Kabir Cafe is the Mumbai-based folk fusion band behind ‘Mat kar maya ko ahankar’ from Scam 1992 which was among the best web shows to come out last year. From spectacular performances to delicious writing, the Hansal Mehta directorial had a lot to offer to its audience. However, one thing from the show – based on the life of stock broker Harshad Mehta – that has stayed with its viewers is its soul-stirring music. One song from the show that created the maximum impact is ‘Mat Kar Maya Ko Ahankar’, which plays out in the climactic scene. The song comes at a time when the show’s leading man nears his tragic end in jail. At this point, all one does is empathise with Mehta despite his controversial ways.
While the band already has two albums to their name, Scam 1992 has widen their fan base by leaps and bounds. It has been nearly three and a half months since the Pratik Gandhi-headlined show came out but the viewers have not been able to get Kabir Cafe’s music out of their heads.
The band, which has played a crucial role in bringing back Saint Kabir’s poetry to life, consists of five members. Neeraj Arya, who used to work with Mumbai’s Natural Streets for Performing Arts Foundation after completing a course on film and editing from Wisconsin, is on the vocals. Handling the violin is Mukund Ramaswamy, a mechanical engineer who used to work with an MNC. Viren Solanki, who dropped out of college to focus solely on music, plays the drums. Britto Khangchian, a former teacher, is the bass guitarist. Responsible for the soulful percussion is MBA graduate Vikram Brahmankar.
The band is filled with gratitude after having worked on Scam 1992. They are thankful to Hansal Mehta for giving them what could be termed as a life-altering opportunity.
“We are overwhelmed with the response we have got for Scam 1992. It is heartening to see that people are specifically mentioning our music while praising the show. We feel privileged to have played a part in retelling Harshad Mehta’s story. We look forward to working on many more such projects in future,” Mukund says.
Scam 1992, however, was not Kabir Café’s first stint in the Hindi film industry. Their work has earlier featured in films such as Baadshaho (Hoshiyar Rehna) and Hindi Medium (Fakiri). The band has a significant international presence too. They have performed in as many as 11 countries including Singapore, Thailand, USA, UK, Russia, Egypt, Israel, Zimbabwe, UAE and Australia. Kabir Café is also empanelled with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
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While music bands such as Avni and Indian Ocean have famously contemporised Kabir’s works, what sets Kabir Cafe apart is its unique soundscape. The band aims to spread awareness about how the mystic poet’s works are relevant even in today’s times. Kabir Cafe considers Kabir a friend and the first member of the band.
The birth of Kabir Cafe is a supremely interesting story. It may not have come into being had Mukund not met Neeraj at the Bandra local station, where he saw the latter performing.
“I was singing Kabir as a freestyle musician and had done extensive research on his works. People liked my music and then I happened to go to Mumbai for a project that promotes independent musicians. I was performing at the Bandra local station when I bumped into Mukund,” shares Neeraj, who hails from Delhi.
While Mukund initially did not understand Kabir, he still went ahead and joined hands with Neeraj as he felt there was a certain vibe that he shared with the energetic musician in front of him. The violinist, with a Carnatic background, says that Kabir’s works have helped him see beyond classical music and into a territory that is free of any kind of structure.