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Gig Review :: Tribal Flora :: 5 All Day, Mumbai, Dec 9th

Come witness an ensemble of artists and instruments like never before – Australian didgeridoos, Peruvian cajón, Vietnamese Dan moi and guitars – all at once!

“Dude, you should come check out our band play at the Apollo on Friday” were the only words I needed to hear from Karan Sajnani, one of the guitarists and didgeridoo-ists (yes, I made up that word), in Tribal Flora, one of Mumbai’s, and possibly India’s, most innovative bands yet. I cancelled all other plans to catch a piece of the action – and wow, was I in for an other-worldly experience!

The curiosity behind this band began from its very nomenclature – Tribal Flora – it seemed to insinuate something very raw, very unadulterated in terms of its aesthetic appeal. On their Facebook page, they claim that they are “from deep intergalactic outer space. Due to a freak accident we landed on planet earth. We’re going to rock this place.”

The Karan I’d known from my high school days was a bad-ass guitarist with a generally rock/metal oriented style of playing. The same fellow, about 5-6 six years later, is still an amazing guitarist, but the ‘bad boy’ image of lore has been replaced by something much more spiritual – he remains as calm and composed as can be, as he switches between huffing and puffing at his didgeridoo, or playing flamenco on his guitar.

The band as a whole is a very interesting mix of individuals and instruments, fusing together influences from across the globe. That night, between 5 of them, they had 6 different didgeridoos (for those scratching their heads at this term, it is an Australian aboriginal drone pipe of sorts), 1 electric and 3 acoustic guitars, 1 box seat – no wait, that was a cajón, 2 jaw harps – a morsing and a Dan moi, a couple of flutes… and a mini-synthesizer hooked up to a Macbook, for, you know, more synthetic sounds. Ever wondered what this would sound like, when put together? Well, here are a couple of samplers:

[youtube_video id=8fTPSOiA0ho]
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Here’s music like you’ve never heard before – Unless, of course, you’ve been to one of their earlier concerts. The word ‘organic’ is a convenient term that sums up this euphoric euphony, since there is no set term or genre to describe it succinctly.

But therein lies the beauty of Tribal Flora’s music, which, in their own words, “transcends time and space”. There are obvious Afro-Latino influences, considering the percussive elements and gypsy/flamenco guitaring, but when combined with the darker and earthier sounds of the didgeridoo and dominated by the morsing’s nasal sounds, one really begins to wonder how such music was conceived and arranged in the first place… as one’s head begins to spin, it becomes easier to just lose all thought processing and become one with the grooves.

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In contrast to all the wind and string instruments, additional percussion and beats were being added electronically – courtesy of a synthesizer and a sound-bank. This added a very modern, urbane touch to their otherwise ‘tribal’ music.

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Perhaps our only complaint (wait, that’s too strong a word) – or suggestion, rather, would be to include an actual drum set or something equally tangible – in keeping with the ‘organic’ theme. However, considering the sheer lack of space in their set up that night, all such misgivings are put aside. In fact, their full repertoire actually consists of such other exotic instruments as kalimbas and djembes. Which means we will have to catch them at another show, in a larger setting. But for the time being, this had to suffice. Tribal Flora still managed to pack in a good crowd at 5 all day, drawing in an extremely eclectic crowd, which, like their music, transcended cultural and ethnic boundaries.

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Unfortunately, we missed the latter part of their set that night, which apparently was even better than what we witnessed. While we were extremely glad to be there to witness this musical phenomenon in the flesh, we simply have to go watch them play all over again, at a larger venue, the next time that they play.

We understand that our videos this time weren’t that great – you couldn’t really see much, considering the lack of lighting. So for that purpose, here are a couple of significantly better videos from Tribal Flora’s previous performances at Blue Frog Mumbai. With a full set of drums and percussion this time.

[youtube_video id=OhG7nqkrXZM]
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Be sure to see them live when they play at a venue in your town. You won’t regret it!

PHOTO CREDITS: Divya Kotwani + Kanika Nagpal

A/V CREDITS: Rajat Mehtani

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