First Look: Tarun Balani’s Music Video For ‘Dr. Escher’
18 August 2020
This release isn’t the first time we have heard the opening pads of Tarun Balani's ‘Dr. Escher’. The New Delhi based drummer, educator and composer revealed the composition, in a very different avtar, earlier this year with ‘2°’, his debut EP as his live electronic moniker Seasonal Affected Beats. In that version, the pads followed a speech of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar which lent it an added political sheen in context of the then on-going protests at Shaheen Bagh and further across India. Months later, while the world gradually re-emerges from a shutdown of the usual life amidst a pandemic, Balani has presented an entirely different reimagining of ‘Dr. Escher’ as the lead single of his upcoming album ‘The Shape Of Things To Come’ – the music video of which you can exclusively watch below ahead of its release tomorrow.
Balani returns with his quartet for ‘Dharma’: New York trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, Finnish guitarist Olli Hirvonen, and Indian pianist Sharik Hasan. Taking over the warm pads of the piece with blazing instrumental interplay, the quartet presents an entirely different moodscape – one that was created in 2019 but, in its soaring jams, equally befits the tension and hope of 2020.
This ability to adapt itself to different scenarios stems from the very immutable stimuli behind the composition, that is, the work of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. “I am not sure if it’s possible to interpret the words and teachings of Dr. B.R Ambedkar and create a piece of music which is timeless much like his works and the ideals they espouse,” says Balani, before quoting Dutch artist and the composition’s namesake, M. C. Escher. “If you want to express something impossible, you must keep to certain rules. The element of mystery to which you want to draw attention should be surrounded and veiled by a quite obvious, readily recognisable commonness.”
Escher’s advice synced perfectly with the approach Balani was taking for the EP, re-evaluating his understanding of the terms and his role as “composer” and “performer”. Consequently, the quartet seems to work with a loose and free framework of a composition and adapt it to fit the moment. “Rather than interpreting and expressing the idea of a ‘composer’, Sharik, Adam, Olli and I came together as a unit, as music makers, and improvisers to co-create and affect the music in a way which is irreplaceable,” adds Balani. The result is a fluid piece of music, which in the hands of performers technically adept enough to move beyond it and let the moment take over, reflects the hope and tension of whatever time and space it occupies, be it political, social or personal.
While Balani admittedly resonates more with the title of a “sonic storyteller” than a “jazz musician”, ‘Dr. Escher’ and its encapsulating upcoming EP is, in the end, one of the better products of jazz coming out of the subcontinent – one that’s not just emulating its past heroes, as majority of the works in the style tend to do, but reflecting on the present in a forward-thinking way. A quality that permeates through to other aspects of the release. As Balani explains: “Initially, the title ‘The Shape Of Things To Come’ was conceived more from the perspective of the band embarking on a sonic exploration which was limitless and not premeditated. However, over the course of time, much like ‘2°’, this EP title and the music felt more and more apt considering that the past few months have been extremely difficult for all of humanity and that we have a chance to decide the shape of things to come, and we must choose wisely.”
Watch the music video, ahead of its official release tomorrow, exclusively on Wild City below. For more information, head to Tarun Balani’s artist profile.