band rocks for a green earth
New Delhi, Feb 9 (IANS) Armed with solar panels, rechargeable
batteries, specially designed gizmo guitars and a unique drum
kit, they are no cyborgs from the future, but the world's
only solar-powered music band, Solar Punch. They play songs
of "peaceful activism" to spread environment awareness.
The New York-based band enthralled the audiences on their
India tour by playing popular A.R. Rahman's numbers.
"We are interested in the cultural aspect of humanity
and our impact as artists is only going to be around till
the human race exists. If we don't help ourselves to maintain
the environment right now, we might not be around," said
James Dean Conklin, founding member of the band.
Conklin, a video producer and animation designer, along with
science educator Alan Bigelow formed Solar Punch in 2007 to
start a musical environmental movement to spread the message
that "solutions to climate change are here now".
The band uses only solar technology to power its instruments.
"The sun is the simplest way for us to connect and demonstrate
that there are some immediate solutions to the environment
problem and the climate change crisis," Conklin said.
The band keeps back-up resources for bad weather as well.
"In some parts of the world, we don't get ample sunlight;
so if we strategise, we absorb as much sunshine as possible.
We have an overall large battery that we try to keep charged
and each of our amplifiers has rechargeable batteries in them,"
Once charged, the band can play for around six hours at a
Other regulars in the band include bass player Andrew Mattina
and drummer Frank Marino. Apart from them Cairo-based bass
guitarist, urban-planning scientist Thomas Henry Rassam Culhane
and rhythm guitarist and singer-actor Paul Lincoln among others,
fill in gaps as a part of their swap protocol during tours.
Solar Punch was in India and collaborated with the Indian
Youth Climate Network (IYCN) as part of the 2009 Climate Solutions
Road Tour. The tour kicked off Jan 2 in Chennai and ended
in the capital Feb 5 after traversing through cities like
Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai in three electric cars, a
van powered by solar energy, another van running on waste
vegetable oil and a truck running on biofuel.
The band created a flutter among listeners with its songs
like "Plastic" and "Spinning around" to
name a few, but it didn't zero in on any particular genre
It insists that it plays "peaceful activism songs and
a lot of American folk that speaks about the environment and
good social practices".
"We have more than about 10 originals apart from songs
by John Lennon, Miles Davis and Grateful Dead," said
The band also believes in striking a chord with the people
of the country it visits by crooning hits in the local language.
In India it chose music maestro A.R. Rahman compositions like
"Ghanan ghanan", "Yuhin chala chal" and
"Ru ba ru".
"It took a couple of months to understand the Hindi lyrics.
They didn't come naturally to us as we speak English. It took
a lot of memorisation and practice but the music part of it
came together pretty easy as we are musicians," explained
The band was also upbeat about Rahman's conquest at the Golden
Globes for the best original score for Danny Boyle's "Slumdog
Millioanire" and his three Oscar nominations for the
"We're honoured that we are even able to get through
our version of Rahman's songs. I think it's absolutely delightful
that we came over here and got through his songs in broken
Hindi as well as we could and still managed to entertain people,"
Solar Punch also had its message for India.
"Do your thing but find a green way to do it. Just remember,
we have the solution - we are the solution," he said.
(Robin Bansal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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