It is a well-known fact that Indians love their never-ending series of festivals all year round. Indian festivities are a captivating tapestry of cultural diversity, and one of the most striking aspects of these celebrations is the rich symphony of sounds that accompanies them. From the exuberant beats of dhol drums and the resounding sound of the conch during Durga Pujas to the whistling sounds of rockets and the loud, unsettling bangs of sutli bombs at Diwali, India's festivals are a chaotic mosaic of sounds. From the soulful chants and bhajans during Navratri to the fervent Adhan prayer during Eid, India’s sounds are as vibrant as they are diverse. Each region and community adds its unique musical and auditory flavors to the festivities, creating a harmonious fusion of sounds that exemplify India's unity in diversity.
Today we explore a wonderful cross-cultural audio-visual collaboration that encapsulates our nation's rich sonicscape. The project is a labor of love by the Czech musician Tomáš Niesner teaming up with Bombay-based visual artist, Angana Kundu.
Tomáš Niesner has been establishing his reputation in recent years through his solo explorations in the realm of ambient and drone music, as well as his collaborations with Jakub Šimanský, characterized by intricate melodicism. However, he captured the attention of the record label, World, out of this ( based in the USA) with his digital self-release titled India Vibrations. This unique project consists of lo-fi manipulated field recordings he captured during a journey across India. These recordings feature the bustling chaos of street festivals contrasted with the serene atmosphere of places of worship. Tomáš captured these sounds using what he referred to as an "obsolete cellphone," which he then skillfully looped, layered, and altered, sometimes abbreviating or elongating them. India Vibrations marks a departure from his usual musical approach, resulting in an audio postcard that vividly evokes the essence of a specific region without tethering it to a particular year (2016) or even decade, leaving room for the listener's imagination.
Inspired by the success of India Vibrations in 2020, Tomáš Niesner now presents India Vibrations (Revisited) as the inaugural release in his label's catalog. This LP comprises two sides: Side A contains the original 2020 recordings, while Side B showcases seven brand-new tracks crafted specifically for this release. Tomáš created these new compositions using recordings made by his fellow travelers, adhering to the same compositional principle employed in India Vibrations — that is, no additional instrumentation was added beyond the original field recordings themselves.
Yesterday, the music video of one of the tracks, Feast, from side B of the LP, was released. The music video is the latest project of Angana Kundu, a self-taught homegrown visual artist and animator, known for experimenting with a wide array of artistic mediums. Feast is an intricately crafted frame-by-frame animated music video, that seamlessly blends the potency of music and visuals. Each frame is a vibrant confluence of cultural influences, harmoniously synchronized with Tomáš Niesner's music, showcasing Angana's talent in crafting immersive and emotionally resonant experiences. With a captivating blend of colors and surreal imagery, Feast whisks viewers away on a sensory voyage, inviting them to submerge themselves in a celebration of life, music, and cross-cultural connections.
Being a Bengali, the first thought that came across Angana’s mind when she heard the recordings, was the uplifting sounds that resonate during the immersion ceremony of Durga Pujas. Angana depicts the goddess through the motif of eyes. While there is a positive larger-than-life celebration associated with Durga Puja, or any Indian festival for that matter, the immersion ceremony that happens on Dashami (the tenth and last day of the Durga Puja), carries with it a sense of grief and loss. The legend goes that Goddess Durga, along with her children, descends from Mount Kailash to visit us, and on the tenth day, she goes back to Lord Shiva. Angana’s objective was to create a visually striking and thought-provoking work, capturing not only the ecstasy of Durga Puja celebrations but also the collective sadness that follows when the goddess leaves our realm.
To someone unaware of Durga Puja and the connotations of the immersion ceremony, the sounds may only carry a celebratory feeling. However, for the Bengali populace, it is a double-edged sword. Even though electrifying beats of dhol drums and bhashan dance accompany the immersion ceremony, there is the underlying theme of sadness and saying goodbyes. One will find many people wiping their tears as they bid farewell to the Goddess on the tenth day. Angana portrays that beautifully through the red raindrops that also appear to be tears. While the music carries a distinctly Indian essence, it simultaneously transcends time and place. It also possesses a timeless and universal quality, free from specific periods or geographical constraints. All art is open to interpretation. To those listeners not contextualizing the track with the Durga Puja, it can be a grandiose celebration of life and music, which can elicit profound emotions.
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