Nine years ago, what started as a festival to promote wine culture now draws crowds — the expected number this weekend is 12,000 — for its music programming. This year, Sulafest will boast a bunch of popular Indian as well as international bands. This includes Dub Inc from Spain, who will bring dub and reggae beats together with African influences; Delhi 2 Dublin, that plays a magnetic fusion of Celtic violin and Punjabi dhol; Mumbai’s Madboy/Mink, the duo who experiments with electro-swing; and Kailash Kher’s Kailasa, which merges
Sufi music with guitars, drums and keyboards.
Although these bands would clearly fall into the purview of “world music”, most draw their freshness and novelty from fusion of different genres of music. The Cat Empire from Australia and Israel’s Balkan Beat Box, the two most popular international bands playing this year, are prime examples. The Cat Empire works with a variety of genres, such as ska, jazz, funk, gypsy and Latin, to name a few, while Balkan Beat Box — influenced by African street music, Caribbean Soca and Angolan Kuduru music — uses Balkan and Gypsy music with electronic beats. The saxophone riff from their song Hermatico was sampled by Jason Derulo in his famous hit, Talk dirty.
On their first visit to India, members of both bands admit they are enthusiastic about incorporating Indian instruments and music in their songs. Will Hull-Brown, who drums for The Cat Empire, says, “We would love to work with the sitar because it merges well with our music.” After touring with Melbourne-based guitarist Kumar Shome, who played the sitar in some of their songs, The Cat Empire also recorded with him in the album Cities. Hull-Brown, who holds percussionist Trilok Gurtu in high regard, adds that tabla is another instrument he would love to work with. The band’s new album, Rising With the Sun, scheduled to release in March, has them using Caribbean rhythms for the first time.
Balkan Beat Box, on the other hand, was heavily inspired by protest movements such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street in their last album, Give. “Our next album will be more about relationships between individuals and how they deal with each other and society,” says Ori Kaplan, a member of the band.
For now, though, the two bands are looking forward to playing at the Sulafest. “There’s a connection between what we do and Indian music. We’re very influenced by Roma music, which obviously has roots in India,” says Kaplan. Hull-Brown adds, “Crowds react differently to our music, depending on the country. I’m curious about India.”