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music project

Dada, it is eclectic

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FUN FOLK: The members in the Lokkhi Terra ensemble range from nine to over 15 at times

Lokkhi Terra. The word in Bangla means someone who is cross-eyed but beautiful nevertheless. The music that Lokkhi Terra, a multi-cultural music project initiated by Bangladeshi-born but British-raised Kishon Khan, is pretty much that, imperfect yet beautiful.

"There's Bangladeshi folkloric music traditions with Cuban rumba, Nigerian Afro-beat and a hint of jazz, and you wonder how it might all fit together but it does and beautifully at that, " explains the creator of Lokkhi Terra and pianist Khan, who gave up a career as an economist to pursue music.

The resultant sound - one that imitates the soundscape of Khan's childhood in London - is a curious mixture of funk and soul, of rhythm and raga. "A lot of musicians don't like to define music but I prefer to classify it on the basis of which city it is born in. I think our music comes out of living out of London, " is how the 41-yearold Khan describes it.

The influences are obvious. Bengali folk and groove are just the starting point but soon, the Cuban influences seep in, transplanting you onto the streets of Havana where it segues into African beats.

Made up of experienced names who've been around for years - mostly as sessions players - Lokkhi Terra started gigging in 2006 and has since then been surprising people with its twist on traditional folk music from South Asia, Africa and Latin America at venues like the London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Albert Hall, WOMAD Festival and Glastonbury. They've also released two albums, No Visas Required and Che Guevara's Rickshaw Diaries to great responses in the world music community.

Though the ensemble can range from nine to sometimes over 15 people, the Lokkhi Terra Quartet, which performs in Delhi on Sunday, will see Khan, the ever-smiling Javier Camilo on vocals and bongos, drummer Tansay Omar and bass player Jimmy Martinez in action.

"The Quartet is basically the core of the band, " begins Khan. "Camilo is one of London's most sought after percussionists while Martinez is one of the more established and versatile musician working with pop stars such as Enrique Iglesias and Nelly Furtado. Our drummer Omar, who has worked with Bjork and Boy George, is known to be the funkiest drummer in London. We're a cool bunch of music folks, " he jokes.

The combined sonic forces usually transform a quiet room into one which has people clapping and swaying within minutes and Khan is hoping for a similar reaction in India. "We're just trying to expose a lot of African and Latin traditions which we feel aren't very well represented in countries like India and Bangladesh. "

The Quartet's inclination towards Cuban music stems from the fact that both Camilo and Martinez are Cuban and also because of bandleader Khan's own interest in the Afro-Cuban melodies.

Even though the band has been applauded by critics and audiences alike - they were the critics' choice at WOMAD 2011 and were also invited to play at the South Asian Games in Dhaka in 2010 - the charge of remixing folk music has also been thrown at them.
"Oh yes, we get that reaction very regularly, " Khan quickly responds. "I play in a lot of traditional bands like in an African band or a Jamaican band so I can't be accused of not understanding tradition. Even Tagore Indianised melodies and tunes from Europe. He's the best example of creating something new out of something old. The sarod is not an Indian instrument, it comes from Iran. So what makes it traditional? I understand the intent of the traditionalists but not the argument. Most importantly, to do fusion, you must understand tradition and no one can tell us we don't, " is Khan's argument.

Lokkhi Terra will be playing at blueFROG in Delhi on January 8, 9 pm onwards

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