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In The Studio: Whirling Kalapas

The debut EP by Uday Benegal-Mahesh Tinaikar’s acoustic rock side project features collaborations with Suman Sridhar and Taufiq Qureshi among others

Megha Mahindru May 15, 2013
Whirling Kalapas at the Universal Music Publishing studio in Bandra. Photo: Avni Murthy

Whirling Kalapas at the Universal Music Publishing studio in Bandra. Photo: Avni Murthy

Indus Creed frontman Uday Benegal is sure that when it comes to his acoustic rock side project, Whirling Kalapas, no two gigs are the same. It’s no surprise considering that the core band, which comprises Benegal along with long-time collaborator and guitarist Mahesh Tinaikar and multi-instrumentalist Sankarshan Kini, has been performing their mellow repertoire of songs with a host of guest artists on stage. “It’s a stripped down sound with all the embellishments from the collaborators on board,” says Benegal about the band’s music. In April, the band was joined by a cello player (Jake Charkey), a viola and clarinet player (Shirish Malhotra as well as The Oshidar sisters (Shayaan and Sahira Oshidar), who added harmonies to their acoustic set.

At the Universal Music Publishing Studio in suburban Mumbai, where Whirling Kalapas are recording their self- titled debut EP, another stream of eclectic artists have been stepping in to collaborate on their four-track EP, scheduled to release on May 17th. Among them is vocalist Suman Sridhar of Sridhar/Thayil, well-known percussionist Taufiq Qureshi, bassist Suresh Mendoza, vocalist Ankit Dayal and drummer Vivaan Kapoor (ex-Spud In The Box). “I love working with different musicians, but I don’t want us to rely on more than the three of us. The collaborations are only there to enhance the sound,” says Benegal. 

When we drop by at the studio, Kapoor is seen hitting the notes on his djembe in the studio for a recently-composed track, “Don’t Laugh At The Sun.” Tinaikar is glued to his iPad, while Benegal does most of the talking. Last September, the two bandmates returned from a Spud In The Box gig, impressed with the band and the young drummer. Since then, the Whirling Kalapas band members have assumed their roles as mentors, not missing a single opportunity to share the stage with the young artists. “We are not here to promote anyone. You could be 65 or 16 (years old), it doesn’t matter. If what you are doing musically is interesting to us, and we think will work very nicely within the set, then that’s it. The idea is to enjoy the experience of making music with that person, irrespective of the age,” says Benegal.

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While last year was all about Indus Creed’s big comeback, Benegal says that this month is all about his “band in a backpack,” as he refers to his three-piece band. “Though Kini’s backpack is rather large,” he jokes. If it wasn’t for Whirling Kalapas, formed in 2009 when Benegal returned from the US and reconnected with Tinaikar, Indus Creed may have never reunited. “Yeah, I think we got talking about reviving Indus Creed at a Kalapas jam,” recalls Tinaikar. In fact, the nostalgia-tinged “Fireflies”, which made it to Indus Creed’s Evolve, was originally written for Whirling Kalapas. “Later, we decided to Indus Creed-ise it, so now it works as a bonus track on this EP,” adds Benegal.

On the EP, the song gets a makeover as a duet as Suman Sridhar joins Benegal. “The Whirling Kalapas works as a single unit, every member’s contribution is demonstrated on stage. That kind of camaraderie was nice to witness and open for,” says Sridhar about working with the trio. “It was new and a lot of fun to sing a duet with Uday on “Fireflies.” It was a different style of delivery and intonation than I am used to and so it was a learning experience,” she adds. While fans are sure to have heard three of the four tracks on the EP, “Don’t Laugh At The Sun” is one that the band recently penned and do not plan to take to stage before the EP launch. “We don’t test our material. The three of us really like these songs so that’s enough reason for them to be on it,” says Benegal. 

Another artist who has added to the EP is Qureshi. Last month, when Qureshi stepped in to record his part on “Looking For The Mahatma,” he was seen playing a tube pipe with his head at the recording session. The percussionist, known for his penchant for playing with almost anything he can lay his hands on, brought with him fruits and a water bucket, besides drums and shakers.  “I’ve collaborated with Uday and Mahesh before, so when they asked me to join in on this beautiful track, I couldn’t say no,” says Qureshi. Another thing that drew him to the recording was the musicmaking process. “These days music is all about cut-copy-paste of the 8-bars, but Uday wanted me to play, say the shakers, for the whole song. It reminded me of the days when we played the entire song while recording,” he adds. In 2006, Qureshi recalls joining Benegal on the same song as part of an Alms For Shanti performance. “This time, Uday told me he didn’t want heavy percussions for this song. So after many years, I picked up just my shakers, tambourine and djembe to the studio. The sound is sparse, yet tastefully done.”

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The EP, recorded by Devashish Ray and mixed by Benegal’s brother, Vijay, is what the band calls “a combo of whimsy, coupled with an educated subconscious.” For Benegal, the EP couldn’t have been possible without its collaborators. “I like to collaborate with human beings, because everyone is collaborating with machines now. They get the perfect sounding pop track, but it still doesn’t feel right,” he says. At Qureshi’s recording session, he remembers the percussionist’s surprise when he asked him to play the shakers from start to end. “Taufiq said it’s not something anyone does anymore. But I’m happy to hear the human element. We all forget that making music is not about creating clean tunes. Now there is auto tune for singers, quantizing, cut copy paste. We don’t want to do it that way. What Vivaan is doing today, one can do off a sampler. But the idea here is to get a human being to do it with actual instruments. I believe that the music you make contains people’s energy and that’s why we have all these musicians as part of the EP.”

Download the Whirling Kalapas EP here


Whirling Kalapas EP launch tour:

May 17th: BFlat, Bengaluru. Entry Rs 300

May 18th: Malts n Wines, Baga, Goa. Entry free

May 25th: Bandstand Revival finale, Dadar Chowpatty, Mumbai. Entry free

May 30th: Hard Rock Café, New Delhi. Entry Rs 500 (full cover)




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