Dastaan LIVE by Anirban Ghosh and Sumant Balakrishnan is winning all hearts, here’s our exclusive conversation with Dastaan LIVE
Dastaan LIVE is a dynamic multi-arts group that has quietly cultivated a devoted fan base since July 2018. The collective’s beauty, elegance, and enchantment are best experienced LIVE, but until we get back to better “live” times, they’ll be releasing a series of digital releases. Dastaan LIVE has had a fantastic reaction to their 2019 Mat Ro Bachche and is now back with their new rousing video single ‘Kaun Bataye?’. We had a chat with the cofounders of Dastaan LIVE, Anirban Ghosh and Sumant Balakrishnan regarding their journey and here we’re documenting the same for you.
About Dastaan LIVE and the people in Dastaan LIVE Collective
Sumant Balakrishnan (Bala): Dastaan Live is a multi-arts experience that has its foundation in live music combined with elements of visual, sound & light design. With music composed by me and Anirban Ghosh (Baan) at its core, our work is brought to life by the powerful words of great poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majaaz, Nazeer Akbarabadi, and Baba Nagarjuna, to name a few.
We constantly strive to forge new ideas to make this project truly immersive for our audiences, to create space for dialogue and interpretations and to urge audiences to think for themselves on the matters brought forth in our presentation.
In our current format, we have nine musicians:
Anirban Ghosh (Baan) – Co-Founder, Bass, Composer
Sumant Balakrishnan ( Bala) -Co-Founder, Guitars, Backing Vocals, Composer
Nikhil Vasudevan – Drums, Backing Vocals
Subhanshu Singh – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jagtinder Singh Sidhu – Hindustani Vocals
Sudheer Rikhari – Spoken Word Poetry and harmonium
Varun Gupta – Percussions, Sound Engineer
Rahul ‘Bamboo’ Sharma – Additional Percussions, Gamelan
Pinak Mokashi – All things film, Backing Vocals
Lighting designers: Ankit Pandey & Abhinav Khetarpal (Tech Quartet)
Live Sound by M. Krishna Rao
Live visuals by Yashas Chandra
Apart from this, we have collaborators, a production crew and other support members who work with us on a project-to-project basis.
Dastaan LIVE as a multi-art platform
Anirban Ghosh (Baan): We primarily work with Music, Poetry, Visual Art, lighting design and Performance Art, with the music at its core. We also dipped our feet into shadow puppetry with our last music video of ‘Mat Ro Bachche’, which was a recording of a one-take live performance. We believe in constantly challenging ourselves and experimenting with concepts and forms.
About their recent release, Kaun Bataye?
Anirban Ghosh (Baan): “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
-Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
While our nation rushes to embrace the future, as a people our values of responsibility, tolerance, and diversity are stymied. The disruption and chaos of recent events impact even those who are not consciously aware of it by affecting their day-to-day lives in drastic ways. Perceived progress that we often hear about in politics does not represent real change and cover up the fact that the status quo in society tends to remain unchanged. We, the people that make up this great nation, are suffocating at the hands of this tightening noose of hate and division spurred on by hollow and empty promises.
We have arrived at a tipping point beyond which fear can no longer quell the aching heart. And that’s when we must start looking inward, by asking tough, uncomfortable questions. It’s time to look closer, it’s time to ask questions, both of ourselves, and those in positions of power.
Taken from the writings of an anonymous poet, set against the backdrop of the turbulent events of the present day, Kaun Bataye asks an important question -“Aaj bhi kal ke jaisa kyun hai?”
Kaun Bataye is not only a lament about a failure of society to adapt to modern times but also a song that celebrates the fact that we will prevail in the face of such adversity to regain the humanity that we seem to have lost somewhere along the way.
Making of the Music Video
Sumant Balakrishnan (Bala): The idea for the video came about during a conversation between Pinak, who edited the video, and Baan, co-founder during the second wave when the former was scurrying around to source life-saving drugs for his father who had contracted COVID. Pinak had a lot of questions that he wanted answers to, as did the rest of India. We consequently decided to crowd-source a video to give an opportunity to people to ask questions -not necessarily directed towards the government, but towards anyone who has answers. We put out an open call on our social media and subsequently started getting videos and abstract interpretations from a whole host of people outside of our immediate circles. We were humbled by the love and support we received, to our open calls. Some of the videos that people sent in inspired us to take our creativity to the next level. Pinak, who edited the video, created this narrative timeline based on the entries, and Sumant, Anant, Vaibhavi, and Baan were responsible for the ideation and sandboarding.
Dastaan LIVE’s favourite memories of making the song
Sumant Balakrishnan (Bala): While making the song was tremendously enjoyable, the real joy was making the video. We’ve toyed with several ideas over the years to picturise this song without much luck and the first few entries we received after placing the open call were really mind-blowing and encouraging.
Some of the most memorable moments in making this video came during our time in the Virtual Edit Room. Pinak edited the video in real-time with a whole host of supporting characters, including some of our close friends who would keep dropping by as the editing room was open to all. A completely new experience to match the new normal.
ART and its importance in daily life
Anirban Ghosh (Baan): Meaningful and Purposeful art lays a solid foundation for an open and engaged society. Bala and I work with many artists practising a variety of art forms. Furthermore, the other collaborators in Dastaan LIVE come from a diverse cross-section of the Delhi art scene. We believe in setting a new benchmark for a collaborative art project, driven solely by the desire to push the envelope of performance art – both in terms of form and content, fuelled by the tireless dedication of the people involved in it.
Dastaan LIVE is not interested in simply pushing the art form but the approach towards arts practise in India in general. We believe that the arts in this part of the world need to respond to the current situation with cutting-edge content and innovate to create new ways to engage audiences.
Arts education plays a very important role in this – it is of the utmost urgency that progressive and reflective spaces are encouraged around this region, so that budding artists and practitioners of different art forms are able to imagine possibilities without having to overcome great obstacles at each step of the way. The solution may lie in the community arts, as these challenge the mainstream’s attempt to appropriate the arts and go back to the roots – when the arts were accessible and available to the community as a whole.
Dastaan LIVE’s Goals
Sumant Balakrishnan (Bala): We hope to reach out to as many people as possible and build spaces that encourage critical engagement with the arts, especially music – which is currently only seen as a disposable source of light entertainment. Music has the power to connect with people’s emotions and make them act, rather than be passive consumers. We intend on creating workshops, live performances, installations, masterclasses, conversations, panel discussions etc. geared towards alternative, unconventional art venues and spaces.
In a nutshell, our mission is to build and nurture an alternative to the mainstream and the predatory indie scene, to inspire a new breed of arts practitioners in India and hopefully south-Asia.