Feel-good indigenous tunes armed with a message of hope form the core of the Global Isai Festival
WORLD MUSIC MEANS different things to different people. For some, it’s a marketing buzzword aimed at charting non-Western sounds. Others consider it a catch-all term to promote folk and indigenous composers on a festival billboard. Clubbing names such as Talvin Singh and Salif Keita onto one poster is like equating apples and oranges.
There are a few rare events, however, which does justice to this widely misconstrued genre. For almost a decade now, Global Isai Festival has roped in ethno-folk artistes from every corner of the planet and put them on a stage in Chennai — to spread joy and showcase the healing power of music.
To celebrate its 9th edition, besides featuring popular regional musicians like Avial, this year’s gathering includes Shan Vincent de Paul (Canada), One Rusty Band (France), Dogo Fara (Reunion Island), and many more. Electrojazz tabla maestro Subhash Dhunoohchand, who will perform at the two-day fete, sums it up best.
“Global Isai’s lineup proves that music is a universal language which can communicate across linguistic boundaries. My compositions—featuring tracks with sampled vocals from Vidwan Mahesh Vinayakram, Jakasha (Africa) and Chakkiri (Japan)— bridge electronic, Carnatic and Hindustani music. Its all about cultural exchange,” explains the award-winning French percussionist.
Tales of humanity
Another unique aspect of this gala is that the performances aren’t only about quirky vocals. Attendees at Phoenix MarketCity will get to witness artistes expertly wield native and DIY instruments. If you lean towards rock ’n’ roll and blues, Greg ‘Rusty’ Garghentini’s upcycled guitars made with radiators and cigar boxes will keep you jiving with tunes from his latest album Voodoo Queen.
A fan of percussions? Don’t miss Walila, as this high-octane chart-topper from Dogo Fara has elements of balafons, kayambs, roulers and djembes. This sextet’s tunes aren’t just a form of personal expression but also a sign of the times.
“Our leitmotifs are sharing and humanity. Music as a medium is also about conveying messages, especially those that are political in nature. Protest music is present with us on the island of Reunion, in the form of Maloya — whose soundscapes trace its origins to slavery,” shares multiinstrumentalist Loran Tremoulu.
Despite a lack of mainstream appreciation, many folks agree that such indie carnivals are the need of the hour. “The fact that music festivals, such as Global Isai, still thrive in this country tells us how there is a section of people who still support this and makes sure it continues every year,” concludes Karnautic’s guitarist Vijay Ganesan.
On February 22-23.
At Phoenix MarketCity.