When a jazz musician teams up with an eighth-generation sarangi player, one can only imagine the notes that will emerge. It’s an intersection where 30-year-old Aditya Balani aka Adi meets 26-year-old Suhail Yusuf Khan. Together, they tune in to each other’s musical sensibility to create what they call “electro-folk rock”. The two Delhi-based artistes, who played at the Kasauli Rhythm and Blues Festival in Chandigarh, have just completed their debut album titled, Culture Code Landscape, which releases next month.
“We’ve known each other for more than 10 years, and started a band called Incognito in 2002,” says Adi. Although the band lost steam after five gigs, the two kept in touch and collaborated once again in 2010, as Adi & Suhail. “We had been playing with various bands, Adi left India to study music at the Berklee College of Music (US), and I was carrying on with sarangi and other projects,” adds Suhail.
The duo got their “worldly experiences” on the board, and got down to making music. Whereas Adi formed the Aditya Balani Group, a motley group of jazz musicians from around the world, and also co-founded Advaita, Suhail went on to form the Suhail Yusuf Khan Project, collaborating with other classical musicians. They have been performing as Adi & Suhail since May 2012. “I personally wanted to explore the electronic musician and singer-songwriter side of me. Since Suhail and I had been collaborating on and off, we decided to use the material and compose more music,” says Adi. For Suhail, it was the “energy and connect” that made him join hands with Adi. The album is a product of their influences — rock, blues, Hindustani classical, western classical, jazz and even electronic music. Loosely classified as electro-folk rock genre, Culture Code Landscape is a confluence of their styles. While Adi lends it an electronic edge, Suhail — with his sarangi, lyrics and soulful voice — adds a rustic depth to it.
Their band also features Jayant Manchanda on bass and Aveleon Giles Vaz on drums. In Naina (a lyrical adaptation of Baba Bulleh Shah’s poetry) they pay tribute to their rock influences and feature American drummer Isaac Haselkorn and Parikrama’s Gaurav Balani on the bass. Another song, Sitaare, talks about the duality of a celebrity’s life; Dil tere is a love song with sarangi and electric piano; while Zindagi explores the facileness of human desires. The song, Pehchaan, is about losing one’s identity. Also teaching music at the Global Music Institute in Delhi, Adi is looking forward to another album, titled Kargil, with poet Sudeep Sen, and strongly feels the need for art, culture and music to be a part of school curriculum.
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On the other hand, Suhail — grandson of sarangi legend Ustad Sabri Khan and nephew of Kamal Sabri — wants to make classical music engaging for the youth.