Review: Between The Notes – Newanderthal & Lokkhi-Terra (London, 27th February 2015)

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Between the Notes Festival is London’s tribute to Bengali arts. It is a three-day event that showcases North East Indian and Bangladesh traditions through its music, movement, word, colour and shape. It set off on the right foot with bands Lokkhi Terra and Newanderthal charming the first night’s audience with their individual interpretations of regional music.

Bengal is one of India’s richest cultural treasure troves, but it is also a port of embarkation from where musicians and artists have set sail, spreading North East Indian culture around the world. The aim of Between the Noteswas to display Bengali traditions to the London audience, highlighting the creative flair of the region and mixing up its traditional artistic forms with cultural elements ranging from Latin America to the Horn of Africa. The mission of hosts Rich Mix was to conjugate centuries-old traditions with new artistic directions through a dynamic approach. On the first night of the event Ansuman Biswas’ introductory words summed it up so: “although the bands playing tonight are rooted in the Bengali tradition, their music points towards the world.”

Ansuman is undoubtedly one of the epitome of Between the Notes’ soul. He is an eclectic artist born in Kolkata who, having moved to London dedicated his life to promoting Bengali arts. Indeed he is a brilliant reflection of his native land, an expression of the many masks that it can wear. He opened the event on stage with Newanderthal, his most recent musical project that is a captivating potion of exotic musical influences. The ensemble played a charming musical elixir obtained by mixing scented ingredients from India, the UK, Ethiopia, Brazil and Guinea, distant languages like Amharic and Bangla, adding distinctive instruments such as the sarod, kora and a handcrafted mbira.

Then, after the evocative set played by Newanderthal, the night energetically took wing with Lokkhi Terra’s forceful show. The band led the audience on a different musical journey. This time the itinerary, after having taken off from Bangladesh, headed towards Cuba where Kishon Khan, bandleader and keyboard player, spent his formative years. It was on that Caribbean island that he infused his Bangladeshi folk roots with Latin rhythms and a West African character.
The band upped the tempo, exhorted the audience to dance and inflamed them with their unpredictable but smooth groove. This show was an emphatic start for Between the Notes and was arguably the best prologue the Festival could have had.

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