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About the Dusty Road

Three years ago, Niraj started work on what he thought would be a pet project. Now completed, Along the Dusty Road is bigger than he ever imagined:

Thirteen tracks in six languages, backed by specially commissioned photography and videos, it’s his most personal work yet.

It would be easy, on first listen, to describe the theme of the album as ‘isolation’. Perhaps too easy. While the first single Bangles was inspired by his grandmother’s journey from East Africa to the UK, Road has grown to become a summary of Niraj’s own journey over the last few years.

What are the themes, then? Loss… separation… melancholy… you’ll hear them, but the overall effect is more uplifting. Experience of touring in Asia, long hot summers, encounters in London with colourful characters: they’re all key influences that burst through the music.

In the end, Road is just too difficult to define simply, or pin down to a scene. It has tracks which rely on complex classical ideas, while Niraj himself comes from a very different musical background: and just listen to An Offering where oriental sounds are layered on top of an Indian-influenced beat, more gut-feel alchemy than textbook chemistry.

To me, it’s the contradictions that make Road more wholesome, more authentic to real life than anything I’ve heard in a while.

So… it’s not simple. It’s a process, as much as an end result. It’s not about isolation (and it is). It’s a big world , in a small space. And it sounds damn good! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.”

Rish Coupland

 

Languages of the Road

Road features six languages, some better known than others:

kathak bols – linked to the dance form kathak and described as ‘the syllables of the dance’, this is language that moves you (literally) . Has to be heard to be believed.

bengali – one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, spoken mainly in West Bengal and Bangladesh. A long association with literature and poetry.

panjabi – from the Panjab, the land of five rivers.

sargam – another musical language, the words are sung to a musical interval. Often used to maximum effect in qawali.

hindi – the national language of India, from the same root as many European languages, with Sanskrit words.

urdu – a language with Persian and Arabic influences; the national language of Pakistan

 

The Stories behind the songs

Niraj’s notes on the album, track by track.

01 ALONG THE DUSTY ROAD An ambient cinematic vibe with Denyse Anyogu’s moving poetry. The only English words on the album.

02 KHWAAB (THE DREAM) A track I wrote with Melissa Baten at the start of the Dusty Road journey. There are 2 versions in Hindi and Bengali. This is a song about loss and isolation: “is my life a dream?” (Chorus lyrics)

03 SAJANA A desert song about separation with Sufi (Pakistani devotional music) and Rajasthani (north Indian) undertones.

04 TAHANA DIL A song about longing in a Ghazal style with French influenced pianos and backing vocals.

05 BANGLES A nostalgic song. The first track I completed for the Dusty Road album. For me this bittersweet song says something about ‘coming of age’.

06 KANYA A track about youth. Using classical Indian dance (Kathak) vocabulary – here recited by Gauri Tripathi. I had a lot of fun playing with Gaurijis vocals – things were chopped, edited and put through filters to get the intricate rhythmic (vocal) layers I wanted for this track.

08 GHAR A song about ‘Going Home’ in Panjabi. A breaks track in 3/4 timing. Organic steel string guitar meets the world of synthesis. I always envisage a turbaned sardarji trapped in outer space.

09 NOMAD A laid back sensual track dedicated to all the people who have had to make a sacrifice.

10 AN OFFERING A song about keeping faith. In Bengali with oriental inspirations. Reminds me of the Buddhist monks of Thailand who seek alms at the first light of dawn.

11 ALLAH HOO A track I wrote with the ineffable Faheem Mazhar. A modern day Sufi Qawali. With this track I wanted to experiment heavily with vocal layers and invoke a ‘Sufi-esque trance’ with the chorus

 

Poetry inspired by the album

The Journey:

In dream I heard you say,

‘follow the stars’

‘I wonder’ she utters in her heart,

‘how far do they rise?’

‘will they ever fall?

And shall I walk on the indentation of the leaves

As they flutter in front of me,

Or ride on the beams of the sun

Whilst I’m sheltered by your breeze,

Feels like I can close my eyes,

I’ll let these hands hang surely by my side,

This vision is my guide,

 

I place my bag on my shoulder

My shadows in my bag,

Tied securely to it the rocks of my fears

I dropped them into the abyss as I crossed over that bridge,

And now where they lay

I cant say – I am no longer aware,

 

Paths that open before me

Have no beginning, I see no directions there are no signs

Perhaps I say to myself as I observe above,

‘As the skies have no known end,

And the seas darkest depths are yet to be explored,

So my journey and me Are echoed…… lead me on

 

Lyric translation of the songs

Bangles (Live):

My Gold bangle

My parallel compromise

To yield a heart or entrust your heart

It’s all a parallel compromise

 

Whatever passage you see fit to walk

Is a parallel compromise

To yield a heart or entrust your heart

A parallel compromise

 

In our eyes where dreams are birthed

Where love is displayed so majestically

And those who have seen now embracing it

May they always be joined with love?

Remaining as is, and never parted

Close to love

 

If you dwell in my heart my sweet

If you dwell in my heart

It’s a parallel compromise

If I dwell in yours

It’s a parallel compromise

 

Khwaab

Verse 1

There was a season when my steps were unwavering

Within me was this ocean

That would repair and cure me of all my pains

But at the passing of time

I am no longer certain of my hearts integrity

The days of my youth

Now only an abstract memory

Chorus

Is my essence just a delusion?

How long do I submit to such a night

Where dreams are shattered

And mine forsake me

My silent cries reveal the stains of my memory

Verse 2

Everything is fragmented it’s falling apart

Yet perfectly connected, attached, aligned in my heart

A collage of hopes I had commissioned from within

Were denied me and blotted out

They cannot understand my lifes journey

So I alone must complete it

Middle 8

Disconnected from my thoughts

Disconnected from my dreams

This life

This road in silent suffering I must travel

 

By Denyse Anyogu (translation re-works)

Album Artwork

 
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