A bit of Kalimpong and Calicut in Bangalore with folk-rock foursome Gauley Bhai – Score Short Reads
Gauley Bhai’s sound is somewhere between mountains and markets. Based out of Bangalore, the band comprises three members from the hilly town of Kalimpong, and one from Calicut Kerala. Melding diverse musical influences and traditions, the quartet explores love (both present and lost), despair, desire and other eccentricities of human life through bewildering-yet-charming Nepali lyrics.
Their sound hashes together everything from folk to funk, and finds rhythm in their roots. Their debut album Joro is a tapestry of stories about migration, memory and identity, an album about the invisible soul-struggles of leaving home and making new ones elsewhere.
In their tete-a-tete with The Score Magazine, Gauley Bhai breaks down what matters to them, and what are the tales their sounds intend to tell.
What is your origin story?
Gauley Bhai is a Bangalore based band, formed in 2017. Veecheet, Siddhant and Anudwatt are originally from Kalimpong, and Joe is from Calicut. This intersection of geographies and musical roots is the essence of Gauley Bhai’s music. ‘Joro’ (Fever) is their first album, a thematic exploration of love, identity and memory which launched on June 5th, 2019.
The band in the early days used to meet for jams with each other till we realised that something was cooking between us and we found a lot of meaning in it.
Deconstruct your name for us.
Gauley Bhai literally translates to “people from the village, neighbourhood / community”.
In a sense, we chose that name cause even though we live in Bangalore and are from different places. we still are ‘gauley’. It recognizes that we are from a similar place and space that we come from.
Given that you sing in Nepali, have you ever had to deal with the prospect of alienating listeners unfamiliar with the language?
We must say it has definitely happened to us once or twice, 🙂 – but mostly people prove to us that language is no barrier. Though those one or two incidents are etched in memory, mostly all are funny to think of now. But it wasn’t alienation because of language so much as it seemed that they were just closed to things that are not within their comfort zones.
What is your artistic purpose? What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your music?
Our artistic purpose is to in a way find a musical expression for ourselves that holds meaning for our lives and existence. We hope to find a way to reflect on our histories, narratives, geographies, roots through our sound, or rather create a sound that resonates and reflects.
There are also other subtleties that hold meaning for us. Singing in Nepali holds meaning personally as Nepali speaking people of the country often do not find enough representation of our people and community.
Much of your music carries the imagery of mountain life as a lost world. Could you elaborate on the recurrence of this idea?
The songs carry narratives from the mountains, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. The narratives reveal the dual nature of things. A lot of explorations are of being a state of “in-between” – between the home left behind and the destination reached, between love and death.
The imagery that we try and draw is also one not meant for the postcard. We try to draw narratives and imagery that reflect on the reality occurring now – mountains that are filled with dams and violent, failed political movements, which exist alongside the beautiful greenery, misty, springs and the watercress that grows next to it, and young people eager to love and people so fragile and susceptible to death.
Tell us about your early experiences that drew you to making music.
Each of us by some chance has had an experience of music ever since we were kids. Though almost all of us encountered music classes for something else… and then learnt our own instruments and styles on our own at home. Some members of the band have been playing for 20 years while some are just getting into performance music. But we share some ideologies of the practice and development of our craft; that resonance with each other keeps it going for us and gives us faith.
Three of you are from Kalimpong. How much does the town feature in your art?
We grew up in Darjeeling and Kalimpong. As we mentioned, a lot of the writing is influenced by where we are from. By the migration. Kalimpong though is a part of the larger area comprising Kalimpong and Darjeeling, more broadly claimed as Gorkhaland. The place does feature many times in our songs and some more which are to be released.
Despite being based in Bangalore, you speak and sing of folk history, storytelling and mythology. Does physical distance from the actual sites of these stories ever make composition difficult? Do you think your music would have been different if you were actually living in Kalimpong or any non-urban setting?
Actually we feel our music happened because we were in Bangalore. Our sound, we believe, is a new articulation of our identities. We recognise that we are people from Kalimpong but also have lived outside Kalimpong; some of us have been in Bangalore for 14 years.
Actually we don’t speak of folk or myth in our songs even though we are very influenced by it. We just share the essence of narratives and storytelling in our songs. Our effort in Gauley Bhai is to find a sound that denotes the new emerging identity of people and cultures that grow with time and travel and evolve to something else.
We want to tell you our story of the mountain from right here, standing in the city, finding a space in between Kalimpong and Bangalore.
You sing in Nepali, but often your instrumentation takes from other regional influences (South Indian percussive elements, for example). How do you bring about these amalgamation? Do you look for similarities, or do you create them yourselves?
Our creative process allows us a lot of freedom. In terms of ideas there are no limits. Our work is developed together in our jam studio where we’ve even started recording lately. Yes it’s true, a lot of our instrumentation takes from other regional influences like South Indian percussion for example, as Joe is from Calicut, Kerala and he too is influenced by his folk and the musical landscape he grew up in. So it’s a very natural process so far.
Tell us about Joro, it’s inception and your intent behind creating the album.
Joro, was a crowdfunded album and released in 2019. It is basically a collection of songs that we started making since the formation of the band. We were truly just thrilled to have this album out ourselves.
We figured that we had a sound and were so excited by it that two years went by and we didn’t notice until the album released and we heard it. It was a fulfilling experience when we drove back from the studio with the album playing in our car.
How has the lockdown and pandemic affected you?
After Joro released and we started touring with the album, Corona hit us hard and how. Just 4 months after its release the Govt of India declared that there might be a lockdown from the 21st of March 2020.
We were starting our tour in Nepal and had to cancel the shows and rush back.The months of lockdown were as terrible for us as it was for people across the country.
But despite this major obstacle, we still managed to use the time to work with Samuel Amulraj, our sound engineer, rigging up the jam room for recording and live streams with equipment donated by Abhi Tambay.
We are very happy with the audio and video and are planning to take it ahead even after the Corona scare is over. Till then, like all other workers, we will have to figure out a way to survive and stay in the city.
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/gauleybhai/?hl=en