An Urdu poet gets a Berklee tribute

Jun 18, 2017, 13:32 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

Dhruv Goel and the Berklee Indian Ensemble's soulful Pinha rethinks Indian classical music in a new light

The Berklee Indian Ensemble
The Berklee Indian Ensemble

Pinha, which means 'hidden within', is to celebrate a human being's spirit in the face of adversity - in this case the ghazal belongs to poet Fatima Wasia Jaisi, and is autobiographical. How she found the courage to rise above," says LA-based musician and Berklee Indian ensemble member Dhruv Goel, who also has composed, arranged and sung Pinha. Jaisi, an Urdu poet and scholar, who passed away last year at the age of 76, was considered a pioneer of her times. "She was performing at mushairas all over the world even when it was unheard of for women to do so. If there were 50 people in the audience they were all men. So she fought a lot of bias," says Goel. The original composition, that the ensemble released a month ago has been raking in appreciation on the Internet. The song deserves it. It's a soulful, melodic, get-stuck-in-your-head number, which makes you wonder why you aren't listening to Indian classical music more often.

"Dhruv came in one day gingerly in 2013 with the track. And we loved it instantly. It has become an intensely personal and special song for us, as we all connect to its spirit," says Annette Philip, founder of the Berklee Indian Ensemble, which has 20 to 40 students at any given time from all over the world. The ensemble is one of the largest and most diverse at Berklee, which performs originals and tours internationally, performing an array of South Asian folk, classical, and popular music, and has collaborated with various artists. "It's the creating together that we love. And that gives any song a unique texture. People have been sending in praise, right from enjoying the arrangement, and especially for the soulful lyrics. It's also our way of giving an ode to the forgotten and lesser known poets of the world."

Dhruv Goel
Dhruv Goel

Goel, a Delhi university student, says that Berklee changed the way he saw music. "I found my groove there. I found what kind of music I was meant to do." Goel is sort of on a roll in LA music's industry. After working as a freelancer with JoAnn Kane Music, he has worked on movies like X-Men Apocalypse and The Jungle Book. These days, he is busy working with Remote Control Productions – music legend Hans Zimmer's company. "Basically, Hans has two assistants. So, I am the assistant for his main assistant. I am the right hand of his right hand," he laughs.

Right now, he is busy soaking in all the love that's coming in with the song from international and home shores alike. "I think the ensemble just made it their own, and that made it even better," he says, explaining how the group has musicians from all over the world, and hence interpretations of the song were different. "For example, the drummer is from Israel and the guitarist from Malaysia - their way of treating the song is different. Pronunciations are different as well. It just sounds beautiful now."

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