By Andre Marais – Amandla Magazine*
DURBAN, Dec 5 – (TerraViva) Durbanite Prevan Chetty is the frontman of a rock outfit called Dismantling The Sky. This quintet combines heavy metal, classical Indian music, grunge, and R&B with an ecological message and an anti-consumerist sensibility.
The band’s distinctive sound is partly due to their use of instruments rescued from the scrap heap, such as reconditioned guitars as well as instruments built from scratch using materials like tins and plastic. Chetty dubs it “recycled metal”, suggesting the band’s fresh new take on heavy metal classics by groups such as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin – which he credits as major influences.
Chetty is also an active campaigner for Greenpeace and considers his life as a musician an extension of his enviromental activism. He spoke to TerraViva on the sidelines of the People’s Space, the gathering organised by civil society parallel to the U.N. climate conference in Durban, South Africa.
Q: Who is your audience?
A: A cross-section of people interested in hearing new sounds and yearning for an alternative to the bling, consumerist lifestyle that is dominant at present.
Q: What is your own musical background?
A: I studied music formally both here (in South Africa) and in India – where I did a stint studying South Indian classical music – and of course I have always been an avid follower and listener of music.
Q: What is your band reacting against?
A: Against the money-driven corporatist world that is popular music today – that is emptied of all meaning for the sake of profit. We hope to reinject rock with its original rebelliousness and non-conformity.
Yes, it is rock, with wine, women and song, but it was and can be so much more, critically reflecting on society and even suggesting a way forward. Unfortunately, rock and pop lost this quite a while ago. I – and the band – want to recover it.
Q: What about the enviromental angle?
A: This is extremely important for us – and it has always been part of Indian classical music and the early pioneers of socially-conscious, issue-driven rock, like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Their music is still so relevant today.
The warning signs that our planet is in danger and a need for awareness and balance was so beautifully articulated by these musicians. My band is in this tradition, but also tries to update it for the here and now.
Q: What about the Indian classical music influence on your ecological message?
A: Huge! The wisdoms contained in it are so simple but so real for us now confronted with a planetary and spiritiual crisis. Swara is both a musical term and a philosophy that talks of the self, connecting, hearing each other, communication.
Q: How many other groups like you are there in the Durban area?
A: Not many. We have a growing niche following. Recycled metal is small in this country, but international goups like Arctic Patrol does similar things.
Q: Why are you at COP 17?
A: Well, my formal education was in the area of the environment. But I have also worked for numerous environmental agencies, here and abroad, including the U.N. I was therefore naturally drawn to COP17.
Q: How can rock help in raising awareness of ecological issues?
A: Lots. It makes the message more accessible. Environmental politics tends to be a little too intellectual and elitist a times. And this can be a problem; it can alienate people with its language and terms no matter how well meant it is. In our music, we we kind of take the edge off the hard politics without diluting the message -like the troubadours of old. We are doing what musicians and performers have always done.
Q: Where can we find your music?
A: We are still working on our first CD, but we are on YouTube: just search for Dismantle the Sky.
* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.