Ankur Tewari’s Music: On Loneliness, Nostalgia, and the Fragile Nature of Tenderness
In his three-track EP Duur, Ankur Tewari has managed to beautifully capture the dialectic feelings of loneliness, nostalgia and love. The 41-year-old singer-songwriter is debuting his album with Duur, Jahaan Tak Humein Yaad Hai, and Bebayaan — songs that plead a lonely heart to open itself to the warmth of a close embrace, explore the nostalgia of distant, broken friendships and seek spaces that let romance flourish in a time where the Internet has restructured our humanity.
“Everyone is lonely, everyone pretends like they’re not. It’s an elephant in the room with walls we create around ourselves,” he says to Homegrown. “The genesis of all my work is to attach a feeling to the work, and only then give it form. In a time where humans are programming themselves to be strong, brave, robotic, online machines — I want people to feel comfortable enough to feel. The feeling comes first, the words and tunes get woven around it.”
Tewari was born in Belgium, went to school in Bhopal and has since moved back and forth between Delhi and Mumbai. His band, The Ghalat Family, comprises 4 other members (Sidd Coutto, Johan Pais, Gaurav Gupta and Vivian Kapoor) who share Tewari’s artistic goals, emotional understandings and sense of humour. They have previously released two studio albums, Jannat and Side A/Side B, as well as “Bachcha Party” for kids. They write simple Urdu and Hindi poetry, folk rock and rock and roll — although Tewari tells me he doesn’t like putting genre classifications onto his own work. For him, it’s strange to think of how fabricated reality is — “there’s space for all kinds of music. No matter what ‘genre’ I’m told to write in, I’d be writing the same thing. I’d still be dipping into my treasure of memories and try to exaggerate that into a feeling that can be adequately expressed.”
It’s not always possible or easy for artists within India’s music industry to express their voices in a way that is honest to their individuality and motivations. Tewari is no stranger to the sometimes-stifling, “numbers-driven” industry. Every piece of music seems to come attached with a value that determines its success: how many views it got, how many likes it received, how much money it earned. For many years he performed gigs at various pubs, college shows and other concerts. “It was an exciting time and a big learning experience as we experimented with our sound and figured out what drives us. But 10 years out, I want to break out of writing words for other people, of writing songs that had to be louder than the noise of the place itself. I missed songs that were quiet, simple, songs that took their time,” he says, remembering his days as a “living room writer.”
Duur is the album that revives the authenticity and humility Tewari cherishes, with hauntingly emotional musical verses including a piano solo. For him, the greatest joy is when people find their own meanings in the universes he creates. It’s for each person to take from it what they may, experience different feelings and engage with the piece in whatever way their hearts do. He would rather perform for 3 people who are truly moved by his words than for a crowd of 5000 that blindly sing-along -much like the way art is consumed on the Internet today. Duur is a sentimental ode to life before social media and the tenderness of human connection.