Music

Rock these mantras

Ancient and modern sounds come together in a unique concert this Saturday as the alternate punk-rock American band The Mayapuris reinvent traditional chants

Imagine a concert where you get to headbang to ancient mantras. Or picture a rock ‘n’ roll gig where you can groove to chants of yore. If it is hard to form the image in your head, worry not. Head to the live performance of a kirtan concert by celebrated exotic music band The Mayapuris this Saturday at UB City.

Breathing new life and reinventing 5,000-year-old mantras, The Mayapuris’ exotic music blends traditional chants with a punk rock attitude. Comprising members from America, Sweden, Columbia and India, the group started off as drummers before turning multi-instrumentalists.

Talking over phone, lead vocalist and founder Vishvambhar Sheth says is sitting right now in a small village in West Bengal called Mayapur. “I’m here with my family and the rest of the band. Mayapur is considered to be the place where the kirtan tradition began. But it also has a deeper meaning – the place beyond all illusion. So whenever we are engaged in this sacred vibration, we actually transcend all illusion and come to the place of pure truth.”

While the story of the kirtans began at Mayapur, the group’s narrative began in the picturesque town of Alachua, North Central Florida, considered to be the birthplace of the kirtan movement in the West.

“Although what we do is known as kirtan, we prefer to call it mantra music. People have a certain idea of what a kirtan is. What we do is a mix of who we are and the traditional kirtan. I’m half Indian-half American. I lived half my life in America. I played in a punk rock band. I listen to reggae and I have many musical influences from The Beatles to Bob Marley.

One of the other band members is from Columbia so he has got a South American blues and Latin flair. We bring all of those elements into our music. Although, in essence, we are chanting the sacred ancient mantras that have existed for thousands of years, we are bringing all the musical influences that have inspired us and incorporating that into the mantras. So it is a wide range of Latin grooves, reggae, rock and blues mixed with mantras.”

Going back to the beginning, Vish recalls that they all grew up around this system. “Our parents were practitioners of this system, particularly yoga. We grew up with this music. The band has known each other since we were seven or eight years old. Now we are in our 30s, so we’ve known each other for a very long time. We’ve been touring non-stop since 2008.”

Looking back at his musical journey, Vish says there was a point in his life where he wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll. “I learnt the guitar. Although I grew up drumming with the traditional kirtan, the mridangam and harmonium, I never considered myself a musician. I thought I needed to move away from this style of music to be considered one. Somehow, the mantras pulled me back and never left my mind.

So I started to take the music I was learning and putting them into the mantras. People resonated with that. So now I just play the way I always wanted to but without going away from my roots with these powerful sound vibrations.”

Excited to perform in Bengaluru,Vish recalls they had visited last year for an event that went really well. “I find Bengaluru to be one of the modern and hip cities of India. To be able to play music there is a real pleasure.”

Vish points out that when people listen to them, they don’t have to change themselves. “Wherever we come from, whatever our belief systems, political alignments or sexual orientations may be, all of these things are just external labels. We don’t need to change any of that. The real change comes from within. So if we can add the chanting of god’s name in our life; whatever that name is; the quality of our life will blossom and our spirit will soar.”

At the heart of their music, Vish says, is an attempt to find unique ways to bring this ancient art to the people of today. “This is really the best way to make people relate to this music that is as relevant today as it was 5,000 years ago.

“Music can be such a beautiful offering when we take ourselves out of the centre and we put something higher than us,” Vish says. “Music transcends and touches other people on another level because it has been done for a cause that is universal. Takeout the ‘I’ and the ego and it will be powerful.”

Check out the kirtan concert that will be followed by a session of asana and meditation with Grand Master Akshar from Akshar Yoga at UB City, on February 18 from 7 a.m. Call 9008551304 for details.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 9:33:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/Rock-these-mantras/article17312381.ece

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