Group mixes tribal music, EDM

Piyush and Akshatha also address tribal concerns

Members of the Bonda Tribe in Odisha, who Piyush and Akshatha worked with.

It’s a journey frequently shown in movies and wanderlust videos — two people give up their city lives and set out to work among tribal or impoverished communities, leading a life on the road.

Documentary photographer/filmmaker Piyush Goswami (33) and writer/journalist Akshatha Shetty (31) have been on the road for five years now, with the last three years being a non-stop journey, as part of their social-work-through-art initiative titled ‘Rest Of My Family’.

“Everyone we meet is part of our human family. Hence, their problems are our problems too and we have to try our best to find a solution to these challenges with our resources, ideas and limitations.” says Akshatha. 

Initially, the duo was doing only documentation. “Between 2010-2013, we both started travelling to rural and tribal communities and shared our findings through photo-stories,” says Piyush.

However, they realised that this was not enough since just writing about these people seldom translated into a constructive impact on them. 

“Which is why we embarked on a nonstop one-year drive through rural and tribal India. Our journey was made possible because of a successful crowd-funding campaign. Since then, as a part of ‘Rest Of My Family’, we have documented and lived with numerous rural and tribal communities in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam,” says Akshatha.

“We live with the communities and understand their issues and plight first hand: be it walking one kilometre to fill water from the makeshift tanks,  gathering firewood from the forest, to witnessing heartbreaking moments of someone losing their grandchild to malaria,” adds Piyush.

Their tryst with the Biate community led them to set up one more project when they met Epa Lallura, one of the last persons with extensive knowledge of their folklore, nuances of authentic Biate language and their songs.

When he and some other Biate elders expressed concern about their fading culture and music, Piyush and Akshatha decided to step in and ‘The Forgotten Songs Collective’ (TFSC) was born. The initiative is a collaboration between 'Rest Of My Family' and Vinayaka, an experimental electronic musician, who travelled to Thingdol with the duo for 'The Forgotten Song collective'. There are other musicians and visual artists collaborating for the project. 

“We recorded the older folk singing these songs and got them to write down the stories behind them so that the members of the younger Biate generations have a way of learning, practising and passing on this knowledge in the future,” says Piyush.

 Akshatha points out that conversion of the community to Christianity has dimished the exposure of the younger generation to their old cultural practices and folklore. To address the issue of declining interest, the duo use experimental music and visual art mediums.

“We are working towards releasing tribal-electronic-fusion EP/albums and also conducting performances in the cities where the tribal musicians can come and perform with the collaborating musicians and artistes,” says Akshatha, adding that they will also release the original Biate songs apart from the fusion pieces.

Listen to the songs on...

“We will release the original songs and fusion pieces online as EPs/albums so people can stream and buy them. We will release specific details on our TFSC website and ‘Rest Of My Family’ page on Facebook,” says Akshatha.

What they saw

They documented various communities and issues across six states including farmers in drought-hit regions of Karnataka and Maharashtra, Devadasis in Koppal, Lambani community in Chincholi and the Bonda tribe in Orissa. In the process, they sponsored education for many children, provided community buses, set up drinking water projects, formed a Farmers Producer Company and set up a rural healthcare programme in different places.

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Group mixes tribal music, EDM


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