New Delhi: After seven years for their fans across India, popular blues-rock band Soulmate once again showed the music scene why they are the favourites for so many. They released an incredible new album to once again soothe our ears. Give Love is their latest project — something most people see as the best music come-back ever. For the band, it was a gentle reminder to their loyal fans why they love them so much.
Tipriti Kharbangar, also known as Tips, and Rudy Wallang, both from Shillong, Meghalaya started Soulmate in 2003 as a result of their passion for music. They often venture on tours with other backup instrumentalists that play several instruments like drums and the organ to perform shows around the world or locally within India.
In addition to being a talented guitarist and vocalist, Wallang is also a songwriter and is responsible for some of their songs’ deep lyrics. They represent India as the only blues musicians, as recorded in history at the International Blues Challenge in 2007 and 2010. They released an album titled ‘Ten Stories up’ in 2014, which received wide positive acclaims from fans and critics alike. Their current album, Give Love is already taking over the world of rock music.
When asked how the idea for the album Give love came about, they said: “It was in connection with the prevalent pandemic currently affecting our globe generally in addition to the human destruction of mother earth and the unrealistic political situations. All that inspired the title Give Love.” They chose the title because they felt love and kindness are at the top of the list of things the world needs right now.
Preparation for the compilation of the album commenced in November 2019; towards the Mahindra Blues Festival, which took place in February 2020. At that time, the album wasn’t ready due to their tour, and their expert producer, Bari Khonglah, who mixes and masters their songs was also touring. So in order to avoid messing up their music, they decided to take their time to compose the songs properly before releasing them.
Throughout the 10 songs in the Give Love album, the rhythm and beats constantly change but follow a regular pattern. The band ascribed this to the various feelings they experienced while recording each song and the personal experiences they encounter as citizens. For instance, the song Hole In Your Soul was inspired by an unfortunate incident that happened several years ago. Some miners were trapped in a rat hole that got flooded when they dug the mine near the river. The event happened in Jaintia hills, Meghalaya, and of the 15 or 16 miners involved in the accident, only one body was found.
“Our anger is directed at the owners of mines that do not seem to care, we are angry at the politicians and businessmen that are only focused on getting richer, accumulating power, and having more control. Will their selfishness ever end?” they asked.
“Most of our other songs are a product of personal experiences and thoughts. We purchased the copyright license from the US based music label, Alligator Records, to enable us to compose Koko Taylor’s song, Voodoo Woman, which most of our fans from the younger generation thought was ours originally. Due to its high demands every time we perform, it became our signature song, and we knew we had to include it in this album,” they added.
The music scene around the world has taken a huge hit as a result of the widespread pandemic. Speaking about how this has affected the band, Kharbangar had this to say, “We’ve incurred a big loss financially because touring and playing gigs all around India and abroad have been the biggest means of earning for us… On the other hand, the lockdown has brought us closer to our families, we can now do things we didn’t have time for before.”
Additionally, members of the Soulmate band have been productive ever since the lockdown started. Kharbangar, for example, bought a bicycle that she has been riding and cycling all over the countryside in Shillong, while Wallang has been learning how to edit and make amateur videos for the band. In addition, they have begun live streaming in Rudy’s studio and jam room nicknamed – ‘Hole in the wall’.
The band has decided to leverage on this live streaming platform as their usual stage performances and live concerts may not resume back to normalcy in the coming months due to the health situation affecting the world at the moment. They have also been listening to several songs by Indian artists ranging from The Andrea Tariang band, Big-Bang Blues, Blackstrat Blues, Tajdar Junaid to Rahul Guha Roy, just to keep themselves occupied.
Over the course of 17 years that their music career has blossomed, the band cited the most memorable events they ever experienced. One was during a performance where Carlos Santana climbed up the stage and jammed LIVE with them. Another one was during the Mahindra Blues Festival this year in 2020, when Wallang’s dream of jamming with Buddy Guy came true by joining the band along with Larkin Poe, Keb Mo and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Individually, members of the band have a lot to say about the compliments they have received over the years for their outstanding performances. In Wallang’s words, “After the concert with Carlos Santana, his guitar tech Ed Adair asked me what pedal I used during the set. Then Carlos himself told me in his green room later that he loved my tone and for a guitar player, it doesn’t get any better.”
Kharbangar said, “Mine was in Memphis, Tennessee in 2010 and we had just finished our set at Morgan Freeman’s Blues Club, Ground Zero when a group of African-American women all excited came to me and hugged me saying that I sang like I had the soul of the Mississippi Delta inside me. It was truly priceless”.
With this new album, it is safe to say Soulmate is here to stay. Their mission is simple; it has been since the band was formed – to give good food to the soul.
(The article first appeared in VibesMojo.com)