Mani nahi bhav, mhane deva mala pav, deva ashane bhetaycha nahi re… dev bazarcha bhajipala nahi re (one is asking for God’s blessings when there is no devotion or feelings. God in not like any commodity in the market). This verse by Saint Tukdoji Maharaj, a saint from Maharashtra, is usually sung to a specific raag and taal. But the band of five youngsters called Abhanga Repost have taken on the challenge of replacing the taal with guitar, drums and tabla beats.
Every year in Maharashtra, the wari procession brings together lakhs of people who walk from Alandi and Dehu, shrines of Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram, respectively, singing poetry or abhangs by Bhakti saints. Abhang Repost, however, plays these poems at music cafes, clubs, art and music festivals to a young crowd. Such has been the response to the fusion of abhangs by this Maharashtrian Indie folk fusion band that they have been featured by TEDx. The episode will release soon.
In their early 20s, the five college dropouts met when they were studying in different colleges in Mumbai. Viraj Acharya, 23, was an engineering student, while Dushyant Deorukhkar, 22, was a student of mass media. Swapnil Tarphe was pursuing B Sc. Their love for music got them together. Along with Piyush Acharya and Ajay Vavhal, they decided to blend abhangs with modern music, while preserving the essence and richness of the verses and its message. “It has been three years since our band was set up and 250 gigs later, I think our parents are proud of us,” says Acharya, who plays the tabla and is also a vocalist. “We want to remember these saints of yore and their music for 365 days a year,” says Deorukhkar, the drummer and vocalist of the band.
The three-year-old band has been accompanying waris (pilgrims) to Pandharpur since the last two years, performing their fusion version of abhangs. The group is likely to perform along the route this year too. “The guitar is being played as an ektara. The tabla and harmonium are also being used. Drums play the role of a pakhwaj,” adds Tarphe, who is the bass guitarist and vocalist. “Folk music is our passion. We fuse reggae, Indian folk and rock metal (though there are no electric guitars). There are soulful songs as well. We have been able to manage well. Sometimes there are no shows but we set targets for the coming months. We will be cutting our own album soon,” says Deorukhkar. Acharya adds, “We recompose the abhangs in indie pop or folk fusion style but the messages have been kept intact.” He notes how there are some favourites, including when Saint Tukaram says “Just as butter is in milk, God is in you”. “We find an instant connect with the audience — be it young or old. The poetry written by saints contain deep revolutionary thoughts. All that we are doing is ensuring that it is heard throughout the year,” adds Deorukhkar. The band’s name denotes the endeavour to post the poems penned by saints in a more contemporary manner.
The reach of the band in not limited to a Marathi-speaking audience. They turn to Saint Dnyaneshwar’s words to explain their philosophy: “Worship your work. Nobody counts on rewards”.