Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Karmacy Reunion

We had a special treat last weekend. Nimo's old friend and bandmate Swapnil was visiting Ahmedabad and the two decided to put on a concert at Darpana. It was their long-standing dream for Karmacy to perform in India. Surprisingly, it had never materialized. Four years since their last performance and huge life transitions later, one half of the group was standing on the Natarani stage in front of an enthusiastic if not slightly unprepared audience on a mild Saturday night to perform the Karmacy Reunion Concert.

Nimo told me their plan to do concert about a month ago, I was so excited to finally see Karmacy perform live. I've mentioned before, but Nimo had an impact on me through his music long before I knew him personally. Karmacy hit my eardrums in college at a time and in a way that blew my mind. It was music that I had never heard the likes before. It was highly competent hip hop with well-produced beats and lyrics in Gujarati, English, Spanish, Punjabi. Gujarati hip hop! It was breakthrough music at the time.

So when he told me Swap was coming and they were going to perform a few songs and share their journey, I couldn't have been more excited. I began by putting Nimo into training by playing a healthy dose of rap in our house regularly to get him in the mindset. Especially since he usually listens to Christmas songs, he needed to shift his mode. So I'd play all kinds of stuff, and we had a couple freestyle sessions. As the concert date approached he played Karmacy instrumentals and sang verses as he did his work. He was trying to remember lyrics from a previous lifetime.

The day of the concert Nimo told me I'd be handling the sound and video for the concert. So basically I was the DJ. I won't digress into my previous DJ'ing experience (anyone Indian who went to Berkeley during the years 2002-2004 knows what I'm talking about), but I was silently preparing for this moment my whole life. My love affair with hip hop and latent dream to be a rapper was culminating in this moment: this was the closest I'd ever get to performing in a hip hop concert. It was difficult to contain my excitement and sense of immense responsibility for the task before me.

We got to Darpana a bit early and had a pre-concert meal with the performers. Nimo went over the playlist with me. Swap and I went up to tables of strangers asking if they liked hip hop. And if they did, would they like to stay for the concert? After a couple attempts resulting in confused faces I asked people if they had heard of the song Blood Brothers. Yes, we have. Well, that guy right there is the artist on that song! Come watch him perform, its free!

Before the concert started, I asked Swap if he felt nervous before performances like this. After what was surely hundreds of performances under his belt, surprisingly he said that he still did. He pointed out that it was most nerve-wracking performing for crowds who either don't know much about hip hop or know it very well. For the former, you have to achieve understanding through your performance; for the latter, approval. In the case of this concert, it was a crowd largely unfamiliar with them or their music. They would hardly understand what they were saying, so it would be a challenge.

I got into the booth to learn the audio controls and Nimo's temperamental laptop, which we'd be playing songs and videos off of. The performers went down to sound check. People started arriving. The two took the stage with bare feet. And then the concert began and they started rapping. The first song, Outkasted, was a bit stiff but they eventually loosened up.

They performed about 8 songs, with Nimo and Swap sharing intermittently about their journeys and inspiration for their music. In my opinion the apex of the performance was Music Knows where the crowd really got into it and so did the performers. Swap was C-walking around stage and Nimo was blazing it up. Meanwhile in the booth me (sound) and Vasantbhai (lights) were jamming with hands in the air. The whole concert I was up on my feet. The guys gave an incredible performance. At one point, Swap said it was the most fun he'd ever had performing. That was hard for me to believe, but if it was that's saying something.

After the songs there was some Q&A and then interaction with the crowd. Lots of people got a copy of Karmacy's last album, Wooden Bling. All-in-all a fantastic experience. I had two regrets: one, that Jay missed it due to a communication mishap in the evening, and two, that I screwed up the audio track on Blood Brothers, causing them to stop mid-song and restart. But besides that it was an unforgettable night.

And no, I'm not going to leave you without some footage from the show. Here's Music Knows, which I thought had the crowd most energized:

This was my favorite song, Intensity. After watching the unreleased music video and this performance, I think this is my new all-time favorite Karmacy song. Verses, beat, chorus, song's overall message, top-notch vintage Karmacy. Just a home run of a song:

And of course, Blood Broz:


  1. this ... is .... awesome :)

  2. Neil -- so happy you got to live out your inner hip hop dreams! Wish I could have watched Karmacy light up the India stage. I'm sure Nimo loved it!! This post had me fun!

  3. haha!!! neil your so crazy! We had a blast and it was a blessing. love you brotha. -n