Travelling with the Punditz

‘Electronica stars Tapan Raj and Gaurav Raina of the Midival Punditz tell Shubh Yatra about new music, a new year and how travel inspires their tracks’

They have been at the forefront of the electronic music genre in India, blending Sufi and folk tunes with contemporary sounds. Standing on the verge of a new decade, Tapan Raj and Gaurav Raina of the band Midival Punditz tell us about their latest music and new inspirations.

We’re headed toward a new year, another decade. Tell us about your plans and new albums.

The year 2019 has brought new vigour and inspiration into our music and our lives. Our new singles which released recently (Rootha yaar, Nukhta, Purvayi), have a very strong Indian folk element in them, as we have been leaning towards folk traditions. We worked with our long-time friend and collaborator Kutle Khan from Rajasthan on one of the singles, as we have a special place in our hearts for Rajasthani folk music. We are also planning a big project in Rajasthan next year, as a part of our new album.

What is it about Rajasthan that inspires you and your music?

We have travelled extensively through Rajasthan for our shows and this has brought us closer to the music and culture of the state. We feel a sense of familiarity with Rajasthan unlike any other place in India (apart from Goa). From sunset performances at the beautiful Lake Palace in Udaipur to a show held on the lawns of the majestic Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, we have had some of our most memorable performances in Rajasthan. Our next album is aimed at capturing some of the magic of the desert, its people and their culture.

Rajasthan is a very special music zone in India. Within this state, there are several schools of folk music, each distinctly different from the other, but all equally vibrant and uplifting. We have combined Rajasthani folk music with electronica in a few tracks like Baanwarey, Kesariya, Echoes, Twilight and Nukhta. And all of them have been received very well by our fans worldwide.

What role has travel played in the evolution of your music over the years?

Our music draws a lot of inspiration from our immediate environment, which is a combination of the city we are in, our friends, families and music artistes we interact and collaborate with. Travelling adds a muchneeded break from our base in Delhi. We feel inspired and full of ideas for composing new tunes that draw from the people and cultures we engage with.

A special meeting during your travels that will stay memorable…

It was amazing to go on a four-city tour in 2001 with Ustad Sultan Khan (the late legendary sarangi maestro). We travelled for sold-out shows in North America with the supergroup, Tabla Beat Science. The band comprised Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Sultan Khan, Bill Laswell and Karsh Kale along with other special guests. Throughout the tour, the maestro told us endless stories about the time he toured the world with the likes of Pt Ravi Shankar, George Harrison and many other international celebrities. We had made it a point to record a track with him in an album titled Midival Times.

Have any of your travels actually found their way into your music?

In 1999, when we travelled to London, we came back and created a track called Fabric that also made its way into the soundtrack of Mira Nair’s movie Monsoon Wedding (2001). Similarly, there are tracks like Ajmer, which came about after our visit to the famous Ajmer Dargah, in Ajmer. For the track, we worked with local musicians from the Nizamuddin Dargah in New Delhi. The collaboration resulted in one of the first Sufi tracks in any of our albums. The track Baanwarey, from our album Light, was a result of travelling extensively across Rajasthan and collaborating with such celebrated artistes as Kutle Khan and Nathu Lalji in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur.

As musicians, you must be in demand during New Year’s eve. How do you prefer to celebrate?

Over the years, we have played at numerous New Year shows, making thousands dance to our music. This has not changed much, but once in a while, we get to spend a quiet New Year’s eve with our friends, preferably at a quiet beach in Goa or Sri Lanka, away from the clubbing crowds and hectic city life.


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