The last time I watched a channel other than ESPN was NDTV, to tune into the daily news. TV held no meaning, as the programs on regular channels, such as Star Plus and Colors are unbearable, and HBO never plays a movie I haven’t seen. And then, came along the Dewarists.
“To discover the passion behind these musicians, watch them collaborate and create a song. Because some things are just worth doing. Welcome to the Dewarists. ” And with Monica Dogra’s voice begins one of the best TV shows I have ever seen. The mission of the show – to travel to exotic locations, to bring together musicians who rebelled against the norms of Indian society and discovered their own paths, created their own identities and are living the Rockstar dream today – is an idea that has not only revived the popularity of erstwhile rockstars of India; the show has also exposed us, the viewers to some new fantastic musicians within our country and abroad. It’s not coincidence that the fusion night of Mood Indigo saw Agnee and The Raghu Dixit Project perform this year.
The show basically takes two artists of similar genres, though not necessarily, and travels to the home town of one of these artists for a collaboration. It describes the journey of each of these artists, and how they broke free of social stigmas and archetypes of their times to pursue their one passion – music. While some of these artists chose to follow their Western heroes, others stuck to their roots, and fused them with contemporary music styles to expose the world to their culture. As the Dewarists tell their story, breathtaking camera angles capture the environment and set the tone for the song to follow. It must be one of the first TV shows to be shot in HD, and the difference is evident. Coupled with the brilliance of the cameraman, and mind-blowing editing, we are treated to an hour of TV that pleases the eyes, ears, mind and soul.
While each artist tells his/her story, their music plays in the background. I remember Nitin Malik wondering what parents would do to their kids if they told them they wanted ot be in a Rock Band in the 80s, and how Indian Ocean started from a two man experiment to become one of the greatest bands in India. When Harigovindan explains the discrimination he faced, and how he built his temple brick by brick and rock by rock, you are inspired to forgo boundaries and innovate. When Rabbi tells us of his joy at reaching the top of the Indian charts, you share his joy, because the show makes you BELIEVE in Rabbi’s journey and you are genuinely happy that his music is popular today.
The artists meet, get familiar, and then one of them proposes a base tune or beat to start with. Like in “Changing World”, Sri comes in with a bass riff in mind, and the words and transitions are built around this riff. Sometimes, people have lyrics beforehand, like Mohan in “I Believe” and they compose their song keeping in mind these words. Other times, like in “Masti ki Basti” playing a standard piece and some impromptu fun leads to evolution of the basic riff of the song. What is the most amazing thing about the show however, is the spontaneity that it captures on camera. We can see for ourselves, how Aditya Bhasin fills in Sri’s bass riff, how Sonam Sherpa takes the Yaman Raga to compose a slide solo, and how Raghu Dixit sings some tunes just for the heck of it, and they put it into the song. After all, “Sweet Child of Mine”, the famous GnR number was a result of a warm-up session and some goofing around. The show also gives glimpses of the mixing and recording bits of a song, laying bare the very LIFE of a musician for the viewer.
As far as the music is concerned, every episode of the Dewarists is fusion of different genres, and each episode brings the flavour of a different Indian culture to us. While “Minds Without Fear” brings Bollywood and English electronica together with the native instruments and sounds of Rajasthan, the penultimate episode “Sacred Science” takes Karsh Kale’s unique percussion beat and combines it with the Metallish yet Carnatic tones of Baiju’s guitar while the base of the song is a folk tune of the Kerala temples, Harigovindan’s music. From Rajsthani and electronic to Sufi Jazz and Bollywood to Folk Rock to Pure Indie Rock to Traditional Rajasthani and trance to Carnatic and Desi tunes to Electronic and Dance Music to temple music to Blues Rock and Naga Folk. Phew. so many genres, and yet EACH song, manages to capture the flavour of the location, and the character of each artist in beautifully composed pieces. It’s taken a lot of thinking, and the hard work is evident on screen.
Another facet of the songs that is worth mention is the lyrics. The evolution of lyrics is shown to us, and we get an idea of WHY the song is being written, and what is the message of this song. We know, that “Maaya” is about the worldly possessions that men adore, “Khule Da Rabb” is a unique worship of the god of “Openness” and “Masti ki Basti” is a song that urges the listeners to tap a foot in tandem, and live life to the fullest.
And then, the show also introduces us to locations and practices that I and most of my friends have never seen before. A temple that worships musical instruments, a bridge that is formed by the roots of a tree, one of the oldest Irani cafes in Mumbai and elephants basking in Kaziranga National Park, with breath-taking camera angles capturing the beauty of these scenes to create a spectacular series.
With one season and ten episodes done, the Dewarists should be a series more famous than MTV Coke Studios in the times to come (Hopefully) and we eagerly await the next season. Till then, here’s the link to my out and out favourite of this series, “I Believe.”