Midival Punditz: Seeking The Light
Delhi-based electronica duo Midival Punditz, comprising Tapan Raj and Gaurav Raina, plan to take the performance-based concept album to stage in the upcoming festival season
Watch “Baanwarey” by Midival Punditz with animation and hand-drawn graphics by Santana Issar and Naasha Mehta
Ask Midival’s Punditz’s Tapan Raj what the secret to his two-decade-long musical alliance with Gaurav Raina is, and he corrects me first. “We’ve been together for three decades actually.” School days don’t go uncounted, he tells me that their successful partnership has stood the test of time not only because of the synergy they share, but also because “we’ve allowed ourselves to do things outside of this partnership.”
The latest album by this Delhi-based duo – known for its unique brand of electronica-meets-Indian folk – attests to the two tenets Raj spells out. Although it is their first release in six years (their last, Hello Hello, was out in 2009), which is a long wait by electronica standards, Light has been crafted with care to fit into the continuum of their identifiable sound.
It features nine tracks and multiple collaborations with renowned names. Says Raj, “When we were writing, we were thinking how it’ll be presented on stage. We kept in mind the build-ups and the breakdowns, and even things like how the light will drop.” The duo had planned it all until the last detail including how the spotlight would focus on every collaborator who would be part of their show,
Light is one such album that is brought alive by the guest artists on it. Vocalists Papon and Malini Awasthi bring their familiar folk sound to the plaintive “Nadia”, while Kutle Khan sprinkles a bit of his Manganiyar magic on “Baanwarey” and “Echoes.” Veteran flautist Pandit Ajay Prasanna is also a favourite with the duo; he is heard on five tracks. Raina and American vocalist Todd Michaelsen share vocal duties on “Don’t let go”. Says Raina, “This song is special to us; it is an emotional, yet happy track we wrote and dedicated to a friend who had passed away.” In “Rushing”, ex Motherjane guitarist Baiju Dharmajan makes his Carnatic-rock contribution.
The writing process was spread across almost two years. Raj recounts, “We recorded the album over two years. There were times when we wrote two songs in one week, and then times when weeks passed without any writing.” Raj and Raina had around 20 songs from which they chose the final nine. “We wanted this album to sound different from anything we’ve done before,” says Raj. Adds Raina, “You know when to indulge and push and when not to. Luckily, we’re not in a nine-to-five job so when things get a little stressful, we take it easy.”
While they were working on Light, the duo also pursued their individual projects. In 2014, Raina released a solo album titled Grey To Silver in his new avatar as GRAIN, and Raj launched his technology company. The duo also began work on the soundtrack of Hindi films such as Dum Maaro Dum (2011), and Karthik Calling Karthik (2010). “It was when the music festival boom happened when we realized that it was time to write again,” confides Raina.
Midival Punditz are signed to the American label Six Degrees Records, which also represents producer and percussionist Karsh Kale, Italian dub icon Gaudi, American sufi-fusion outfit Lal Meri, among other artists from across the globe. They recently wrapped up a four-city pre-album release tour and are planning another tour soon.
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