstratblues after that?

TJ: Warren is a good friend and we have mutual respect for another’s music. Our common ground is our love for blues. He was preparing his first Blackstratblues tour in 2010 and I was visiting Bombay for a recording so it worked out well. I did play with him again recently and it was great fun.

TFR: Some Bengali friends of ours – ardent enthusiasts of the region’s cinema, of course – informed us of your role as music director/composer in noted films such as Iti, Mrinalini (about a suicidal once-famous actress) and Dui Dhuranir Golpo (about two young transgenders from Kolkata). Very impressive! Do you find that there are differences in the composition process between Taj, the music director and Taj, the solo musician?

TJ: If a scene from a film needs a simple melody, I should put aside my intellect and play a simple melody. And if a song on my album needs me to play a blues slide line,I should practice hard and learn to play that line because the song needs it. When I say “needs” I mean to say songs or any work of art has a life of its own and will tell you exactly how to shape it, only if one shuts his ego and intellect and listens quietly to the song or painting unfolding itself. It’s actually quite simple, we just love making things complex. But the bottomline of everything I do is to have fun and like what I do or else don’t get into it.

Tajdar

TFR: Our favorite song from your upcoming album is the mellow “Though I Know” [download from NH7 here], which reminds us a bit of Eddie Vedder (and occasionally Beirut). However, we think that the title-track “What Colour is Your Raindrop” has a strain of melancholic beauty that can often be found in Hindustani classical music. Tell us a bit about your undoubtedly wide spectrum of influences.

TJ: I’m in love with music and with everything it does to me. It makes me happy, brings me calmness, it excites me, makes me travel in my head. Over the years I’ve understood that all forms of music have something good to offer so absorb the good and the bad will filter itself out. I love the serenity and etherealness of Indian classical, I love Chopin and his melodies, I absolutely dig Albert Collins and all the blues greats, simply because it is very moving, And Thank you Lord for the Beatles. It’s silly not to enjoy so much goodness around you.

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TFR: “Aamna” [another track from his album] is the kind of ethereal, delicate lullaby that parents should play to their young children. Tell us a few special things about this song.

TJ: Aamna is my pride and joy. She is my little niece who is one year , four months right now. When she was born I used to keep her on my lap and play music to her and put her to sleep. I am a musician and the truest part of myself that I can offer is my music. I wanted to gift her something that could put her to sleep even when I wasn’t around.

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TFR: We’re very intrigued by the instrument that you play on “Dastaan”. What is it? How many instruments do you play on this album?

TJ: It’s a 10 string folk guitar from South America called the Charango. I first heard it in the Ost for Motorcycle diaries and fell in love with the sound. I have played the guitar,charango,mandolin,ukulele,glockenspiel and sang on the album. I would like to learn the piano. It’s a beautiful instrument !

TFR: Finally, on a lighter note. Who is that cute kid on the cover of What Colour is your Raindrop? [see above]

TJ: It’s me when I was 4 years old . Calcutta used to have a lot of strikes then and the roads would go completely empty. I used to be amazed by the traffic police and delighted to see huge cars and trucks stop with simply one wave of their cane. So I was filled with pride holding that cane and posing on the empty road. Perhaps I was grinning and thinking I brought the entire road on a standstill.

You can listen to Tajdar’s amazing work on his SoundCloud or visit his website here.

Oceans Apart: A Chat with Nischay Parekh

25 Mar
A man and his guitar

A man and his guitar

Nischay Parekh, 19, hails from Calcutta, a functioning chaos of a city famous (or infamous) for its poets and prose; a city that seems to have certainly rubbed off on the young singer-songwriter. We recently had the chance to listen to “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll”, the spectacular first single from his debut Ocean. It’s a mix of 50s nostalgia and the breeze that causes the leaves to sway on a summer’s day, that hasn’t been heard since this side of an uncharacteristically mature John Mayer. Nischay’s better than Mayer, though, in our honest opinion.

A classic pop voice, burred with just a hint of heartbreak, is not the only thing in Nischay’s arsenal. The man seems to be a pro at the kind of graceful strumming that engender pretty pop ditties, and he has got quite the handy quill, too. If that wasn’t enough of a fix, you can check out more of his stuff on his SoundCloud, which features more than a dozen and a half brilliant, sometimes-glitchy-mostly-pop songs – including a pensive, stripped-down cover of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley that would put The Weeknd to shame.

A talent like this does not go unnoticed. Nischay played at the Bangalore edition of the Weekender last year, and shared stage space with none other than Norah Jones at the recent A Summer’s Day festival in Mumbai. India is rather inundated with its share of music festivals at the moment: there’s a new one mushrooming in every cognizant pocket of the country. It’s a world of ‘hear and be heard’ like never before out there, depending on whether you’re the audience or the artist.  The following is our humble attempt to connect these two sides of the spectrum. Top Five readers, meet Nischay Parekh.

Top Five Records: Hello, Nischay! We’re very honored to have you here with us today. Let’s start from the basics. Why music? How did this whole thing begin?

Nischay Parekh: Music started for me when I was 16 years old. I was taking ‘’recreational’ guitar lessons for a few years before that.  It was around that time that I started writing songs, and I really began to enjoy the process of building a song from scratch. It was like Lego, except the blocks were pieces of my own imagination. Once I began writing and playing more seriously I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

TFR: What did you grow up listening to?

NP: My mother had a very interesting collection of cassettes and CDs. There was a lot of cheesy stuff like Rod Stewart, Geri Halliwell (ex spice girl), but then there was also some great stuff that had a bigger impact on me like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Nat King Cole. The sound that came out of our old “deck” (yes that’s what they were called, CD and Cassette player!) has probably left a bigger impression than I care to admit. A lot of it is subconscious, of course.  I was lucky enough to have grown up with a lot of the ‘good stuff’.

TFR: Tell us about your first few bands. We understand your naming patterns for bands have an affinity for Kingdom Animalia.

NP: I have band in Kolkata called “The MonkeyinMe”. There are four of us. It basically consists of very close friends of mine that I started playing music with in school.  All of us are a little spread out geographically at the moment so it’s hard to put out material frequently. However, we are in it for the long run. A future MonkeyinMe album is definitely on the cards.

Then there was this group I was a part of in Boston called “Orange, the Panda”. I do have a fascination of animals and the general element of mysticism. Maybe it’s because I never had a pet?

Cover for Nischay's album

Cover for Nischay’s album

TFR: So we hear your upcoming debut album Ocean is being produced by someone who has done similar honors for the likes of Madonna and Radiohead [London-based Miti Adhikari]. Not bad for a debut! Has having Miti around changed your song-writing or music-making process in any way?

NP: Miti has been great. I am really fortunate that he was interested in working with me. Having him around has brought a lot of clarity and coherence to my music. I had all these songs and Ideas, which were flying around like loose pages. Miti has definitely helped me bind those pages into a book of sorts. He’s been a real collaborator on this album. Added to all this he’s really on top of his game as an engineer. So it’s been a great experience.

TFR: If you had to be sorted into a record collection based on similarity, which two albums would Ocean be slotted between?

NP: The Reminder by Feist and Plans by Death cab for Cutie. I’m probably giving myself more credit than I deserve, those two are great albums and I love them!

TFR: What kind of themes can we expected to be touched upon in your debut? Do you intend it to be a musical culmination of your nineteen years of life, or is the time frame shorter?

NP: Ocean is a collection of dreams I’ve had. I write exclusively about animals and relationships. It is definitely a culmination of my entire life. It’s full of mysticism. I enjoy the paradox between very ‘real’ human emotions and these stories that I tell with animals as central characters.

TFR: It’s always very interesting to know the kind of things that inspire each individual musician. What’s your trade secret(s)?

NP: I’m attracted most to design. The music I love most always has its own specific aesthetic.  I love creating a vibe and designing music that can live well in that world.

TFR: Congratulations on your success at A Summer’s Day! Word is that your performance gained you a legion of fans that day – quite a few of them being female, of course. What was it like to share the bill with Norah Jones? 

NP: It was a great concert. The audience was great. You can always tell when they’re really listening, and they were! The atmosphere was so relaxed yet charged with infectious positive energy.

TFR: What’s it like to be at Berklee? [Nischay is a current student at the prestigious music school.] Is Ocean different from how you imagined it before you got into Berklee?

NP: Berklee is a temple for music. Everyone and everything there inspires you. I’ve really learned the mechanics of music after spending time there. This has helped my music immensely, a lot of songs on Ocean were written in Boston during my first (and only) semester there.

TFR: Who’s one artist (Indian or international) that you’d give your right hand to work with right now?

NP: Leslie Feist and all her wonderful friends from Canada!

TFR: Give our readers one reason why they absolutely must listen to Ocean.

NP: It’s a happy album and it’s about love. Best reason in the world.

So there you have it. We are waiting with bated breath for Nischay’s debut album, and with this article we hope you are, too. 

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