Peace In A Pod Podcast

A combination of story and music makes ‘Maed in India’ podcast engaging

Mae Mariyam Thomas (in yellow) with members of music group Ladies Compartment on her show.  

A lot of laughter, a lot of music, and a fair amount of talk that can swing between hilarity and gravity, with topics ranging from a band’s back story to feminism and identity, and, eventually, the mystery and magic of making music. That’s Maed in India for you, ranked by iTunes as one of India’s top podcasts in 2018 and described by founder and host Mae Mariyam Thomas as “a one-stop shop for indie music”.

In the three-and-a-half years since the podcast has been around, Thomas has featured over a hundred bands and artistes, many bringing to her studio tracks that have previously never been heard. It turns out to be a journey of discovery in many ways, of music and its makers, even for those familiar with the indie music scene in India, which offers a wondrous range of sound, drawing on a mélange of influences from around the world and home, with beats both classical and radical. For someone like me, stuck in a 70s warp, and depending on sundry young people to point me to something new, it was a revelation that had me coming back for more, right from the multi-layered harmonies of the ‘Mountain Song’ by Ladies’ Compartment to the fusion of ‘Khwabon Mein Teri’ by Paradigm Shift.

“I’m an 80s-90s kid and radio was a place where I discovered music. Not any more. So I wanted to bring that idea back, that feeling of curiosity and discovering something new,” said Thomas over email. “There is a plethora of talent coming out of this country that deserve to tell their story and for their music to be heard.”

Without artifice

It’s this combination of story and music that makes the podcast so engaging. Thomas is at once exuberant and pensive, as much a voice artist as the guests on her show. She balances familiarity with curiosity to create what can only be described as conversational theatre — but it’s a play without artifice, one that flows in natural and unanticipated ways. It’s clear that a prodigious amount of research goes into each show. “I have an arsenal of information that allows me to get to deeper stories, insights and perspectives,” she says.

An exchange with Madame Gandhi (aka Kiran Gandhi), an electronic musician, percussionist and activist, moves nimbly from gender politics to the application of mathematics to the tuning of a drum. A huddle with eight women musicians on the episode ‘Ladies Special’ comfortably traverses the gamut of feminist concerns, from needing more public loos for women to “not taking things lying down”. And a sit-down with folk-pop singer and songwriter Dhruv Vishvanath stops for a poignant moment to dwell on how his father’s death impacted him: “Every person in the studio fell completely silent. No one breathed because everyone felt like Dhruv needed the air more than any of us did.” And, of course, there is the music that weaves through it all.

While Thomas admits to being quite the fan-girl simply because she chooses to feature guests whose music speaks to her on some level, the curation is done with a keen sense of making good work visible. Some of the artists who have been on the show are familiar names, while others are still struggling to go beyond the college festival circuit.

To get a quick sense of the show’s tone and the range of music featured, you could listen to one of the “best of” episodes, a year-end wrap where Thomas brings together selected tracks from the year’s run, along with short commentaries and excerpts from interviews. Or you could sample from what is a rapidly growing archive, from better known names such as Nikhil D’Souza, Indian Ocean and Apache Indian to upcoming bands like When Chai Met Toast, Chabuk and acapella beat-boxing group Voctronica.

Maed in India drops new episodes every Monday.

(A fortnightly series on podcasts.)

The Hyderabad-based writer and academic is a neatnik fighting a losing battle with the clutter in her head.

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Printable version | Nov 21, 2020 6:12:43 PM |

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