Forward Merch: Scribe, BLOT!, Karsh Kale, Monica Dogra & Arjun Vagale on prints and Tees
An Indian graphic art collective brings Indian graphic artists and musicians together for a unique collaboration with fashion brand Koovs
Just as a bright yellow banana comes to mind when you listen to The Velvet Underground “Run Run Run,” visual art and music are bound inextricably, eternally. Indian graphic art collective Kulture Shop recently brought Indian graphic artists and musicians together for a collaboration they’re calling Katalyst Music. We caught up with Arjun Charanjiva and Kunal Anand, the founder and co-founder respectively of Kulture Shop to know just what Katalyst was all about. Says Anand, “We realised that we know a shit load of musicians! If you tap into our whole network, quite a lot of people from the music industry – not just Indian, but globally.” Katalyst Music is the second edition in the series. It first kicked off with Katalyst Mumbai and Anand says that they wanted to throw the series open to the rest of the country after working with Randolph Correira (of electro dance-pop group Shaa’ir and Func) for the Mumbai edition. Anand adds, “The 2015 edition features five of India’s popular alternative musicians from different genres including Karsh Kale, Monica Dogra, Scribe, BLOT! and Arjun Vagale who collaborated with Indian graphic artists for some super cool, limited edition merchandise in association with the fashion brand KOOVS. Here’s how the project took shape.
Karsh Kale x Meera Sethi
Approaching multi-instrumentalist and fusion pioneer Karsh Kale to be a part of Katalyst Music was easy. “Someone like Karsh Kale – his entire career is based on collaboration,” Anand says. Pairing Kale with artist Meera Sethi also happened very organically. Says Anand, “Karsh and Meera’s work is all about cross-pollination, migration, identity, pop culture mixed into Indian identity. Karsh does an amazing job conveying that through his music and Meera talks through her visuals. That meeting of two points, we could see it very clearly.” The discussions led to zeroing in on the specific idea of Kale being a travelling nomad. “Maybe he gets a chance to unpack his tablas, but he’s always on his journey – we wanted to distill that into an image,” said Anand.
Arjun Vagale x Aniruddh Mehta
Arjun Vagale’s legend precedes him — he’s the man behind the pioneering Jalebee Cartel and founder of UnMute Agency, which manages and promotes Indian electronica artists. But for the folks at Kulture Shop, Vagale’s presence in Katalyst Music went beyond just his impressive legacy. Says Anand, laughing, ”Vagale’s a bad boy. He’s got me into techno – that’s pretty fucking impressive.” But Vagale’s image also goes beyond just his music, and it’s apparent in the way he conducts himself. “He wants to get involved in interesting things. He’s got a creative outlet and a passion, and you can see it in his aesthetic – in the things he collects and the things he wears,” Anand says. Aniruddh Mehta, Vagale’s partner for the collaboration, is a Mumbai-born artist who studied in London and then returned to India. Anand says of Mehta, “After he got exposed to minimalism and geometry in London, his entire aesthetic changed.” Together, Vagale and Mehta produced a design that captured the core mood and vibe of what techno music represents – a form that is birthed on the dance floor. “We love the idea of techno music being based on a grid, a structure. You can pretty much hear it in the music,” says Anand.
Scribe x Gaurav Basu
Scribe’s signature sound powered with irreverence was something that drew Anand and Charanjiva towards them. Says Anand, “Scribe is Bombay and India’s leading metal band. They have such an attitude and style that’s intrinsically Bombay.” As far as pairing Scribe with an artist was concerned, Gaurav Basu represented the perfect intersection of metal and art. Not only does he front Bengaluru-based thrash metal band Inner Sanctum, but is also known for his work as a graphic designer for many metal bands. The artwork for Scribe’s prints and T-shirts was based on the motif of their latest album, Hail Mogambo: a cat-like creature straight out of hell. Anand, who had several chats with all musicians during the course of Katalyst Music, tells us it’s a retro throwback to a lot of things Scribe grew up with. He says, “[In the artwork] Swatcats, typography from stuff like Back to the Future, we also kind of pay a little homage to Donnie Darko,” he says. Says Basu, “Initially, the sketches I had thought of were a bit too extreme. So we said, let’s go with the comic book vibe, since I’m a big fan of comic book art. At the same time, the style of the content that was presented [referring to Hail Mogambo], was pretty dark in its own way. Live, Scribe have that sort of take-it-easy attitude, a very fun sort of energy. I wanted to carry that forward in that comic element.”
BLOT! x Rishidev RK
“Since day one, they’ve been doing really experimental work,” Anand says about how BLOT! was invited to be part of the project. Adds Anand, “Then they started doing music, then visual, now they’re doing video games and soundscapes. So they’re kind of a music band, but they’re more like an arts experimental initiative,” he adds. BLOT! is currently working on a video game, one that draws heavily from a South Indian aesthetic and since artist Rishidev RK’s work is centred around psychedelic Sound India motifs and collages, pairing them was one of the most organic collaborations, according to Anand. “It’s based on a traveling man. Rishidev grabbed on to elements from the video game, and multiplied them into a mixed collage. It’s all about sight and sound, and our understanding of the two,” Anand says.
Monica Dogra X Jasjyot Singh Hans
Monica Dogra is one of the leading figures in the Indian music scene, and having her be part of this collaboration was something Kulture Shop was looking forward to. Says Anand, “She’s a performer, a writer, a banshee on stage. She’s multitalented, and she just pours out all of her soul through her work, whatever it might be. We knew we would get substance there, that there would be some depth and some soul to it.” When asked how they paired Hans with Dogra, Anand says that a lot of Hans’ work also revolves around exploring possibilities and human vulnerability. “Jasjyot is a big fan of Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue, and is always listening to pop music when he works. Plus he has a fetish for fashion,” Anand says. Initially, the ideas for the artwork interpreted Dogra as a powerful woman and an icon. Says Anand, “This was a tricky one. The image wasn’t really that true, it was just the perception of her.” Dogra then played them a song from her upcoming solo album, which Anand describes as a “beautiful track about vulnerability, and finding, and messages.” That was what drastically changed the artwork into its now final form. “Monica is holding a letter close to her heart, and there’s bottles, boats and messages in her hair. And these are things you don’t want to let go, but you have to – you’re artists, and your work forces you to dig deep and let it go. But she has something that she’s still holding on to, at the end of it all,” Anand says, explaining the artwork on the T-shirt.
To see the entire range by Kulture Shop, click here.