By Shaswata Kundu Chaudhuri
Ziba in Persian refers to strength, unity and beauty; or a common movement for welfare. Rather fitting for a band to have such a name when their music unites the world as it tells tales of lands far and near – from Mali to Kolkata, France to Latin America, and the Middle East to tribal Bengal.
Conceptualized by virtuoso guitarist and musician Amyt Datta, Ziba is a five piece experimental world music band from Kolkata consisting of Arko Mukhaerjee on vocals and ukelele, Aakash Ganguly on bass, Deboprotim Baksi on percussion and Ritoban Das on drums. Their debut gig took place on 15th February 2018 at Phoenix, part of the Thursday Jazz Encounter.
The bar was packed. There was a excited buzz in the air. The band took to the stage to thunderous applause and their first song transported us back 600 years, to the time of poet and saint Kabir through the song ‘Ud Jayega’, re-christened as ‘The Kabir Jam’. Arko’s free falling, far flung voice paid homage to the poet as an oriental rhythm took root. The guitar solo, however, flew out of that soundscape like an alien being, injecting its musical tentacles into the root, and eventually becoming part of it.
Next stop was rural Bengal on the wings of a traditional baul tune, ‘Namaaz Amar Hoilo Na Adaay’. A slow and murky soundscape flexed its muscles as the words spoke of an anguish felt by a man who couldn’t offer prayers to his God. The music clashed around, like the sea hitting a rocky island in the midst of a storm until it relapsed into a mystical sound, behind a frenzied and acrimonious evocation of the guitar.
A beautiful surprise was in store when we were taken for a trip to the evergreen land of Satyajit Ray through ‘Dekho Re’. The track has been imagined in an outlandishly different flavour – like an exotic beauty, almost forbidden. One could just close his eyes and imagine being in a magical forest, dark and fearful, but strangely welcoming. The soundscape felt like it was made of dark matter, growing bigger and enveloping the space gradually through each bar; until finally, the guitar sprang out of it like a mighty beast rushing straight out Hades’ haven.
This dark intensity, which left everyone speechless, was followed by an enchantingly peaceful release. ‘Couleur Cafe’ was a slow delight, bringing lazy smiles all around. But another beast awaited!
On a funky, progressive soundscape, the rural ‘Allah Megh De’ and the Latin ‘Gypsy Queen’ were juxtaposed. This song has probably been designed to let all the musicians go wild. Rapid and wacky percussion solo was followed by roaring and unconventional drumming, but when the guitar took it up, all hell broke loose! Like a gigantic kraken thrashing down a fleet, it descended upon the existing sound with an unquenchable thirst. The percussive sea around it also turned into a chaotic mess due to its almighty force, creating an exquisite furore.
Ziba promises a celebration of stories, colours and dance. It is, above all, one of the finest avatars of the art form that we know as music. But then again, it is much higher and greater than that. Ziba is an experience!
Check out The Kabir Jam: