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An ambient way of being

Published : Oct 31, 2018, 12:14 am IST
Updated : Oct 31, 2018, 12:14 am IST

This genre of music is picking up, but there is a long way to go. Bengaluru-based musician eashwar subramanian pens his musings on the same.

Eashwar Subramanian
 Eashwar Subramanian

Ambient music in India has emerged as an offbeat of the electronic music scene under a specific category called downtempo music.

Unlike the manner in which Brian ENO, the pioneer of ambient music, intended there are elements of atmospherics merged into electronic music with downtempo beats of 90-120 bpm. In India, artists dabbling with ambient music experiment with sound samples of native Indian instruments, synthesisers and found sounds. Today, it is known more as chill out music or lounge music.

While attempts have been far and few in terms of live ambient performances... however there are some great ambient music producers such as Liminal Roots  Yidam, Brij Dalvi, Aastik Koshy and Internal Eye who are making huge contributions to this genre for the Indian mainstream audience!

The thing with ambient music is that they aren’t created to become chartbusters like pop or rock. But, they aim to address a core emotion of happiness and well-being, which makes it the perfect choice of your headphones if you are seeking an oasis in the midst of a complex world.

The availability of technology and the possibility of making music out of a home studio and electronic instruments coupled with multiple platforms such as independent release venues like OK Listen have allowed a new generation of independent musicians to make their sound heard. At the other end there is a rise in performance venues  particularly in metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru that offer independent musicians a chance to showcase their abilities.

An interesting concept that’s making inroads in the Independent music scene is performing for a select audience by invitation, by organisations such as Sofar Sounds that hosts promising artists in a homely space much like the old storytelling days. While most of the music on the Independent scene covers areas like progressive rock, metal, electronic and jazz, there is  a wave coming around alternative music genres like ambient that’s currently in the fringes and can be discovered on dedicated Facebook groups which provides a like minded community of musicians to share and critique works.

While purists may find much of ambient music to be electronic driven, there are takers for ambient music across all ages, considering that it also offers a therapeutic value. From my own experience, I have had listeners as far as Norway and Greenland tell me that the music of Ambient Hamlet gave them a sense of peace.

But on the flip side the attention span of the music listener today has considerably reduced, which means that musicians have to work doubly hard to ensure that their music is heard. With independent musicians the challenge is that support for the musicians could be much better – there is a need for more performance spaces and perhaps more mainstream media programmes like the Coke Studio format to help spread the interesting work that happens in the Indie and alternative music space. Most times independent musicians suffer from lack of mainstream reach either due to budgetary constraints that allow for better marketing or for lack of sufficient infrastructure. Perhaps it’s time for a radio station that’s dedicated to independent music in every metro in the country.

All that’s needed is an open mind to absorb all music styles and perhaps enjoy music for its own sake rather than being critical about it...  Once that mindset sets in there is quite the possibility that independent music will be as or perhaps more popular than music from the movies.  

— The writer is a Bengaluru-based ambient musician

Tags: eashwar subramanian, ambient music