12 bands, sounds of new age South Asian music

New Delhi: Traditional, devotional and ethnic music of South Asia is finding new identities thanks to rock `n` roll from the West. Now 12 bands from the region, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar, will showcase this cultural fusion at a festival here.

The annual South Asian Bands Festival will be held in the capital Dec 12-14.

The fourth edition of the festival will be presented by Seher, a non-profit cultural platform, in association with the ministry of external affairs and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at the Purana Qila, the 16th century fort in the capital.

The participating nations include India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. India will be represented by Kailash Kher, Indus Creed, Ankur & The Ghalat Family, Mrigya, East India Company and 4th Element.

Festival director Sanjeev Bhargava, founder of Seher, said: "The fact that the festival is growing is evident from the sheer number of people that throng the ramparts of Purana Qila every year."

"But what gives us immense delight as a team is the age-group it touches - it is great to see people from 16 to 70 years of age, young people bringing their grandparents on wheelchairs to school and college students coming in large groups. The city of Delhi assumes a festive air during these three days," Bhargava said.

The festival features several new bands - groups which are experimenting with new age music like lounge, trance, world fusion and regional sounds. The ones that stand out are Mawj from Afghanistan, Mekaal Hasan Band from Pakistan and the Metal Zone Oasis Band from Myanmar, which will join the bands festival for the first time.

Mawj was formed by brothers Ajmal and Aimal Omid and four friends in Kabul in 2002. Ajmal Omid, the main vocalist and keyboard player born in Nangarhar in Afghanistan, started to sing and play the keyboard at 13. He released his first audio album "Hasrat" in 2007.

The band members include Masood Ahmad (bass guitarist), Ahmad Zaki (drums), Farouq Waiz (keyboard) and Shakir Fayzi (percussion).

Mekaal Hasan Band, shortened to MHB, is a Sufi rock band formed in Lahore in Pakistan in 1999 by composer-songwriter and guitarist Mekaal Hasan.

The members have roots in differing genres, including jazz, classical music, soul music and sufi rock. The band achieved mainstream success with its debut album "Sampooran" in 2004.

Set up in 2005 by three close friends who shared a mutual affinity to extreme music, Sri Lanka`s Funeral in Heaven has been influenced by international bands like Venom, Immortal and Absu as well as Sri Lankan and Indian classical music. It plays a blend of heavy metal and black metal and yet accommodates traditional and classical elements.

Traffic Jam is a Maldivian rock band formed in 2005 by three musicians Kayano, Faube and Afu. One of the most successful bands in Maldives, they have played in concerts like `Live Help` in 2006 and the `Sound of a Nation` in 2007 with Zero Degree Atoll.

Nepathya is a popular Nepali band formed by three students from Pokhara in early 1990s. It is best known for its blend of folk melodies, youth-friendly pop and rock music.

Band Bangla from Bangladesh, which traces its links to Santiniketan, had performed at the Lalon Shah Mazar in January 1997.

The Tashi Tagay Cultural Group, founded by Namgel Dorjee in 1995 with its headquarters in Thimphu, has 10 members. It plays a fusion of traditional Bhutanese and contemporary music.