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Going to listen to Hilight Tribe perform is a kind of a Shamanic experience in itself. The French-origin and subsequently global-based group travels around the world, living and sharing experiences and translating these into percussion or string-based pieces. It is this energy that the band brings to the stage, a kaleidoscopic auditory journey around the world. Armed with didgeridoo, sitar, Tibetan trump, guitar, too many kinds of percussion instruments to tabulate, and several other instruments that an experienced roadie crew might grimace at handling, the six-member group plays tunes that have crossed the sun-baked Sahara, the mountains and plains of India, and a dozen geographies in between.
In Delhi and Mumbai to play at Blue Frog, the band's Friday night performance at the Capital saw the venue filled with a throng of people, all collected to hear tracks such as Shankara, Free Tibet, Didjedelik and Area 51. As Greg and Ludo, the band's key players, flourished the didgeri and the djembe respectively, the crowd went wild. Didjedelik is one of the band's classics, a high-octane instrumental number, and a great first look at the basic sound of Hilight Tribe.
Perhaps it's because of the instruments they play, interspersed with Sanskrit shlokas, Buddhist prayers and Native American chants, that the band's sound appears a primordial one, connecting with listeners at an organic level. Using these sounds, they transmute the mob into a single, cohesive tribe, however briefly. For the one-and-a-half hours that Hilight Tribe played, the audience responded and moved as one, radiating a massive joyous energy, which was almost tangible. When they chanted their final verses, hung up their instruments and said their final namastes, it was like watching a spell break. The tribe of people slowly fragmented back into a crowd, but there was a beatific expression on every face. Perhaps that's just what this tribe highlights through its music. The need, every once in a great while, to just let go and be.