For Adil & Vasundhara, a collaborative project based out of New Delhi, music is not about what sells but rather about what connects. They delve deeper into their musical influences in a chat with Rohit Panikker.
The stage was nothing less than prophetic. A studio. That’s where Adil Manuel, a guitarist, met Vasundhara Vidalur, a vocalist, for the first time – and like they say about a lot of epic musical collaborations – the molecules just changed! Well, it’s not too hard to guess that from what the duo of Adil & Vasundhara have been up to in the last four years since then – touring the world, presenting their interesting blend of influences that heavily rely on elements of Jazz Fusion, Funk, RnB, Blues and Gospel, and releasing a rather impressively-produced debut album titled Ampersand in March this year. Based out of New Delhi, the duo recently performed together in Chennai for the first time. “We have been wanting to play in the city for the longest time. The audience here knows their music and they are always open,” shares Adil, as we catch them after a power-packed performance.
With a large bi-lingual repertoire of standards and original compositions, their shows have a mix of songs in French and English. Both Adil and Vasundhara admit that the main reason that brought them together was they felt that they could relate to each other’s tastes in music and how they just felt it. “When Vasundhara and I got together, we had a similar outlook on music and the collaboration just felt right, you know,” shares Adil. “Both of us, we like to do collaborations, and now, what we hope is that this opens up more avenues for music other than just tried and tested popular formats; that this will open up doors and windows for other bands to explore … That’s how we’d like to see it,” shares Adil.
“When you start out as a band in India, first you look at the market. You look at what sells. But we didn’t look at any of that, so I was a little bit antsy,” reveals Adil about how they managed to brew their music away from set norms or templates and managed to build a wholly original sound. “If you listen to us, you’d realize that we are not really Jazz; there’s a lot of funk involved, some heavy RnB and other influences. So what we do is, we fine-tune it and we get some kind of a connecting sound,” shares Adil as his bandmate chips in, “yeah, that’s something a lot of people don’t do … like there’s no point playing something if you’re not adding anything to it … it needn’t be original. Of course, there’s really no chance that you can come up with something entirely original, but having said that, it still takes time to put evolve your sound and to put something like an album together – to stick within a frame yet explore your sound.”
Extensively working with artists based in India and abroad, their focus has been the creation of new sounds and energies through collaboration, exchange and cross-influence. Their debut effort also features a rather powerful roster including jazz pianist Louiz Banks, drummer Ranjit Barot and Indus Creed’s Zubin Balaporia. And that is exactly why they named the album Ampersand, reasons Vasundhara, “The album is called Ampersand because it’s bigger than us. It’s not just about Adil & Vasundhara. Everybody just stepped in. Everybody’s contributed.”
Talking further about their debut album, Adil explains that although they have been touring extensively before and after the release of their album, in the last six months since they released the album, the support and feedback that they have been receiving has been phenomenal. “We never actually expected to gather so much attention for the album. It just happened on its own. We released the album in March and between April and July, the album went viral and we got featured so much in the media, it was not something we worked towards, but just happened. At one point we just lost count of the publications – both mainstream newspapers and other publications that had run articles on Ampersand. That was what really worked for us.”
Adil further explains that the response that they’ve got for the album is proof of the changing popular tastes in music. “Of course, the support we’ve got for the album actually shows that at some level, people are exploring ‘genres’ and listening to music like this.”
As a group that has toured both within the country and outside, the duo have been witness to the growing live music “scene” in India, Vasundhara shares that this is a relatively new phenomenon, especially in the last few years with so many venues opening up that invite musicians and have live sessions on a regular basis. “Also, it has to do more with the access, I believe,” she says. “There are a bunch of music school all around the country churning out batches of musicians. Live music became a trend of sorts and it created work, word went around and people started trying it out and taking chances … and well, some of these chances really worked out!”