Exclusive: Sufi sensation Humsufi explains their global sound
Kolkata-based sufi band Humsufi is pursuing a sound that’s truly global; they have extensively explored the sufusion genre which gives them the room to instil international influences in their ever-evolving soundscape. “Previously during the course of a single performance we’d use about maybe 10 instruments, but now in a concert, there are roughly around 40 instruments that are played!” band frontman Krsna tells us.
The band which just turned eight last month released their first debut album named Humsufi one-and-a-half years back and are currently working on some brand new numbers which they plan to release around April. Humsufi is also set to go live in Kolkata on January 26 at The Tollygunge Club, supported by Indulge, The Morning Standard and we just caught up with the members to tell us about their evolution. Excerpts:
How has your sound evolved in the last eight years?
We follow Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and learnt a lot from him; his sound was so intricate and deeply-woven. But when we started out we didn’t have a specific idea about how we would go about it.
No one was pursuing sufi music in a dedicated way from the Eastern part of our country, especially. We tried fusing in different genres of music into our soundscape because there’s such a huge variety of instruments we use! We started experimenting with Bengali folk, jazz, rock, we’ve very recently brought in elements of Goanese fusion in our compositions.
What are some of the instruments you use in a concert?
We use harmonium, tabla, drums, which are, of course, the root instruments. We have the keyboard, guitar, melodica, xylophone, saxophone, sarengi, a range of percussion instruments, from dhamak to bongos.
Tell us about the research that goes into developing your sound?
In specific projects, in some collaborations, the instrument research we have to do is huge, in terms of learning and perfecting them. But our influences are so varied that some of it just develops organically.
For instance, our bass guitarist comes from a rock background, so he is really into Lamb of God, Megadeth and the ‘80s metal scene. Our percussionist comes from a true-blue Indian classical background, he’s a national scholar in Pakhavaj, so he is of course, really influenced by the Indian masters like Zakir Hussain, Pandit Bhawani Shankar ji.
Do you think people are willing to pay more now for original music?
Absolutely. Not just in the country, but also abroad, people appreciate Sufi immensely. But in Kolkata especially, if you put in a good effort and if it’s a good production and you believe in what you do, people will give you a chance. If you’re honest about your production, it shows. If we are set to perform a two-hour concert, we will try to bring in that much variety in elements and we’d want every minute to be fresh.
In Kolkata, every home has at least one family member who’s into music somehow; so the knowledge and interest about music is always expected from the audiences here. Our priority has always revolved around our audiences and what they like and we feel like they are the ones who have consistently led us to the right path.