Meet Ravana, the Indian musician using electronica as a political weapon

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The centrepiece of Delhi-based dub producer Ravana’s latest album War for Peace is its title track. Three-and-a-half minutes of brooding, ominous percussion and jagged, distorted synths evoke all the fear, anger and violence of the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency – the longest running in India. A minute into the song, the music suddenly fades away, replaced by a vocal sample of the late Comrade Azad (Cherukuri Rajkumar) – former spokesman and Central Politburo member of the banned Maoist group Communist Party of India – taken from Sanjay Kak’s documentary Red Ant Dream.

“Violence,” Azad says, “is a structural feature of our society: it is an inbuilt, inherent characteristic of the existing unjust, authoritarian, hierarchical, oppressive and rotten society.” Then the synths and the heavy bass crash back in, now accompanied by the terrifying sounds of doors being broken down, shouting and gunfire. It’s heavy stuff for an electronica album, especially in a country where electronic music is largely the domain of rich globetrotting hedonists and navel-gazing hipsters. But then Ravana – whose real name is Shravan Chellappa – isn’t your regular electronica producer.

Chellappa first came to my attention in 2014, when I stumbled across his brilliant dub/ambient album Ghalib on Bandcamp. Fascinated by this marriage of grimy dub music and vocal samples from an iconic 1988 TV series about the Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib, I dug further to find that Chellappa had produced an astonishing array of music. Spread across 10 SoundCloud accounts (inspired by the 10-headed antagonist Ravana in the epic poem Ramayana), it ranged from breakbeat, techno and dub music to jungle remixes of Odia (a language spoken in Orissa, aka Odisha, a state in Eastern India) revolutionary songs.

Having quit his corporate job with Indiatimes a few years ago, he spends his time at home making music and occasionally doing data entry jobs. When I first spoke to Chellappa two years ago, he was heavily invested in radical politics, drawing as much influence from India’s long tradition of revolutionary poetry as from Jamaican dub music.

In the intervening time, the coming to power of Narendra Modi’s Hindu government and the rising tide of Islamophobia and nationalist violence accelerated this process of political self-education. The result is War for Peace, eight tracks of dark, politically-tinged dub sounds overlaid with vocal samples from audiobooks and speeches by political heavyweights such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Arundhati Roy.

These sparse and judiciously used samples act as a focusing lens for the album’s dark, unforgiving and unequivocally militant sonic palette. Distorted percussion drives the music forward like 21st century war drums, sometimes accompanied by field recordings of Indian folk rhythms. Warped basslines pulse with tension and purpose, an emotional counterpoint to the album’s politically-charged lyrics. This is dub music reimagined as a political weapon, the subaltern rhythm and texture of its bass, percussion and noise elements conveying a distinct political sentiment and metaphor – that of anger, militancy and a grim determination.

“I believe that peace can only come from war,” says Chellappa, explaining the album’s central theme that argues you have to fight for peace and freedom. “Why do we talk about peace if there is no war, no conflict? If you want peace, you have war. And if you want war, then you talk about peace.”

Conflict is a central theme in Chellappa’s recent music. While War for Peace focuses on the erosion of India’s public institutions and civil liberties and the increasing religious and political polarisation – with tracks like Ethnic Cleansing, Role of the Media and Religious Violence – his previous album Old Delhi tackles the battle raging over India’s cultural history and heritage.

 

old delhi

The Hindutva lobby, which believes that the left and the Indian National Congress have long dominated India’s academic institutions, sees the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rise to power as an opportunity to recast India’s complex history in simplistic terms. Their narrative, which has Muslim invaders on one side and peaceful Hindu natives on the other, has little place for a syncretic Indian culture that integrates many ideas and customs from Arabic and Persian traditions.

Urdu – the language of poets such as Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal – is now being denounced as a foreign imposition. The Ministry of Human Resources Development is making a nationwide push for the adoption of Sanskrit across the academic spectrum, a move resented by India’s many other linguistic and cultural communities. Last week, BJP legislator Shaina NC compared the Mughal emperor Akbar to Adolf Hitler, and many state governments are changing history textbooks to portray the Mughals, other Muslim leaders and even the secular leaders of post-independence India in a negative light. In such an atmosphere, Old Delhi – a musical love letter to the history-filled alleys and bylanes of the Mughals’ walled capital – is a quiet and effective act of cultural resistance.

“These are the sounds of Old Delhi,” explains Chellappa. “I tried to reimagine the serenity and sounds of the city 300 to 400 years ago in the times of the Mughals and juxtapose that with where Old Delhi is now.”

The eight tracks on the February release trace a route through Old Delhi, as Chellappa starts from the Red Fort and pays homage to some of its historic landmarks.

For this record Chellappa took heavy inspiration from the late Bryn Jones, a British producer who released dozens of Middle East-influenced electronica albums as Muslimgauze. Much like Jones, Chellappa mixes traditional Indian percussion, drones and raw jagged synths to create a soundscape that occupies the liminal space between two worlds – the majestic Shahjahanabad of the Mughals and its noisy, overcrowded modern day iteration.

Most producers would be more than content to release two albums in a year, let alone four months. But Chellappa is already putting the finishing touches on his next release, Anti-Nationals. Inspired by the police crackdown on students at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University on February 11, and the ensuing public debate on freedom of speech, sedition and nationalism, the record will come out on July 1.

“As an artist, you have a responsibility to speak up for what is right, for the truth,” he says about the album’s inspiration.

“Without being afraid of the consequences. If you know what’s going on … and you still keep quiet – and say that I’m only interested in making music and playing gigs and I have nothing to do with the things going around me – then I think that’s a problem.”

Chellappa is already thinking about the album he will make after Anti-Nationals, and he has continued to release regular non-album cuts on his plethora of SoundCloud pages. What drives him to be so prolific? It can’t be the money – there isn’t any. Indian independent musicians are lucky to even recover costs through album sales and his heavy political messages mean that opportunities to play his music live are rare and irregular.

“If I start thinking about whether I have money or not, I’ll get nothing done,” he explains. “If I’m good enough, I’ll eventually make money. If I’m not good enough I’ll still die peacefully because I did what I wanted to do with my life. If I didn’t make music, I’ll probably end up in an asylum. I’d go mental.”

Bhanuj Kappal is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai who writes about music, protest culture and politics.

 

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https://ravana.bandcamp.com/album/war-for-peace

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‘OLD DELHI’ ALBUM OUT NOW

Buy This Music Album Here
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Old Delhi (Intro)

First Track From Ravana’s Album Old Delhi Dedicated To The Sound’s Of Old Delhi And Muslimgauze (Bryn Jones). This 30 Minute Album Takes You To A Journey In The By Lanes Of Old Delhi And It’s Various Sounds Interpreted through music. This Music Is Heavily Experimental In It’s Tone And Contains Eastern Drums And Heavy Bass Vibes.

Old Delhi was released on Feb 2016 The album contains 8 percussion based heavy on bass, east influenced, politics drenched tracks that depicts the sights and sounds of this city Delhi/Dilli, where once kings and sultans roamed. This city, Delhi was built many times and destroyed many times and has stood the bestiality as well as the poetry of various human beings that dwelled it’s by lanes. If u dig it then You can share

 

Looking for Palti Darwaza

2nd track from Ravana album “Old Delhi”

Somewhere in Old Delli, India, there is a mysterious place called, Palti Darwaza. in the old days it was famous for it’s Kavha (Medicinal Potion) and now nobody knows where this Palti Darwaza is. In case any of you listeners get to hear about this mysterious/secret place of years gone by, then do let me know about this. Till then watch this crazy video.

 

Dariba Kalan Groove

Dariba Kalan also known as the Street of the Incomparable Pearl, is a 17th-century street (now lane) in Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi or Shahjahanbad, and Asia’s largest jewellery (silver) market. It derives its name from the Persian Dur-e be-baha, which translates as unparalleled pearl, while suffix Kalan means big. This is in reference to its history as a popular market for precious stones and gold and silver jewelry, especially under the reign of the 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The street witnessed the bloody massacre of Delhi in March 1739, ordered by the Persian invader Nadir Shah, when hundreds of innocent civilians and soldiers were killed and the gold shops were looted.

 

Road To Townhall

Built in 1865, though the construction began five years earlier, when Bahadur Shah Zafar was still in the Red Fort, but a prisoner of the British. Civic affairs were not conducted here in those days for it was then the Lawrence Institute — of educational and cultural affairs — probably named after the famous Lawrence Brothers. But later it was converted into the municipal headquarters, though the European Club and library continued to exist in it.

The solid looking building, now undergoing renovation, looks quite British even today, though the statue of Queen Victoria outside has been replaced by one of Swami Shraddhanand.

Along with the clock tower that collapsed in 1952, the Town Hall was — and still is — one of the biggest landmarks of Chandni Chowk in the Walled City of Delhi. The place where it stands once formed part of the gardens laid by Shah Jehan’s daughter, Jehanara, in which was also situated a beautiful sarai on inn.

 

At The Bass (Gali Qasim Jaan)

Nawab Qasim Jan was a courtier in the royal courts of Mughal Delhi. He first lived in Lahore, attached to the court of the Governor, Moin-ul-Mulk, in the 1750s, thereafter he moved to Delhi, and joined the court of Delhi, in reign of Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II (r. 1728–1806).

Soon he was given the title of Nawab, and given the region of and thereafter he built his home close to Red Fort, in Ballimaran, Delhi, in the lane that is still known as Gali Kasim Jan, and also built mosque nearby known as Qasim Khani Mosque.

Amidst the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk, as you walk down the lane of Gali Qasim Jaan near the corner of Ballimaran (Chandni Chowk), you can feel the essence of the real Old Delhi. Gali Qasim Jaan is also very famous Mirza Ghalib’s Haveli. What Shakespeare is to the English language, Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869) is to Persian/Urdu. He exploited a courtly language to compose verses of lustful love, piquant ironies and bawdy humour. But nothing of the poet’s popularity is reflected in the house where he spent his last nine years. Ghalib’s last home lost its original flourishes of frescoes, alcoves and archways, following several sub-divisons and additions over the years. Reduced to a dimly lit gallery, a small verandah and a claustrophobic courtyard, it was a coal-store at some time in the past. Ghalib would have chuckled.

 

Ballimaran Beats

It would not be wrong to consider Ghalib as the most coveted residents that Delhi city takes pride in. And the most well known address of Delhi, known worldwide happens to be:

Ghalib’s Haveli
Gali Qasim Jan,
Ballimaran,
Chandni Chowk,
Delhi.

Bhai kya poochte ho. Kya likhoon. Dilli ki hasti munassar kai hangamon per thi. Qila, Chandni chowk, her roz majma Jama Masjid ka, her hafte sair jamna ke pul ki, her saal mela phool waalon ka. Ye paanchon baatein ab nahin, phir kaho Dehli kahan. Haan koi shehr is naam ka Hindustan mein kabhi tha – Ghalib

The haveli of the maverick Urdu poet of the Mughal era, Mirza Ghalib, on Gali Qasim Jaan is the pride of Ballimaran. The residents bemoan how the government auctioned off the haveli for a paltry sum of money and converted barely two rooms into a travesty of a museum. Bestowed with such titles as “Dabir-ul-Mulk”, “Najm-ud-Daula”, “Mirza Nosha” and many others, anecdotes about Ghalib’s life and times never fail to keep the residents and tourists enthused.

This locality is named after the boatmen of the Mughal era (“Balli”- oars of a boat, “Maran”- the act of steering the oars) who were allocated this piece of residential land – just like the other galis, kuchas and katras of Old Delhi that were named after either the vocation of its residents or some luminary of the Mughal court.

 

The Last Mughal

The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur, a Central Asian ruler who was descended from the Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur on his father’s side and from Chagatai, the second son of the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, on his mother’s side. Ousted from his ancestral domains in Central Asia by Uzbek Khan, the 14-year old Prince Babur turned to India to satisfy his ambitions. He established himself in Kabul and then pushed steadily southward into India from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass

Mirza Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar was the last Mughal emperor. He became the successor to his father, Akbar II with his death on 28 September 1837. He used Zafar, (translation: victory) a part of his name for his nom de plume (takhallus) as an Urdu poet, and wrote many Urdu ghazals. He was a nominal Emperor, as the Mughal Empire existed in name only and his authority was limited only to the city of Delhi. Following his involvement in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British exiled him to Rangoon in British-controlled Burma.

 

Kavha From Palti Darwaza

 

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JESSOP&CO LIVE

JESSOP&CO (Kolkata)

A verbatim quote from Anupal Adhikary and Subhojyoti Sen would indicate a certain false humility, though imbued with telling urgency: “we have no musical talent, but if we don’t do this, we will go crazy.” Their musical talent however is certainly present – though perhaps filtered through their own uncompromising take on sonics, frequencies, and cadence. Observers have likened the experience of listening to their material as “[forcing] you to think about what you’re hearing and shake out any complacency”, and while this may or may not be the case, one should come prepared for a little bit of shaking. A seizure would be an extreme expectation, but we’re open to that. This will be their Delhi debut.

 

Da Saz Live@ DisQuiet 4, Maker’s Asylum (New Delhi 20th March 2016)

Da Saz – – is an evolving art collective with a history in classical, jazz and world music. For this event it exists in the primary format of a performance on analogue patch synthesizers. Da Saz combines radical explorations of different genres of music ranged from Hindustani classical through to Middle Eastern styles, via abstract electronic and ambient sounds.

“I am exploring instability. Searching the ‘other’ side of the sound spectrum where most composers usually don’t dwell or even reach” comments Lionel Dentan, when asked what his vision of electronic music and sound is all about.

“Over time I have acquired an acute likeness for music outside the standard methods of creation and consumption. With modular synthesizers the journey of sound has become unlimited and the aural possibilities infinite.” After 16 years of living in India, and having traversed a decade of Indian classical music on the Sitar (under tutelage of Late Ustad Sattar Bhai), Lionel has produced many projects exploring sounds of an electronic and acoustic nature, from various countries and cultures.

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Ashtavakra Gita By Osho (Music By Ravana)

We are embarking on a rare journey. Man has many scriptures, but none are comparable to the Gita of Ashtavakra. Before it the Vedas fail, the Upanishads are a mere whisper. Even Bhagvat GIta does not have the majesty found in the Ashtavakra Samhita – it is simply unparalleled.

The most important thing is that neither the society, nor any other institution of human life had any influence on the statements of Ashtavakra. There are no other statements anywhere that are so pure, transcendental and beyond time and space.

Perhaps that is why Ashtavakra Gita, the Ashtavakra Samhita, has not had much impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prisoners of Conscience (India, 1978)

June 26, 1975 is remembered as a black day for Indian democracy. On this day, 36 years back, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, declared a state of national emergency, thereby granting her extraordinary powers to rule by decree; which was promptly followed by launching a massive crackdown on civil liberties and on all political opposition.

An important historical record of this dark period in India’s post-independence political history, Anand Patwardhan’s “Prisoners of Conscience” documents the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi from June 1975 to March 1977.

During the Emergency the media was muzzled, over 100,000 people were arrested without charge and imprisoned without trial. Cases of custodial torture, beatings and death were a plenty. Repression was also unleashed on defenceles people – workers, peasants and middle class – outside of jails.

But political prisoners existed before the Emergency, and they continue to exist after it was over. Today, the common people of India witness a state of ‘undeclared emergency’ as the Indian state holds tens of thousands of political prisoners behind bars, often for years without trial, and employing an arsenal of infamous and heavily criticized draconian acts, some of the most repressive of which are the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), the colonial era Sedition Law, et cetera.

Filmed By Anand Patwardhan

http://patwardhan.com/wp/?page_id=222

The Work Of A Master (OSHO)

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The work of a master is very complex because he is working with so many people of different prejudices, different conditioning’s – and he has to shatter them all and make people absolutely clean, just as they were born, knowing nothing. But that knowing nothing was such a beautiful flower in the child. It filled him with wonder.

Knowledge kills wonder. Not knowing fills you with mysterious experience

When the child opens his eyes and sees the birds and the sun rays and the trees and the greenery… and so many colors. He cannot describe them; he does not know even their names. But he lives almost in paradise. In his innocence is paradise.

you are always looking all around – thousands of people. There are people who have beautiful bodies, there are people who have great intelligence, and there are people who have money – and they all keep you in misery. They don’t do anything to you, you do everything yourself; it is a self created hell. But continuously comparing yourself with everybody you come across, you will be never out of misery; you are following all the rules which create misery. One has to learn not to compare, not to be competitive.

But remember one thing: the moment you drop comparison, competition, all jealousy disappears. You are yourself, perfectly beautiful; as an individual, incomparable. But even the greatest people suffer from such stupid things.

The man who created the greatest revolution in the world, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, had small legs, disproportionate to his body. They never reached to his feet. Special chairs were made for him; otherwise he was dangling in the air. Naturally he was feeling very inferior. The greatest revolutionary of the world… but what to do? Existence goes on joking with people. He was always very conscious that nobody mentioned his legs. And in such situations the ordinary thing is that everybody will mention his legs – what happened?

Naturally, the thing that you don’t want anybody to know, everybody will know. Your very hiding will indicate that something is wrong.

It is a very strange atmosphere, created by the whole world. It has a certain background behind it. It wanted to destroy the individual, take away his dignity. It wanted to destroy the joyfulness and give him misery, because only miserable people are controllable, only miserable people are able to be exploited. Miserable people are always ready to play into the hands of others, the vested interests.

The vested interests don’t want individuals, because an individual, just by the very definition, is a rebel. He does not belong to any crowd, any religion, any nation, any race; he simply is himself. It is very difficult to exploit a world which consists of individuals. It is very difficult to create unnecessary wars, destruction, if the world consists of individuals. Because the world consists of miserable people, you can force them to do anything. They are always looking upwards, for somebody to order them.

In the army it comes to the extreme point. All the trainings in all the armies of the world are basically the same. The structure is how to destroy the individual, but in such a way that you will never think that it is destroying the individual. They call it discipline, they call it obedience, they call it courage. They call it many beautiful names. And what is the training?

He was released from the army, with honor. This type of man is not needed in the army. The army wants obedient people. Whatever is said has to be done; there is no question of why. This obedience is nothing but another name of slavery, creating a slave psychology. First, ”Left, right, backward, forward” – innocent things, because you are not destroying anything, not killing anybody. But they have developed, down the ages, certain tactics.

Once you become obedient and you start doing things as you are told, and you don’t ask why, then when one day you are marching with guns, the moment you are ordered to shoot you don’t think even for a moment, ”Why?” That man is absolutely innocent. He has not done any wrong to you. He also has a wife, he also has children, he also has old parents waiting for him, just as your parents are waiting and praying that you will come back home soon. If the soldiers start thinking, both soldiers will throw away their guns and will hug each other and say, ”It is time to go home. What is the point?”

The man who dropped the bombs, atom bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not think for a single moment about what he was doing. His mind was completely brainwashed, completely mechanical. He had been ordered; he was obeying. Obedience is the greatest religion, not only in the army, but also in the church; not only in the politician’s world, but also in the priest’s conception of existence – obedience, just obey. And he obeyed.

Man is living in fear. He is doing everything out of fear. If he does not do it he will lose respectability; if he does not do it according to the idea of others, he will not be thought to be somebody special. It is all fear, and out of fear nothing great ever comes. Anything great is born only out of love, meditation, silence, understanding. If you create out of fear it is not creation. Your fear will be there, just like a shadow, destroying the beauty of your creation.

If your creation comes out of joy, then whatever you do has a beauty, a beauty that you can be proud of. Whether anybody understands it or not does not matter. A man should live according to his heart. Even if he remains a beggar, he will have a dignity which even a king cannot have. The king can lose his dignity within minutes. A man should work not out of fear and comparison and to defeat someone, but to express his own genius. And everybody has a genius of some kind.