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Why an IIT Bombay Grad Is Working with Independent Musicians in Rural India and Taking Them Global

What is the future of an independent musician in India, especially if he/she belongs to a small village? Why is the image of indie music restricted to a festival or a pub in a city with a certain age group of people, listening to a band over a glass of beer? Or, why are the masses only listening to film music, when our country has such diversity of sounds and musical expressions?

These were the questions playing on Kavish Seth’s mind when he was a student of Chemistry at IIT Bombay. At the time, he was about to start his own musical journey, writing songs and planning to cut an album.

Kavish always wondered how far his music would go if he restricted himself to the indie music scene in the cities, as it exists currently.

Kavish Seth

“I knew that at the most my album will be heard by my friends and relatives, and their friends and relatives. I was a local artist and my art was going to get restricted to my locality and it’s true for every indie artist in India. I was also clear that to grow as an artist, I need to reach out to my audiences and also collaborate with other musicians,” says Kavish

Kavish got his answers during the Jagriti Yatra, a train journey that brings hundreds of youths together to solve problems through entrepreneurship, when a co-traveler, Neha Arora, offered to work with him on finding a way to address this problem. Thus, the idea of Zubaan was formed – a musical project where indie artists collaborate and perform their own songs across the mainland, from streets to stages, villages to cities.

The objective is to make indie music mainstream, which will happen through collaborations and concerts of indie artists across the local music scenes in our country.

They created a repeatable model – to bring musicians together in a place, let them collaborate with each other, and then create a public performance for the people to come and listen.

“Carrying the motto of “Apne geet, apni zubaan” (Our songs, our language), the only condition was that the songs and compositions should be original. Going amongst the people and performing on the street, or creating new performing places, was one of our ways to reach more audiences,” says Neha.


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The model was simple, but the results turned out to be magical. The journey of Zubaan that started from Gorakhpur, soon went on to many other parts of India – to villages and towns to cities and even to Russia, when the artists were invited to perform at a concert in Moscow.

“Zubaan for me was something that would fit in the intersection of Film Making and Music so I jumped into it. Collaboration with n number of artists and hearing original music has now spoiled me, because it has opened the doors of my soul so much that I can’t play the kind of music I can’t connect to. Zubaan feeds my soul,” says Nilay Singh, the beatboxer, percussionist and drummer of the Zubaan team.

Zubaan has formed chapters in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Orissa and in Uttar Pradesh, and more than 30 artists have become part of the collective.

Raghvendra Kumar, an artist who plays the Mohan Veena and also manages the Varanasi chapter of Zubaan, explains his role, “Collaborating with different artists excites me, it helps us grow, create new things. As artists from different music scenes come together, collaborate, perform, the indie music scene gets bigger.It’s a long way ahead, and we are enjoying this ride”

Wardha, Gadchiroli and Kolkata chapters began this year and regular gigs have been happening in areas like Varanasi, Mumbai, Nagpur, Delhi, and Ranchi. Team Zubaan has also done college concerts at TISS and fests at Kolkata International Performing Arts Festival and the India Surf Festival.


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During their journey, the artists of Zubaan met some amazing artists like Padma Shri Jitendra Haripal from Orissa,well known for his song Rangabati, sung in Sambalpuri language.To their delight, he has offered to collaborate with the young lot of artists.

Collaborations with Bhojpuri singers and composers like Chandan Tiwari, Rekha Tiwari, and Shailendra Mishra, and senior Thumri artists like Sucharita Gupta and Shehnai artist Manohar Lal began from their Varanasi chapter.

Humare Bhojpuri geet ko desh bhar hum le jaa paye, isme Zubaan ki team, hum log prayas kar rahe hai. Bhojpuri sirf ashleel nahi hai, kuch logo ne isse ashleel kar diya hai, hum kaafi log acha kaam bhi kar rahe hai jo ki desh bhar le jaane ki koshish kar rahe hai,Bhojpuri sanskriti bohot rich hai

(We and team Zubaan are trying to take Bhojpuri songs to every corner of India. Bhojpuri songs are not vulgar. Some people have made it vulgar. But we are trying to spread the rich Bhojpuri culture),” says Bhojpuri singer and composer Shailendra Mishra.

Listen to these amazing artists with Zubaan in this short film.

The team not only connects the famous artists of their respective areas but also looks out for talent. One such artist is a farmer, Kunal Humane from Paradsinga village in Madhya Pradesh, who happens to be a wonderful singer and songwriter.

Mujh jaise kalakaar ko manch milna, aur shehar mein logo ke beech apne gaane ka mauka milna mere liye bohot khushnaseebi ki baat hai(It is a privilege for an artist like me to get a stage and a chance to sing among the urban audience),” he says.

Another mesmerizing singer and composer who collaborated with Zubaan at their Mumbai chapter is Chintamani, a koli singer.

Listen to his composition here .

Chintamani

“We belong to the fisherman community. My grandfather then my father and then me, we all wrote and performed on our own songs. Collaborating with Zubaan has given me audience other than the usual ones I was satisfied with. Moreover, there is so much to learn when you meet other artists from various states,” says Chintamani.


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The need to find their own sound and connect with people has led to the invention of new musical instruments as well. Kavish has designed Noori, which is going to be patented soon. Poornaprajna Kulkarni from Karnataka has made Poorna Veena, while Parvindar from Nagpur is making an instrument that is a fusion of Cajon and Swaramandal.

Zubaan is in the process of releasing their songs, made as a result of all these collaborations.

Watch what happens when the musicians from Banaras and Maharashtra collaborate with the hidden talents in Orissa –

The Vidarbha Chapter is also about to start, where artists from Vidarbha will collaborate with artists from different parts of the country. If you wish to contribute/participate/sponsor you can contact Zubaan at zubaanmusic@gmail.com or on their Facebook page.

If you wish to call artists to your place/locality for collaborations or concerts, you can contact Zubaan at zubaanmusic@gmail.com or on their Facebook page.


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Written by Manabi Katoch

A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at manabi@thebetterindia.com. You can also find her tweets @manabi5