India’s Evolving Bass Culture
“I started exploring drum n bass and live fusion in New York in the mid 90’s,” Karsh Kale retrospects about the American chapter of this same story. “Through this, I met a lot of new artists in London, and some names that stand out would be State of Bengal, Asian Dub Foundation, Bhavishyavani, MIDIval Punditz. Once I met the MIDIval Punditz, we started to bring what we were doing outside, back to India, in the late 90′s. There were also the Asian Underground guys from London, and this was a time drum’n’bass was exploring new territory and I started doing my electric tabla and DJ sets. There was always something new to feed this movement and experimentation started opening up doors to more bass music.”
Childhood friends Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj, sick of the retro Bollywood scene, started producing original electronic music and sending out demo tracks to labels and other producers as Delhi-based outfit Midival Punditz. These guys went on to become one of the most influential producers at a time when the scene was still very nascent, steering it towards a direction that was – like what was happening abroad – cognizant of how well Indian sounds resonated with audiences compared to Western ones. Their collaborations with Indo-electronica act Tabla Beat Science (founded by producer Bill Laswell and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain) put the duo on the map. Their monthly parties, Cyber Mehfil, started really catching on and soon achieved cult status. “Legendary Cyber Mehfil d’n’b raves of the early-mid 2000′s that the MIDIval Punditz used to spin at, in Delhi farmhouses with mythical descriptions and reviews,” is how Dharam Saraviya of OML remembers them. A modern take on the ancient north Indian tradition of artistic gatherings, Cyber Mehfil parties brought the sounds of modern electronica to the traditional music of the subcontinent, with the added visuals having audiences in raptures at a confluence of cultures.