The song, originally known as "Slängpolska efter Byss-Calle", is a combination of Swedish and Finnish folk songs.

Member of the Bangalore Broadway Company in a group photo
Features Music Thursday, July 02, 2020 - 18:11

The screen opens to a woman singing. The syllables don’t make sense, but it’s almost as though she is yodelling. The scene then shifts to three men, seemingly singing the same set as the woman, but it sounds different. They are hitting different notes. As the video goes on, more people and groups join the acapella performance, and the song unfolds through ripples and relays of the syllables as they are passed from one group of performers to another.

This exotic, layered and melodious acapella performance is from the Bangalore Broadway Company (BBC). They recreated Nordic Polska, which is an arrangement of Swedish and Finnish folk songs into a performance. The BBC had adapted their acapella set from a group called Leveleleven, which had done it in 2016 with a composition originally known as ‘Slängpolska efter Byss-Calle’. While ‘Nordic’ refers to the origin of the music, ‘Polska’ is a music and dance form in the Nordic countries.

Listening to Leveleleven and BBC’s respective renditions of Nordic Polska, it doesn’t take a musical genius to figure out how layered and complex the composition is. This makes the fact that the BBC’s members recreated it remotely during the pandemic, remarkable.

Sowmya Raghavan, who founded BBC in 2017, tells TNM that putting together the performance and video remotely was challenging. “When you are together, you can play off each other’s cues and energy. If you miss something, you can wing it because others are performing with you. But when everyone had to do their individual parts, they had to hold on their own. If they slipped, it would be noticeable,” she says.

Further, they were not able to shoot at a studio either. “We just had our phones. This video and the way it sounds wouldn’t have been possible without Leslie Charles, our music producer and bass player who tracked so many people’s audios, mixed and layered them to make it what it is,” Sowmya says. She adds that Siddharth Suresh, who plays the keyboard for them, was the one behind separating and translating everyone’s individual parts for the song so that the singers could learn.

This isn’t the first time the BBC has dabbled in folk music though – it’s what they love doing the most. The 26-piece group with singers as well as instrument players loves bringing music from different parts of the world to its listeners. That, Sowmya says, makes folk music a good choice for them. 

“Folk music is all heart. It was taken from one place to another by travellers, and usually reveals something about the place where it is from. For example, folk music from colder countries like Russia and Siberia has a haunting, almost sad quality to it. Tropical music meanwhile is much more upbeat and livelier,” she says.

While the Nordic Polska video was put together by the BBC remotely, they did perform it live last year as well. One of the greatest joys of art is witnessing and performing them in person. 

Sowmya knows this all too well, and was initially apprehensive about doing it virtually. “I thought, where will be the joy in doing this apart from each other? But then, the aim is to keep music alive. This was never a money-making project. We do it because there is an opportunity to submit to art. That hasn’t changed even now,” she says.

BBC is working on another acapella piece, this time, a Japanese folk song. Another project they are working on is an African song, which will include musical instruments as well.  

Watch BBC's Nordic Polska here.

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