Bombay Showcase

A musical union of sorts

The Merkaba line-up (top); Vasundhara Vee performs—Photo: Special Arrangement  

In the past decade, the Indian music scene has never been more vibrant, making giant leaps in terms of sound, technology and texture. Merkaba, a new alliance between city musicians Vasundhara Vee (Vidalur), Sanjay Divecha, Karan Joseph, Sheldon D’Silva and Gino Banks, is a testimony to the city’s changing soundscape. The new project, which allowed a sneak-peek of their sound at this year’s International Jazz Day gig at Blue Frog, will stage its maiden performance on Friday evening.

City-based singer Isheeta Chakrvarty, (The Stage) says, “Vidalur and group performed their song Privilege , which was greatly appreciated by everyone,” she says, talking about the band’s debut. “The project’s sound is unsurprisingly fresh, considering that Vidalur and Sanjay Divecha are seasoned artistes. It was a pleasure performing with Vidalur as a part of the all-star finale, for which she was also the vocal director.”

Unlike many of her contemporaries, Vidalur has not been formally trained in music. Rather, she says that most of her learning has been “through collaboration and mentorship”. She adds, “I am fortunate to have world-class musicians take me under their wing, and for the past few years I have been taking vocal lessons from Mark Baxter.”

During her formative years, Vidalur was mostly influenced by music genres like RnB, soul, funk, gospel, and Motown. Although she always knew that she wanted to be a professional singer, Vidalur mustered the courage to admit this to her parents at age 15. “I was obsessive about my singing practice and focused on my art through my teenage years, which really helped me grow as an artiste.”

Despite being known primarily for jazz vocals, the singer-songwriter says she is very new to the genre. While the attitude and inclusivity that jazz brings with it attracts her, the 30-year-old says it is soul music that is really close to her heart. However, Vidalur continues to be fascinated with the “idiom and language of jazz”, and would like to explore the genre in greater detail.

When it comes to her new venture, Vidalur says, “Sanjay and I started meeting in November 2015 to work on the songs he had created. Over the last six months, we have written ten songs and have a stellar band of brothers bringing the songs to life with us. Gino, Sheldon, and Karan have brought so much of themselves into this music.”

Merkaba is the energy in meditation. It is this collective sentiment that brought the quintet together, as music helps them access the “better parts” of themselves. This similarity between meditation and music also served as the reason for the group to christen their project Merkaba. “Ours is a contemporary music project,” she says. “While it is influenced by all the genres we listen to — jazz, RnB, soul, pop, funk et al — our sound isn’t strictly any of these. We are an entirely new entity although we may resemble our parents a bit.”

Vidalur’s songs are about everything from “social injustice to systems of belief and behaviour that do not serve mankind any longer”. Her melodies also talk about self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, joy and community healing. Vidalur firmly believes that it is through music that we can suggest to people that there are other ways of looking at ourselves, and alternative solutions to our social issues.

Merkaba’s guitarist, Divecha, says “My biggest strengths are music composition and arranging, fusing different styles of music and making them sound cohesive.” Initially trained to play the sitar since 11, Divecha made the shift to guitar at 15 but it was years later at 22, when he realised music is his calling. If not for the guitar, “I would certainly learn Hindustani and Carnatic vocals,” he says. “The human voice is the first instrument ever, and I like our classical traditions due to their amazing interpretations of melody.”

Inspired by as diverse a range of musicians as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, Divecha does not like to stick to one style. “I do not like to be labelled as a particular kind of musician,” he explains, echoing Vidalur’s thoughts.

While the five Merkaba musicians have shared stage before, this is the first time they will be coming together as a group with a fresh sound. For these seasoned artistes, Merkaba is a milestone of sorts.

Merkaba: 7 pm, Experimental Theatre, NCPA

The writer is an intern at The Hindu


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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 2:10:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/a-musical-union-of-sorts/article8593209.ece

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