Sounds of the IndieGround – A Method to his Rhythm
I last met Laiq Qureshi (Rhythm Method’s founder – also the founder of Inroom Records and the Urban Beat Project) when he came to Chennai to perform at the IndiEarth XChange. At the time, Rhythm Method had a distinctly different avatar – featuring classical Hindustani vocalist Zeeshan Khan as the live element. Their set was free flowing, highly experimental, not heavily structured, with Khan belting out dramatic alaap after alaap – but somehow, without having the intended emotional impact on the listener. This time around however, Rhythm Method’s line up featured Laiq as the electronic backbone (and out of the box brain) behind the act; the talented Ustad Dilshad Khan on the sarangi; and the rock solid vocals of Siddharth Basrur (vocalist of Goddess Gagged). And their performance, which I caught at Kitsch Mandi in Bangalore, was a different story to their last one altogether – a well constructed story with a beginning, middle – and a very strong future ahead.
I headed over to catch up with Laiq before the gig, and was greeted with a wonderfully warm cup of tea. Amidst wafting puffs of cigarette smoke, we listened to some of the most recent material he had been working on with Siddharth and Dilshad – full on rock vocals and catchy hooks, coming together with deep Hindustani soul, throwing in a little break beat and drum step for good measure.
With all these diverse elements involved in the equation, I was curious about Laiq’s take on fusion music – and how he approaches bringing styles that are so diametrically different together, while still doing justice to the essence of each genre. “The thing about fusion is, it has to be well rehearsed. Everybody has to contribute equally to the track – it’s all about collaboration. Fusion for me is not just fusing Indian music, with electronic, or Western music. For me, fusion is to bring together music of diverse genres, different individuals, their idiosyncrasies, personal emotions – that’s fusion for me”. We continued the listening session out on the terrace, bitten by the music bug (and by vicious Kannadiga mosquitoes) – listening to the likes of jungle/dub/glitch hop heavyweights Snareophobe, and UK based rapper Fernquest (also Laiq’s next collab buddy).
When gig day arrived, Kitsch Mandi – a flea market-musical-arts-madness-extravaganza organized by the lovely Laila Vaziralli and Diva Ganeriwal – was alive with colour and chaos. Rhythm Method were on at 7 on the stage beneath the big banyan tree, and a sizable audience had gathered – Bangalore’s scenesters and hipsters were out in abundance, sporting asymmetrical hairdos and the finest in last season’s Goa fashion. And when the music began, the crowd (and their limbs) responded.
The act’s sound was undeniably fresh – a blend of musical styles that were on completely opposing ends of the spectrum, but which offset each other aptly – the way a sweet wine offsets a spicy chicken Vindaloo curry. Sweet sarangi alaaps, contrasted by the gritty grungy zest of the vocals, held together within Laiq’s finely woven and intricate web of manually created beats and badass bass lines. Catchy, too. Khan’s sarangi solos were remarkable, his fingers flying effortlessly over the strings, barely touching them, graceful as a Jesus bug walking on water, while Siddharth’s powerful vocals and effortless charisma drew the crowd in.
Even though Rhythm Method haven’t been performing together for very long, they shared a strong onstage chemistry – which speaks of a strong off stage musical rapport. “You can’t always have a definitive opinion, about anything, in a collaboration,” Laiq had said to me before the show, “as long as you’re willing to let go of your ego – everything works”.
His words got me thinking. As it seems, the process of musical collaboration itself can be an incredibly valuable human experience – perhaps as valuable as visiting a monastery or a temple? At the end of the day, it’s about putting the higher form before yourself (in this case, the music); understanding and creating something that is bigger than just the individual; a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts; at the end of the day, it’s about dissolving the ego. Freeing the mind.
Watch the promo for Rhythm Method’s latest single “Free Your Mind” here: