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India on His Mind

Bulgarian artist Surbahar brings his vast repertoire of sounds to country he’s always thought of as home

May 20, 2009

From the Ramayana to The Jungle Book, he has been inspired by everything that has an Indian connection. His philosophies, be it music or daily life, revolve around Indian spirituality ”“ he’s almost an Indian soul trapped in a Bulgarian’s body. Pavel Stoychev aka Surbahar, international producer, instrumentalist and percussionist probably knows more about the Vedic science of India than a lot of Indians themselves. The twist? He’s never even been to India.

“This is my first time in India. Although I have never been to this country before, I feel very close to the place and the people. I really respect the traditions here,” he says on his first Indian visit. Surbahar is on an eight city tour in the country as part of the Electronic Baithaks, and can barely contain his excitement at being able to fulfil his Indian dreams.

Surbahar’s sounds are sourced from hardcore ethno elements, combining textured vocals and live instruments with electronic sounds. He specialises in ambient, progressive, intelligence dance music and techno. “I got my first guitar when I was 12 years old. We had a school band in a very beautiful village in the mountains, where I was living with my family. After a few years I quit the band and along with my brother and friends started training in percussion instruments,” he says. “I’ve learnt drumming and other percussion instruments for more than 20 years and played for some of the more well known Bulgarian bands like the Babyface Clan, Band of Mad Women, Bluba Lu, Mescalitto. I’m also part of a live band called Samodelia,” he adds. He was first noticed on the Indian scene when he featured on the Azaad-E compilation put out by Chill Om Records on the album called Azaad-E. “I did this track called ”˜Radhesha’ which really caught on in the Indian electronic circuit as well as internationally. I got an offer from Tatva Kundalini for the compilation and I took it up,” he reminisces.

But it hasn’t been an easy journey for Surbahar. Bulgaria, being a small country, offered few opportunities for growth. Surbahar began by doing sound at movie halls, moving up to work as a sound engineer and taking up numerous off jobs to pay off rising bills.

“The show that I played at No Man’s Land festival was a major gig. I had about five thousand people going mad in front of me and singing some of the tunes along. The high that this gives you is incomparable to the mundane events in life,” he believes. “It has been tough to survive just as a musician,” he says adding that now he is working on a score for a Bulgarian movie. “The movie is a big break for me as this will catapult the electronic music market in the country into the international arena,” he states.

He has also started his own independent festival in collaboration with friends called the Artmospheric festival in Bulgaria. “Artmospheric comes from a symbiosis between art and atmosphere. Our main objective is to bring contemporary arts closer to the natural environment, in order to raise public awareness of actual issues in that field, such as global warming or mass consumption,” he explains adding that their events generally take place close to nature, near eco-villages and bio farms throughout Bulgarian mountains. The musical program consists of a selection of live electronic musical projects, ranging from atmosphere ambient textures during day to intelligent dance music during night. “Artmospheric events are supporting non-commercial alternative artists united in their quest for newer forms and perceptions towards better coexistence and respect for nature,” he adds.

From L Subramaniam, Tatva Kundalini, Shpongle, Kliment, Yogini to Talvin Singh, Surbahar’s musical tastes match his music production. Quiz him about the electronic music scene in Bulgaria he doesn’t seem very impressed. “Bulgaria is a small country and the most popular music is folklore. We have this really unique folklore choir music. The electronic scene is not supported by big institutions, but the Artmospheric festival is a good example of making it possible to work closely with the government,” he believes. As for now, he’s just happy to be in the land of his dreams and he says the best gift he’ll take back with him are his precious Indian memories and experiences.


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