A musical gem – Silk Route


Yes, this post is about my current fascination with the erstwhile Indian band ‘Silk Route’.
I know that I am embarrassingly late in the game, gushing about this musical gem (that is a result of living the last decade and more with my head in the sand, so to speak), but timelines aside it merits stating that having finally heard the music, my soul is not only stirred but shaken up.

So what do we have here?
A band formed in Delhi with three young men, two of whom traced roots to the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. They burst onto the music scene with an incredible hit in ‘Dooba Dooba’ from their first album, ‘Boondein’ released in 1998, winning a bunch of music awards. I recall seeing the ‘underwater’ video for the song when it first came out. This success was followed by the release of the album ‘Pehchaan’ in the year 2000 and then sadly, the band drifted apart. Mohit Chauhan, the lead vocalist, of course has gone on to achieve great success as a playback singer in films.

A while back, I chanced upon the track ‘Mai ne meriye’ from Mohit’s solo album ‘Fitoor’   (released after the trio had disbanded) and was intrigued and deeply moved by this song. It is a pahadi ballad and speaks of the angst of separation and the longing to be with the beloved. It has a whiff of the mountain air that I love and the reiteration of Chamba, Kasauli and Shimla resonates meaningfully with me, having had wonderful memories of travel in that region. I became very curious about this singer and his musical lineage. Predictably, I then spent a bit of time exploring the music of  ‘Silk Route’ and was spellbound.

Here’s why –

Be it the languid strains of ‘Dooba Dooba’, the tender missive ‘Khoi Ho…….Boondein’, the call to love in ‘Humsafar’ , the teasing and possessive ‘Jadu Tona’ , the haunting lyrics in ‘Sapnay’ and ‘Saujha’ lamenting of loneliness and longing or the old world charm of ‘Sab se peeche hum khade’ – there is an unmistakable honesty in the music. It is not contrived or facetious, nor is it overreaching – it is enough, just enough.

For me, lyrics are an important part of the experience of enjoying songs and perhaps that is a reason why the music of ‘Silk Route’, with its wonderful marriage of soulful lyrics and a unique mix of acoustic sound elements, seems particularly fulfilling to my untrained but enthusiastic ears. The songs seem to whisper sacred secrets about life and love long searched for.
The title track from the album ‘Boondein’ evokes the feeling of reciting a beautiful prayer that permeates the furthest reaches of one’s being. I am utterly captivated by it. The amalgamation of rock and folk elements in ‘Morni’ and ‘Thanda Pani’ is a wonderful ode to what seem to be local pahadi songs.
The sound of flowing water towards the end of the song in ‘Thanda Pani’ seems aptly poetic.
‘Paheli’, ‘Tu woh nahi’, ‘Door chala aaya’ and ‘Ganga naha le’ embody a philosophical, almost fatalist tone, taking us on a journey evolved organically from the romantic mood of the rest of the repertoire.
‘Koi Pooche’, ‘Dastak’ and ‘Chakkar Gor’ are faster paced, as if adopting an explicit rock music avatar. You would think that they were setting themselves up for failure by including two songs in English as well – ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Lullaby’, but it works! Marvelously!

In all, this is a remarkably unselfconscious and mature musical sensibility that honors its unique heritage whilst exploring a thoroughly modern sound. One is left wondering what other gems would have been created had the band stayed together.
Mohit’s subsequent solo album ‘Fitoor’ is a delight in itself but who knows what magic the band would have woven into it.

It would be wondrous if  ‘Silk Route’ reunited for more music, for it is through their unique brand of music that their light seems to shine through brightest.
Until then, main to hoon doobi doobi in these enchanting albums…….

*Image courtesy of Rajesh  CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

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