With a single-storey, antique-type building and token of music and art hanging here and there on the walls, the house was a perfect fit for Joler Gaan, the massively popular folky-fusion band. In the jamming room, band leader Rahul Anand was circled by young band members practicing for a show to take place that evening. They had to practice for the show and I had to interview them, so it became more of a conversation than a typical interview - sitting in a circle on the floor carpet.
The jamming room was all packed with known, unknown and half-known musical instruments - some collected from different places of the world, some designed by the band. Rahul has a passion for musical instruments, and can play an impressive number of them. “Wherever I go, I collect musical instruments,” said Rahul as I asked how come they had so many of them.
Joler Gaan performs with instrument all designed by themselves, and with unique names: Mondola, Noyontara, Gitam, Haramoni, Padma etc.
When asked if these musical instruments made by them create a predicament in playing live, Rahul said it had always been the other way round. “We make our kind of sound by the instrument made by us,” he added. “If not supported properly by the sound system, we perform even fully unplugged, keeping the sound engine off. This has happened several times, even at five star hotels,” said Rana, the percussionist.
“Some people term us as folk band, some as fusion band, and there are many more terms that are used to label us, but we know we sing whatever touches us,” said Rahul. “I passed a significant amount of time with bauls and still I do which might be the reason for my folk knack”, he added.
To emphasize on their adherence to nature in terms of lyrics, guitarist Xem said, “We sing mostly about nature and love as these two things are inbuilt in all of us.”
“The band was formed in the campus of the Charukala of Dhaka University by few students of the batch 1994, including me and Kanak (Aditya) and we used to perform in all the programmes of Charukala at that time,” said Rahul. Rana said immediately after their formation, they had performed for the first time in British Council in Dhaka after which they had been invited for a show in Glasgow. “We did not have a name at that time. When the authority asked for one, we hurriedly gave the name 'Joler Gaan',” Rana added.
Joler Gaan's set-up has changed many a times and this is the fifth formation, according to Rana. Their present lineup is - Rahul Anand (vocal, flute, mondola, noyontara), Rana Sarwar (vocal and percussion), Abs Xem (vocal, guitar), DH Shuvo ( sound), Md. Masum ( dhol and percussion), Mallik Yishorja (vocal and haramoni), Dip Roy (padma, a bass instrument), Lippu Asim (dotara) and Gopi Devnath (violin and percussion).
The author is a freelance contributor to The Daily Star.