Music

Tarun Balani releases first electronic music EP as Seasonal Affected Beats

It was as a schoolboy that jazz drummer and producer Tarun Balani had an epiphany. Having started with learning the digital keyboard, his first concert was with the school orchestra. “But somebody had accidentally removed the plug. So there was no sound from my keyboard and in the middle of the performance I went backstage and told my teacher the keyboard is not working. He told me, ‘Just play along, nobody will know.’ That really hit me hard. I didn’t want to fake that I was playing something.”

Cut to the present and Tarun, who went on to study at Berklee College of Music, has released two acclaimed jazz records — Sacred World and Dharma — and leads a jazz quintet, Dharma. Last month, he released his first electronic EP under his solo project moniker Seasonal Affected Beats.

Over the phone, Tarun talks about how the project, which he says is more full-time now came about. “It definitely started as an experiment. There was supposed to be a Europe tour in the summer of 2017 with Dharma. But that fell through. So I was basically stuck in Delhi. It was boiling hot at 48 degrees. I thought I had to make the most of the summer and started to mess around with a digital audio workstation. I started writing some music and discovered this piece of technology called sensory percussion. This is the heart of Seasonal Affected Beats. I jokingly asked my partner who works in mental health whether seasonal affective disorder (a mood disorder commonly found in Scandinavian countries or cold climates where people don’t see the sun) can occur in hot climates as well. I was telling her my mood was getting affected by the heat. It was a spin on that and that is how Seasonal Affected Beats came about as a moniker.”

Tarun Balani releases first electronic music EP as Seasonal Affected Beats

As for how he conceptualised the five-track EP, Tarun says, “Electronic music is typically considered dance floor music. I think because I come from a background of jazz improvised music, I wanted my output in electronic music to be different. I didn't want it to be consumed as dance floor electronic music. Hence, all these topics such as mental health, climate change and digital existentialism… all of these things have been playing on my mind for one-and-half-years. And so, I wanted to put that into the narrative of the EP. 2 ° felt like an apt title because 2017 was quite a dystopic and apocalyptic sort of time in Delhi when we were literally inhaling toxic air. I wanted to have a narrative in the EP that was reflective of our times and what I was thinking.”

Of the five tracks —‘Prelude’, ‘Jitter’, ‘Let the Light In’ (featuring vocals by KAVYA), ‘Dr Escher’ and 2°, ‘Dr Escher’ samples a speech by Dr BR Ambedkar. On how that came about, Tarun says, “I think his speech, especially this one from 1946 is timeless. It is still relevant. Based on the feeling it generates in me, I thought it was important to sample it and juxtapose it with electronic music, which is elite. Again considering that dance floor music is consumed in a specific way, I wanted to bring that into this world and have the two worlds collide. I was definitely called out on my privilege and I know how much caste still exists in India. I wanted to remind myself and with this track, put the message out that we might be clouded by our privilege or ignorance but this exists and let us face it.”

When Tarun made the EP he had a certain vision but now as people listen to it, it can take on a different meaning or in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Of course, hence, there is a larger narrative. Even right now, it is quite apocalyptic and dystopic. You walk outside and there is nobody on the streets, everybody is wearing masks. It is improvised electronic music that people can interpret however they like. COVID-19 is having a huge impact on climate change as suddenly, Delhi and many parts of India and the world have not seen such clean air in the last decade. I am definitely not happy about this situation but if it is finding meaning and is reflective of today’s times, I think it makes it even more valuable and that is my purpose as an artiste.”

2° is available to stream on all major platforms.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:02:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/tarun-balani-releases-first-electronic-music-ep-as-seasonal-affected-beats/article31236168.ece

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