Nishant Nagar, Nilay Singh, Kavish Seth and Kovid Sonawane play in a Matunga building's parking lot in the video, Building Culture
As the metal doors of an elevator slide open, five musicians step in. With their heads buried in smartphones, they are enacting a familiar scene from a typical Mumbaikar's life, who is too busy to care about his neighbour. Looking straight into the camera, 25-year-old singer-songwriter Kavish Seth reflects upon the apathy in his poem, 'Do kadam ki doori, kuch mahino main tay hoti hai, doodh cheeni ke matlab se bas ab humaari mulaqat hoti hai...'
This poem is part of a music video titled, Building Culture, uploaded on Seth's Facebook page last week. "Nowadays, most residents consciously stay away from their neighbours, fearing they might get to know you. I've not been able to understand why," says Seth, who grew up in Jor Bagh in Delhi, where festivals were celebrated together and "neighbours were there for each other at all times". However, the community way of life changed once his family moved to Mumbai a decade ago, and began living in an Oshiwara skyscraper. This inspired him to write the poem.
Aditya Sankpal plays a car horn
The second segment in the video also showcases Seth and his music ensemble — Nishant Nagar (bass guitar), Nilay Singh (drums) and Kovid Sonawane (electric guitars) — performing an instrumental set in a Matunga building's basement parking lot. "The idea is to launch the concept of building gigs. We've been performing at friends' homes for a year now. We're keen to expand the initiative to a building's premises, whether it's a parking lot, garden or terrace. It's an attempt to bring residents together," says the indie artiste.
The team has also used a car horn in the instrumentation. "We played it on location and brought it down to pitch in the studio," says Seth, who co-founded Zubaan — a pan-India collaborative music project that offers a platform to independent artistes in the heartlands of India, three years ago. Most members of the ensemble are also part of this project, having travelled with him for various chapters — Varanasi, Odisha, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. A compilation in the form of an album is on the cards. Seth also plans to turn Zubaan into a band.
Since the video's launch, he has received enquiries from buildings in Bengaluru, Delhi and Agra, via their event curatorial platform, Encore. "A legal clause suggests that a building needs license from the artiste to play his songs. So, it's better to rope in independent artistes, who own music rights of their songs. This works in our favour," says Seth. The ensemble's set list for building gigs includes originals like Farzi Marzi and Abdullah. The artiste is also keen to pen lyrics in Indian regional languages like Tamil and Marathi, as well as Russian, which he picked up recently at a gig in Moscow.
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The video features a unique stringed and fretted instrument that Seth has been designing for the last two years. Christened Noori, it is a hybrid of the guitar, sarod and the Afghani rubab. "It's a work-in-progress instrument. You can play Indian classical and western music with it, while the body surface can be used for percussion like a djembe." He collaborated with Delhi-based instrument maker Nizamuddin Niyazi (in pic below) to design Noori. The duo is awaiting its patent at the moment. "It's a fabulous, mood-centric instrument that actually replaces the lead guitar," says 21-year-old Singh, who synced his drum beats to the instrument. Meanwhile, Sonawane adds, "The instrument is unique because it can play two or three chords at the same time."
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