Sitar Metal: The World's First Sitar Fronted Indian Classical Metal Band
Growing up listening to post-hardcore, metalcore bands as a teenager, my personal journey towards heavy metal initially began around my middle school-high school years. It was around the time I moved to college, having been an avid fan of the various Rock/Punk subgenre's, that I came across Djent and Prog music - which in retrospect, in a design school environment was, I suppose, inevitable.
However, it was on discovering this particular band - that is to be the main attraction of this article - that I was filled with utmost surprise, and in a sense pride, being able to resonate with a sound that was not the oh so familiar power chords and blast beats I was accustomed to hearing, but instead a Sitar!
Sitar Metal is an "Indian Classical Metal" band who as the name suggests, specialise in, well, Sitar fronted Metal music.
Encompassing 4 exorbitantly talented individuals - frontman, lead composer and sitarist Rishabh Seen, the guitarist Deeparshi Roy, Tushar Khurana on bass, and Joel Damian Rodrigues on the drums - the band's music is an intricately woven web of delicate sitar tunes that are amplified by hardcore, heavy metal riffs and beats.
If you look up the word multifaceted, you are most likely to find a picture of Rishabh Seen under the description of the word. Hailing from a family of classically trained musicians and citing legendary icons of their respective genres, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Slipknot as inspirations in the same sentence, it is clear that his wide array of talent is equally as diverse as his musical preferences.
Fronting the world's first and probably only Sitar Metal band, the project amalgamates the classic sitar symphonies with hard-hitting heavy shreds of guitars and powerful drums, all produced to utter unique perfection. Having discovered metal music as a teenager, Seen fell in love with what he heard and wanted to find metal bands or artists that fronted other classical Indian instruments.
It was upon being unable to find any such music that combined his devotion to both genres, that the artist noticed just how under-appreciated and disregarded the sitar was.
Starting off by posting a variety of sitar based covers of popular heavy metal and rock songs on his youtube channel, Seen decided to show the true range of the instrument and educate the younger generation by ridding them of the misconception that classical instruments could not be 'cool' or contemporary.
Gaining widespread acclaim for his covers from legendary musicians like Steven Wilson, and James Hetfield, Seen decided to take a step further and develop the initial solo project of Sitar Metal into a full-fledged band.
Coining their genre as the aforementioned Indian Classical Metal, the band reveals the term comes from a place of complete transparency - much like the band name itself.
The entire idea behind the band's creation was to bring back the glory of raw unfiltered instrumental music, and the power it holds. They wanted to show that instrumental music can be just as expressive as music with lyrics, if not more.
Something as simple as the fact that sitar is an instrument that is played sitting down and is a lot more internal in terms of the vibe, while metal is the exact opposite and is a lot more outwardly - with artists moving freely, headbanging and moshing, further proves how completely on opposite ends of the spectrum these two genres are, and just how deftly they have been melded together by the band's creative expertise.
With multiple international rock bands having looked towards the East for musical inspirations and sounds to sample on tracks - Tool's "Right in Two" and "Disposition", Joe Satriani's "The Golden Room", Metallica's "Wherever I May Roam", The Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black", etc. - Sitar Metal turns the tables bringing home an all-new variation of the vision creating an eclectic sound.
As the band says,
They maintain that the intention while creating is to never mask the true sound of the sitar. In fact, in all the songs the sound of the sitar is left completely untouched without any alteration or distortion for it to be as authentic as possible.
The band effortlessly maintains key traits of either genre, keeping them intact with hardcore breakdowns that can be heard resonating in the sounds complimented by classical chorus sections. Each song, be it 'We Will Never Exist Again' or 'When Time Stands Still' takes you on a rollercoaster journey that seems to be a revelation for the ears.
The band's interesting creative process also shines a light on the step by step, building blocks approach that goes into writing and creating distinct melodies. Every initial idea that comes up from Seen's mind is immediately recorded on the sitar and entire structures are then sent to Roy who composes the guitar set over it, followed by Khurana and Rodrigues.
Another interesting fact worth mentioning is that Seen and Roy never actually met in person during the creation of the first album, and would instead collaborate by sending each other structures and compositions, during the writing process, through shared Whatsapp audios.
Referring to iconic artists like Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Dream Theater, The Contortionist, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain etc. as the band's main musical inspirations, another unique referential outlet that seems to inspire them are several comedians, namely George Carlin.
The band members also cite their journey so far and certain struggles they have faced to be a part of this new contemporary cultural sphere, as a major inspiration for the storytelling through their music.
From convincing families to support and let them pursue their musical inclinations, to constantly being true to their unique creative vision and direction in an industry often plagued by repetitive chart-toppers, each band member has overcome several factors to reach where they are. However, they believe in constantly moving ahead and try not to give too much thought to the negativity.
The band is currently working on their second album and is in the midst of ideating and creating new sounds. They have plans in the future to collaborate with other artists stating that they listen to several different genres other than just Indian Classical or Metal, ranging from Shayari, Rap to Hip-Hop and more industrials sounds as well.
A feeling of groundedness and wiser beyond their year's energy emanates from the members, that is further complemented by their humility - a fact that is surprising given that their ages range from a young 19 to just 25 years old.
The sheer dedication and hard work shown towards the art form are apparent in each individual who is a part of this project - something that translates into their mindfully produced music, as well.
The troupe blends the two distinctly opposite genres seamlessly bringing to light the sheer unadulterated, intense passion that exists in the sounds of both metal and sitar instrumentals.