Grooving to the rhythm

Melodious tunes

Grooving to the rhythm

Baiting the audience with their unusual name, the band members of ‘Shatabdi Groove Express’ echo laughter — in their music and among themselves.

Not ones to be labelled and stacked in one genre of music, they bring in oodles of experience and inspiration from various sides to make melodious tunes. They are in the City to perform as part of the ‘World Music Festival’.

Says Ralf Siedhoff, who plays the electric guitar, “We draw inspiration from the moment and create something. There are composed structures, of course, but we mainly improvise and go with the flow. That’s why it’s difficult to put us in a category; we draw from all our experiences.”

Christian Schmidhofer, on Indian percussions, can’t help but take a dig, “If you want, you can call us ‘alternative ethno-fusion’, ‘psychedelic chutney rock’ or ‘chutney fusion’,” as the other members fill the room with choral laughter.

Calling music an “international language”, the band, which comprises three Germans (Ralf, Christian and Marc-Inti) and an Australian — Ron Reeves — say that they have no problem communicating with people from all over the world. This is evident as they narrate how they met each other.

“I met Christian nearly 15 years ago, when I was studying at the Karnataka College of Percussion (KCP). In fact, he saved my life! It was my first time in India that time and I was really lost. (If you are coming from Europe it’s bound to be a little shocking.) I spent the first week alone in my room, attending classes and eating at the same place everyday. When Christian arrived, he showed me many things and I have loved India since then,” says Ralf.

The others found each other through KCP as well. And each of them have some special memories with the country. Christian’s story began about 25 to 30 years ago, when he was enamoured by percussion instruments in Germany, and he went on to study with renowned Indian percussionist TAS Mani. Now, he is adept at various Indian percussion instruments.

 Ron, also a percussionist, says, “I studied at KCP and that has affected everything I have done in music since then, although I haven’t played Carnatic music on stage. But I do use the music, concepts and rhythms a lot. I’ve listened to a lot of Indian music and have worked with some talented musicians.”

This is Marc’s sixth time here. The Frankfurt-based bassist says that this particular visit is very special because, “I am surrounded by people (foreigners) who have been studying Indian music for quite a while; they are firm and convinced about what they are doing. I still have a lot to learn. But when Christian asked me whether I wanted to come on this tour, I said ‘yes’ immediately. I had been keen to visit India for a long time, but it never worked out till 2009. Coming here was a big experience and after a while, I fell in love!” Each of them is well-versed with an Indian percussion instrument and flaunt it with style.

Talking about how the band came together, they say in unison, “Christian called!” After a pause, Christian adds, “I was looking for musicians who have relations with South India and I found them.” And Marc elaborates on the name, “We’ve heard that ‘Shatabdi Express’ is a train that travels all around India, and that represents our music accurately.”

In line with their aversion to labels and willingness to experiment, Ron will be playing an Indonesian percussion instrument this time — a kendang. “It is a set specific to West Java and is part of a traditional musical orchestra called gamelan,” he explains.

‘Shatabdi Groove Express’ will perform at Seva Sadan on October 9, 6.15 pm onwards.

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