Electronic music act Bandish Projekt has always managed to be on the cutting edge of the genre in India, whether it’s with tours or producing straight up an unthinkable concoction of sample-heavy sounds. His latest is called Katal Kalaa, a five-track EP that features rappers Mawali and Tod Fod, from Dharavi’s famed rap crew Swadesi.
The dancefloor-friendly EP is heavily focussed on rhythms, and that’s immediately evident when you hear tracks like ‘Dakla’ and ‘Mumbai Aamchi’. The idea for Bandish Projekt’s mainman Mayur Navrekar was just a regular run-of-the-mill, meet-in the-studio magic collaboration. Navrekar and the rappers spent about seven months honing new skills, rehearsing and recording for Katal Kalaa.
Navrekar says, “It’s more of an EP that’s an intense experience which these guys have going on in their own region. Tod Fod and Mawali rap in Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi. I didn’t want to just take the general rapping stuff, which is there in the scene already.”
For Katal Kalaa, Navrekar also got in Tod Fod and Mawali, who were being trained in the art of Konnakol, a South Indian language that’s percussive in nature, fusion artist Viveick Rajagopalan. Navrekar says, “The idea was to incorporate what they write as lyrics in a percussion form. For me, as a classical tabla player, the idea behind that was how I connect to my roots and how I envisage rap coming from India. It’s not just about the lyrical content, but also about the rhythmic patterns and how you can interchange things within the language.”
The groundwork for the EP was laid about two years ago, when Rajagopalan began training the rappers and when Navrekar was introduced to Swadesi’s music via his label record Bheja Fry’s partner Pritesh Varia. He says, “Pritesh used to hang out with them. He met them at a rap cypher and he said I should meet them. They came at my studio and I checked out what they do. I was quite impressed with the lyrical content of what they’re writing. Tod Fod is just 17, and Mawali is just 21. They’re very adaptive, quick at learning.”
From the Gujarati folk strain on ‘Dakla’ to the nadaswaram-led ‘Kar Natak’ – a must-hear just for its wordplay – the EP also includes what Navrekar calls “Indian grime” on ‘Ek se Aanth’.
A culture-based collaboration like this may often run the risk of also seeming like a producer is simply appropriating what another artist is known for, but Navrekar has made the project more or less organic. He says, “If you look at our catalogue over the years, I’ve always been working with artists whose music has been challenging on their own, apart from me doing anything with them. When I collaborate with somebody, it’s me working with them in the space where we exchange our art. Every artist has grown in their own space, so to adapt someone else’s space, to give that space to each other is very important.”
The Bandish Projekt, Tod Fod and Mawali are also currently working on their live set. Navrekar says the performances will be more than just the tracks off Katal Kalaa. “We might do a jugalbandi were they rap over it. We’re working on putting together a tour.”
Watch the video for 'Dakla'
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