BHAU releases new Dogri Progressive Rock/folk track

Interview with Jammu musician/ music producer BHAU, who has released his new Dogri track Hasda Phirda.

By Sreedevi Manohar

How would you introduce BHAU to a first time listener?

My Spotify info says that BHAU is a musician/music producer unhinged from musical conformity. We, as artists tend to be very vulnerable when we present our songs, regardless of how reclusive or private we are in reality. It's because most of the time we are talking about things in our songs that are otherwise very difficult to talk about.

An introduction to my music project is an introduction to me. It's narcissistic and I don't deny it. My music has been always been an amalgamation of what I like listening to. It's got influences like Frank Ocean, The Weeknd,  Childish Gambino, Parvaaz, Prabh Deep, John Mayer, Gunship, The 1975 etc and this list is ever-growing.

Tell us a bit about your latest offering Hasda phirda.

Hasda Phirda is a Dogri Psychedelic/Progressive Rock with Folk inspired vocal melodies and a lot of trippy guitar parts set to a desi sounding swing beat. This was actually the first Dogri song that I ever wrote but I never got around to release it.

The song's lyrics are reflective of my state of mind back then. I had given up on my solo music project but this song turned it around. I rekindled my passion for songwriting and Dogri gave me a whole new outlook. There's talk of self-love, letting go of resentment, building an optimistic viewpoint & enjoying & getting inspired from the beauty of nature in the track.

The guitars incorporate a lot of psychedelic licks and Carnatic melodies. Bharath Rajeevan from Kapow! has played the groovy bass guitar in the song. I've incorporated a Dogri Folk singing style called 'Bhaakh' in the chorus & the outro of the song. Interesting fact, 'Bhaakh' in Dogri folk music is one of the only Indian music that incorporates harmonies & has acapellas.

From R&B in Makheer, to Rap in Kelli and now psychedelic rock, you seem to be experimenting with genres. What do you think is the essence of your sound?

I like to think that there's no particular sound to my name, yet there's this signature quality to it that makes it identifiable. I have never liked to stick to a particular sound. It removes stagnancy from the process. Since my musical taste is ever changing, it makes sense to keep experimenting with new sounds and genres.

I am a fan of everything ranging from Punjabi music to Electronica to Progressive Metal to R&B/Hip-Hop and I like to incorporate all those elements into my songwriting and I definitely would be experimenting a lot in my upcoming songs.

Your songs explore various themes like the bewitched lover in Ratti and the confused rebel in Kelli .What inspires your creative process?

Songwriting as a process for me varies from song to song. Sometimes I vaguely know what I want to talk about and the mood. I start with the music and then start writing & refining the lyrics. Sometimes, I have no idea what I want to talk about. It's only after the song is finished I realise what has happened. This happened while making Kelli. And I was taken aback with the amount of anguish I had instilled in the lyrics, unknowingly so. I try to vary my songwriting approach so as not to get fed up with the process.

What made you choose Dogri as the language of your musical expression?

There's a lot of cultural & social context for opting Dogri as my songwriting language. I've made music in Punjabi, English, Hindi/Urdu before. And my last solo album was in Hindi/Urdu. Dogri as a language is fairly unknown and while it has beautiful folk music, it never took off in the modern music scene. No one was doing it or even if they were, it sounded like Punjabi pop music.

I wanted Dogri to have it's own identity. I had no idea what to expect with my first Dogri R&B release i.e Makheer & to my surprise, people seemed to like it. And one of the biggest factor is the amount of comfort I have while writing in Dogri. I am much more confident with it.

What's coming next?

Last year was an utterly confusing time for my project. I was directionless. But now I have an idea where I’m headed with my music and it’s keeping me optimistic. I have a couple of collaborations coming up including songs with my band The Hearsay, Fakeer, Vasu Dixit & The Shady Kid. There’s a few tracks from BHAU lined up as well. So, I’m pretty excited with all these upcoming releases. And hopefully we’ll be able to plan a tour once the pandemic situation is under control.