Limited Edition Pink Vinyl
Jason Singh produces 'Travellers' by the Banwasi Collective from the desert state of Rajasthan, Northeast India. This album is an ode to earthly and spiritual love, migration and the ever changing landscape and climate of Rajasthan and the world at large.
Whatever he touches, sound artist and composer Jason Singh brings sensitivity, nuance and soul, and 'Travellers' by the Banwasi Collective is no different. The album embraces multiple genres, faiths and languages, and, by paying homage to the natural environment of Rajasthan, makes a vital contribution to the Indian alternative music scene. 'Travellers' deeply inhales the landscape, stories, flora and fauna of this rich desert state, and exhales soul-searing songs of travel, love and longing.
Listening to the Land
The seventh track on this album - the one which gives the collective their name - is called 'Banwasi,' meaning 'forest dwellers'. The words of the song were written by the great 16th-century poet saint Tulsidas, who tells us of Lord Rama's banishment to the forest for a fourteen-year exile. Jason Singh incorporates binaural (immersive audio) and re-pitched field recordings of birdsong, transporting the listener to an ancient mythical forest. This song, and the title of the album are afforded particular poignancy given the rural background of its artists, and their precarious position as India races towards urbanisation.
The album, recorded on location at Anokhi Farm in Jaipur, Rajasthan with additional recordings made in London, is threaded through with references to the natural environment, making the landscape of Rajasthan the crucial seventh member of the Banwasi Colective. The first track,'Runalayo' opens with murmured conversation and birdsong collected by Singh using binaural microphones, during recording sessions in Anokhi Farm. A multisensory stage is set for an ancient tale sung by Bhutta Khan, in the Sindhi language.
"The way they play, the whole sound is in tune with nature. That seven-beat cycle in Gypsy - to me, that is absolutely the walk of the camel and of carts piled high, making their way across the desert. Different rhythmic cycles, Manjoor would tell me, it's this or that rhythm of horses' hooves." - Jason Singh
Singh adds that certain flourishes of the khartals, the castanet-style percussion mastered by Bhungar Khan (given centre stage from 6:30 in'Doonghar Dukham Dhey'), are inspired by the fluttering of a bird's wings. All the songs are based on different raags, the Indian music system of notes and moods, each evoking different seasons, times of day and references to nature.
"There are peacocks wandering free all over the Anokhi Farm where this record was made, in Rajasthan. John Singh, to whom this album is dedicated, loved his garden at Anokhi, and he loved his peacocks." - Jason Singh
Peacocks are also the symbol of Lord Krishna, the playful Hindu God so beloved by Mirabai, the 16th-century author of'Prem Diwani'.
The album is extraordinarily diverse - with references to Sufi poetry, Hindu mythology and Sassi Punnun, one of the four popular tragic romances of the Punjab. Songs are in Hindi, Urdu, Marwari, Sindhi and Saraiki and take the listener on an immersive journey across religions, water and dry arid landscapes, between Bhakti and Sufi, mortal and divine.
Travellers will be played in public in full for the first time as part of Jason's curation of the Enchanted Forest stage at WOMAD 2023.