Magnetic Fields Festival: Robot Koch & Chaganji
14 January 2014
Bringing Robert Koch aka Robot Koch to India for Magnetic Fields Festival has always been high on our agenda and the fact that he very openly hates travelling made his submission to the Motherland that much more special. However, what has really inspired us about this journey and connection is not how insanely incredible his set was (this is an understatement of preposterous proportions), but how such a beautiful and organic relationship has now evolved between one of Europe’s most talented underground producers and a remote Chung band in a sleepy little village in Rajasthan.
It started with a little teaser, a very simple concept, ChaganJi the Alsisar Mahal guard dancing to ‘Cloud City’.
We first saw Chaganji perform at the annual Alsisar music festival hosted by owner Abhimanyu; a competition with local bands performing together in front of the whole village in the palace grounds. Our first encounter with the venue blew us over, our first glimpse of Chaganji dancing left us all mesmerised.
The video created ripples, but these waves stirred in directions that none of us anticipated. Robert was enchanted with the video, not only did it capture the very playful nature of the festival but it showcased the beauty of the local culture and how easy it could be for a union of these very disparate worlds. The local community in Alsisar were also captivated by Robert’s music. The receptionist at Alsisar (who also acts as the village columnist, filtering important information to the locals in real time) told me what a great fan he is and explained to me how special Robert is in Alsisar.
A chance encounter, two exceptionally talented people from worlds far apart have met, performed for each other and have sewed the seeds for a collaboration that none of us anticipated. This is how it should be.
This East meets West union that is often celebrated in contemporary music has turned into a tired and almost redundant sound. It brings up many tricky questions about identity within contemporary Indian music and the eternal quest to define what this ‘sound’ is. We have all dutifully applauded the plethora of Western producers who come to India and get a tabla beat played live across their EDM anthem. Robert’s chance union with Chaganji and his Chung group has given us high hopes for a cultural ‘fusion’ that steps away from all pre-conceived notions associated with this word.
If Robot Koch comes back to us with a track that is everything I hope it is not (and you all know what I mean) then I will eat my hat, quite literally. However, what I hope evolves from this experience is a learning curb and an example of how we need to treat these ‘East meets West’ collaborations. If we bring over producers and artists and let them make their own connections and associations with Indian culture, they will create their own interpretation and sounds.
Magnetic Fields surprised us all, it evolved with the audience over three very magical days and left us all with a dazzling impression of how remarkable the Indian cultural landscape actually is. A seamless integration of local Rajasthani culture flowing alongside contemporary India.
This is a big thank you to Robert, for coming to India with an open mind and heart, to Border Movement for their unconditional support with Magnetic Fields Festival and to the Goethe Institut MMB, for making this remarkable union possible.