Turnback Caves' New Single Is A Sonic & Visual Journey Into The Heart Of Kolkata

ObliviateTurnback Cave

Every famous city in the world has a collective imagination surrounding it. For instance, when we think of Rome, the Colosseum floats before our eyes, or when we imagine Paris, the Eiffel Tower stands tall in our minds. If one is an outsider to a city — has never visited it or hasn’t stayed long enough to call it a second home, they get stuck within a cliched perception of the city’s beauty. This is not to say that the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower are not marvelous pieces of architecture but there is more to Rome and Paris than that, which any Roman or Parisian would attest to. I expend all these words only to convey the fact that the ties and perceptions we have for our hometown will never be the same for any other place in the world and cannot be replaced no matter where we travel.

When I heard the song, Obliviate, by the new-age rock band, Turnback Cave and saw the music video, I could immediately tell that the musicians and I both share the hometown of Kolkata. It is their particular way of looking at the city that made me come to the conclusion that they have been born and brought up here. Yes, the music video is filled with general signifiers that people have about the City of Joy — the boat passing underneath the grand Howrah Bridge, the tall white columns of the Palladian porch monument at the Prinsep Ghat, the renowned artisans of Kumartuli in North Kolkata making idols of Ma Durga as they do every year and more. However, it’s the nature of the portrayal that sets them apart from an outsider or a tourist’s depiction of the city. Occasionally, even clichés earn their stripes for a reason.

How Generations Of Kumartuli's Artisans Have Crafted A Culture Of Devotion For Durga Puja

This music video by Ayyush Biswas is not only an ode to the grandiose architecture or the rich cultural heritage of Kolkata. It delves deeper into the ethos of the city, which is incomplete without its simplicity — the unadorned joy of having roadside milk tea along with a Gold Flake cigarette, the old man bathing in the river Ganges, the daily wage laborer toiling away, the young street artist painting the roads, the daily passengers on public transports, and more. Kolkata is often celebrated for being a city that embraces secularism — the video features a Muslim man praying at a mosque in the same city that celebrates ‘Hindu festivals’ like Durga Puja and Kali Puja. I put the words ‘Hindu festivals’ within quotes as even though the world would rather have us believe that religion dictates a festival’s origin, here in Kolkata, we celebrate everything from Holi and Lohri to Eid and Christmas in the spirit of togetherness.

Obliviate is not just a visual treat but has thought-provoking lyrics, courtesy of talented singer/songwriter, Arsh Das, and a simple yet elegant indie rock sound that's complemented by with Diptopaul on the lead guitar, Pradyut on the bass, and Argha playing the drums. The song title is interesting as it is loaded with irony — even though obliviate means to forget, the lyrics do everything to not let the city, its inhabitants, and the memories associated with it slip into oblivion. It is evident from the fact that both times the chorus ends with “But I remember you”.

To me, the music feels to be born out of personal reflections loaded with nostalgia and a touch of melancholy, along with a driving urge to commemorate the city space, the time spent in it, and everything in between.

"The song wasn't written with the primary motive of the city. It came together seemingly out of nowhere, and in hindsight, I can only describe it as a remembrance of the things that you love, of people, and of places. Over time, the song has taken up a number of different meanings. Therefore, it would be unfair to see it through only a single lens. It's a love letter, a suicide note, a heartfelt farewell, and anything else you want it to be. The music video only captures one of these standpoints, because of our personal circumstances which have led to the end of our time in Kolkata.  There's no other place like this, and it will always hold a special place in our hearts as it does for all people who leave Kolkata eventually."

- Arsh Das

Check out the music video below.

Find out more about Turnback Caves here.