Originally published in the Hindu Metroplus, Bangalore on September 26, 2012:
Rahul Giri, the man behind the beats in Bangalore electronica/trip-hop duo Sulk Station says he is not exactly sure what worked in their favour to be chosen to play at World Event Young Artists (WEYA) this year. The 10-day event took place in Nottingham, UK from September 7 – 16, with Sulk Station being given three dates to perform.
It’s a bit unfortunate that vocalist Tanvi Rao’s illness led them to cancel two of those shows, but the band is thrilled to have played their first international gig, which Giri feels their selection may have to do with a niche genre – “it’s a mixture of a lot of genres, not really trip-hop, (but)it doesn’t sound like anything out there.”
He sums up their experience as “brilliant”, barring the inability to perform all three shows at the event. “Other than that it was amazing. There was just a lot of love. After the gig, even the next day on the street. It was very nice,” he says.
Sulk Station owes India Funds the Arts and Toto Funds the Arts for being chosen to perform at WEYA this year. Promotion for the gig however, came about at a short notice. “The visa came in at the last minute so we got to announce the show only at the last minute,” Giri explains.
Both organisations worked to recommend Sulk Station to the WEYA – which is supported by the likes of Nottingham City Council, UK Youth Artists, British Council and European Union, amongst others. “We were basically asked to send a link to our music and fill out a form on Weya.com. WEYA had this panel that went through all the entries and picked visual artists, performance artists and us to go to Nottingham.”
“There was a Zambian R&B group Franciar, there was Tenzing Dakpa (from India) – a photographer with a series of portraits of his friends from the north east, probably Tibetans staying in Delhi, and there was Joshua Muyiwa from India as well, a poet/performer,” says Giri. There were a host of brilliant performers at WEYA which the band caught live, including – London-based jazz/R&B/pop singer and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johsona, Mauritius four piece Patyatann, British Chinese Ling Peng, who played the Erhu – which Giri calls “the most beautiful sound ever” – and French electro-rockers Hyphen-Hyphen, who had a flair for theatrics.
“One of the highlights of WEYA was an impromptu jam between Tanvi, Patyatann, Ling Peng and a local guitarist,” Giri recalls, adding that the event gave a chance to the entirely fresh lot of artists from a multitude of countries. “These were up and coming artists from all over the world, none of them were actually too well-known.”
Though their visa prevented them from selling any of their music, they did manage to give away around 50 CDs of their album ‘Till You Appear’ to festival goers. Giri says that there was no other agenda to their UK visit, apart from playing at WEYA. “We weren’t trying for anything (to play in London) since it was a 10-day festival and we had three days and there were so many things going on. So we decided to stick to that and not overdo it. I felt that when we were doing the gig, we had to pull in a crowd, and it’s very difficult for our kind of music.”
“We checked out exhibitions, music, and dance performances in Nottingham, and in London, we were just roaming like tourists,” Giri laughs, adding: “I did check out some equipment, because when you try and buy them here (in India), the prices are double. Two or three days are just not enough (for London).”
Performing is certainly not easy for a band with a niche audience, especially one that has an electronic set up, which is only still catching on in Bangalore, let alone the rest of India. Going international for most Bangalore bands is a one-off experience, according to Giri. Citing the likes of the Raghu Dixit Project, who are currently on a tour of the US, he says: “To get gigs like that is not easy, but for us, it just fell into place. To get gigs within India, it’s still difficult, especially in Bangalore. If you look at OML bands (those managed by the well-known Only Much Louder), with the exception of Thermal and a Quarter, a lot of them don’t even go out of Bangalore for gigs.”
The next step, then, is pretty clear: “We’ll organise some gigs in Bangalore,” Giri says, adding a chance of a Sulk Station release in the near future. “We’ll consolidate what we have – there’s a bunch of new stuff but we’re not sure if we want to release it as an EP or different singles.”
Sulk Station has had some of their remixes float around, but Giri says some of the songs he has remixed include an early Sridhar/Thayil song: “I might (try and release some remixes) but nothing interesting has come about” from tinkering with them, he says.
The boost of international exposure of any kind is already possible with the internet, but when this translated to a gig opportunity at a festival, it certainly acts as a boost for artists.