The search for enchanting sounds leads to some interesting musical combinations. The language of emotions is almost the same across the world. In recent times, baul music, the itinerant folk form of Bengal, has had its tryst with fusion. It’s possibly the free-flowing character of the music that lends itself to a global musical blend. The city of joy recently witnessed one such collaboration between Auster Loo from Belgium and Brahma Khyapa from Kolkata. Auster Loo consists of Simon Leleux who plays percussions from Arab and the Middle East and flutist Lydia Thonnard.
Talking about the journey of Auster Loo, Simon says, “We decided to start playing together two years ago. Initially we wanted to compose our tracks with influences of music Middle Eastern music, giving space to improvisation. We went to Morocco and after this travel we started this band. We have some influences from Arabic countries. We were always interested in Indian music especially Indian classical music. I won’t describe our music a real fusion between the western way of thinking and broad world musical influences. We just want to suggest some flavours of it.”
How did the folk-fusion band, Brahma Khyapa comprising of Sanjay and Malabika meet Auster Loo? Malabika explains, “We went to Belgium for a workshop. Auster Loo was present there. Simon was teaching darbuka. At our first orientation day, there was a teacher’s concert. I and Sanjay performed. We thought it would be good if some other musicians joined us and contribute their music. Simon joined us and we felt we understood each other’s music despite us knowing not much about it. That was a great start! We used it to jam and recorded a song. We decided to go to Brussels and we recorded two songs.”
For years, the term ‘fusion’ has been a fad. Yet, there has been good fusion and bad fusion – the latter often termed ‘confusion.’ How does one blend different musical influences and genres in one's music? Simon feels, “I think when we try to blend different cultures or music, we need to keep our own identity while understanding what the other musician plays.” Lydia adds, “We enjoyed playing with each other’s music. We never looked at it as a collaboration. It was natural. We never decided anything, it just happened. For me, the memorable experience has been at the Backpackers Eco Village, Satjelia Island, Sundarban. It was a little concert very close and intimate just with the light of candle without any microphone. Just us and the audience; it was like a family."
Sanjay was at first skeptical about the audience reaction about their gig at the Hashtagwaale. “Initially I was worried about the reaction from audience of Kolkata. Usually people in Kolkata like loud music while our music is very peaceful and soothing. I was very happy to see the feedback of the audience.” says Sanjay.
Auster Loo is looking forward to a CD recording in July. Brahma Khyapa will be there for the recording in a professional studio in Belgium. Malabika signs off, “I think our music is becoming more and more close to our hearts. Every moment we share, we are sharing our lives together. We all believe that music doesn’t come from outside, it comes from inside. It’s been more than a simple Indo-Belgium collaboration!”
Contributing Writer, Abhijit Ganguly, is an extensively published journalist based in Kolkata, India. His stories cover the global arts scene and the fusion arts movement with the culture and art of India. Ganguly’s work includes personal interviews with world renowned dance troupes, film directors, fine artists, sculptors, as well as jazz, hip hop and classical musicians. He is known for presenting an inside view of the artist's craft and what motivates their creativity. Ganguly also delves into the artist's take on what a young person in Kolkata can learn from each artist, so that the youth of the city can learn to master these skills.