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In The Studio: Hari and Sukhmani

The Punjabi folktronica group will start recording on returning from their current USA tour

Sharin Bhatti Aug 01, 2012
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(From left) Sukhmani Malik and Hari Singh

It’s mid week and just after 10 pm. The Wednesday diners are placing their last orders at Chandigarh’s resto-bar Orchid Lounge and it’s soon becoming a late night for the sleepy town. Soon, the dining tables will be cleared out and a makeshift stage will be set up for the bar friendly crowd. The venue is pushing a new band, Punjabi folktronica duo, Hari and Sukhmani. What follows is a three-hour plus dynamic set with both high-energy folk music and lo-fi electronica thrown in. That was 2008, one of the first gigs that Hari and Sukhmani did in their hometown. They had won over the crowd with an electro-house “Madhaniyan,” dubstep version of the traditional folk song “Challa” and the lounge-y “Boohey Bariyan.” This was followed by a series of gigs in Delhi, a tour of New Zealand and Australia, a Bollywood appearance [their song “Kangi” featured on the soundtrack of Deepa Mehta’s Heaven and Earth] and other festival performances in the country.

Four years on, Hari and Sukhmani are planning to record their debut. “We are working on a few collaborations on the folk songs and are also writing original material. In our recent performances in India, we have been performing with various session musicians as well. When we finally sit down to record, which should be soon, it will be collaborative,” says singer Sukhmani Malik, in an email interview. The duo are currently on tour in USA performing across clubs in Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

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Hari and Sukhmani’s collaborative record will be an extension of their live shows. They have on many occasions performed alongside morchang player Chugge Khan from Rajasthan Roots, daf player Iranian Fakhroddin Ghaffari, singer Suman Sridhar and esraj player Arshad Khan. One of the most interesting things about the duo’s sound is the level of consistency between their studio material and live versions. “We keep things simple. The focus is always on the song, so I don’t add too many things to it,” says producer Hari Singh. Adds Malik, “Our music is very melodic even while it’s electro-heavy.”

 

Their instantly accessible sound has made them quick crowd favorites in Delhi specifically ”“ they have played the Holi Cow Festival two years in a row and the Escape Festival last year. The connect Malik explains, is beyond Punjabi. “Yes, we do mostly play at Indian clubs when we go on tour, but on many occasions, we find non-Indians crowding the dance floors. It’s the easy energy that people respond to. In San Francisco, we played a gig where there was not a single Indian person in the crowd and they loved us without calling us ”˜exotic.’ That made us realize our music appeals to a wider audience,” says Malik.

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Back home in India, Hari and Sukhmani will appear on an upcoming episode of the Coke Studio to be aired on August 25th, 2012, where they performed “Challa.” “When MTV contacted us, they told us to play a different song, but we really wanted to play ”˜Challa.’ Arshad [Khan] collaborated with us for this track. I think it sounds pretty great,” says Singh.

Listen to Hari and Sukhmani here.

 

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