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Ray of Sunshine

Their music is all about love and violence; after all,they’re an American rock and roll band. With a slight twist — the love is for the planet,and the lyrics are about the harms being inflicted on it.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
February 5, 2009 12:55:09 am

The world’s only solarpowered music band sings for the planet

Their music is all about love and violence; after all,they’re an American rock and roll band. With a slight twist — the love is for the planet,and the lyrics are about the harms being inflicted on it. Solar Punch,considered the only solar-powered music band in the world,doesn’t just talk green — all their instruments are powered by solar energy and their cars use green fuel. Now,the four-member group from New York brings its “upbeat,environmental-themed rock and roll” to the Capital as part of the Climate Solutions Road Tour.

“Plastic,it’s getting very drastic,plastic,it’s not so fantastic,plastic,it’s for eternity,” croons James Dean Conklin,43,one of the founders of the group. “Solar Punch is proof that each individual can be a solution to climate change. Our band uses simple solar technology to power our guitars,drum kits and other instruments. We need to be extra diligent to keep the batteries charged,but there’s never been a problem.” Their travel gear comprises four solar panels,amplifiers and extra solar batteries “for cloudy days”. As fellow guitarist-vocalist TH Culhane tells an excited crowd,“Let the sun shine on the solar panels,or the music will die.”

The group was founded in the autumn of 2007,when Conklin and his friend Alan Bigelow realized after a tour of Morocco that music was a “great way to get across the message about the environment and our future”. Ever since,they’ve played in schools,senior centres and market spaces in the US. Though they perform at small gathering in the US,their music is fast picking up as fans spread the word about environment activism. The line-up often changes but “every member is an environmentalist”. On the India tour,organised by the American Centre,which started in Chennai on January 2,Conklin is joined by drummer Frank Marino who is “pleased as punch to be in India” and Harvard Krocadillo Paul Lincoln,besides Culhane.

For Conklin,the lyrics come easily,“Stare at the sunset or look at a tree and you feel the vast presence of Nature,” he says. On of his favourite songs,Spinning Around,talks about “how it’s never too late to change”. The years of experience has made each member a natural performer so that “each gig is intimate and involves a high level of audience involvement” says Conklin. Apart from original scores,the group’s covers include All Blues by Miles Davis,Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon,the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun and Here Comes Sunshine by the Grateful Dead. There’s also Ghanan Ghanan by Javed Akhtar. “Before we left New York,we learnt several Bollywood songs,the most popular being Yun hi chala chal from Swades,” says Conklin,Shah Rukh Khan’s latest fan. Every show is high-energy and ends the way the planet should not — with audiences jumping up from their seats to dance to the beats.

Solar Punch will perform at the India Habitat Centre on February 5.
Time:7 pm. Contact: 011-24682001

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