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Composer Tushar Lall’s Song ‘Bano’ is An Evocative Tale of India’s Daughters

The Indian Jam Project founder talks about his new release as a tribute to Asifa Bano

Tanushi Bhatnagar Jun 01, 2021

Composer and musician Tushar Lall. Photo: Jeetu & Kinneri

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Trigger Warning: Mentions of Sexual Abuse, Child Rape 

The country went into a state of shock in January 2018 as reports about the Kathua rape case surfaced. Mass gatherings and protests against child rape and sexual abuse demanding justice dotted the country. After more than a year-long wait, the law finally prevailed. 

“Bano,” composed by Tushar Lall and featuring vocalist Hansika Pareek, is a tribute to the eight-year-old Asifa who fell victim to communal hatred and violence. He channelizes the grief of the event in this evocative and scintillating piece. Every element draws a parallel to the incident, from the flute representing Asifa’s innocence to the swell in the strings marking the attack to the folkish moaning, which symbolizes her family’s grief.

The young YouTube star and the founder of the Indian Jam Project talks to Rolling Stone India about his new song. Excerpts:

Tell me something about you as an artist?

My mom used to listen to a lot of Indian classical music, and my dad used to listen to Beatles and ABBA, so subconsciously I was getting fed a mix of both the genres. And I think that very naturally thrusts you into a career 10-15 years down the line… I started studying music theory when I was 17, and before that, I was only listening and playing [music], and because of that, I became autodidactic… In my original music, you would see combinations of western elements and Indian classical elements. I feel like this mix hasn’t been explored properly. When I actually started exploring Indian classical.. [it is] more like you go to a cave and meditate… this completely transformed my perspective as a musician.

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How was the journey in the making of “Bano”? 

When I read about [the Kathua rape case], I was very shook in ways that I can’t explain. When I read about any such case, I kind of write [music] when it happens, but I thought it was a very sensitive issue and didn’t want to jump on it right away… the impact of this particular incident on me was so much that it naturally translated into a lot of work that I was putting out at that time… After three or four years, I started researching on child rape… I used to think that only music can inspire music, but this is the first time that I saw a real-life incident kind of seep into my craft. After finishing the song, when I observe the elements, I actually draw parallels between the incident and my song… it’s like I have discovered a new dimension. A story inspired me and translated onto my music.

How did you go about the production?

[‘Bano’] is actually written by my mom and dad, and I did some corrections on it. It’s like having your publishing in your family. I always try that whenever I am making a song, my purpose is very unadulterated. While making a song, I start thinking about how this will go viral, and it damages what you are trying to do as an artist. I started with the song with a piano stem. The video was a very in-house, bootstrapped effort. I had a concept that we could keep one subject throughout the video and kind of deliver a slice of time from that day. 

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What was your experience like shooting the music video? 

I am always very scared to do a video after I have done a track because on the video, I don’t have any control. This time we properly planned everything, and it was a crew of four people. The way we have shot this video, it was like we’ve gone through hell. I can’t tell you how cold it was; the actor almost went through hypothermia. We shot this near the China border…north of Gangtok. We had a three-day schedule. All you need are people who are highly skilled, and you need them to work in a very syncopated way for things to work out.

Watch the video for “Bano”

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