You can always count on Bollywood musicals for an extra dose of serious drama, known as they are for rich visuals, sumptuous melodies, and sensational plotlines. For India-born, Brooklyn-based artist Vandana, filming the video for her new track “Ahsa (Raat Baaki)”, a reimagination of a Bappi Lahiri and Asha Bhosle song from 1982 film Namak Halaal, led to some behind-the-scenes intrigue, as well.
“It was while shooting the video for this track in Jordan that we were arrested,” she recalls. “I was on a ruin in Petra around dusk and someone called the authorities on us – for devil-worshipping and witchcraft.”
As bizarre as the incident sounds, the otherworldly tone of Vandana‘s video does seem to border on the supernatural. Slowly-moving figures climb rocks and perform sinuous dances against an enchantingly barren backdrop of desert canyons, while Vandana‘s electrifying voice echoes, slowly climbing higher and higher in a free-flowing rendition of a disco classic. With such darkly striking imagery, the chaos that ensued for Vandana and her crew almost – almost – makes sense.
“Apparently, my shadows on the ruins, which were magnified because of a light we were using, looked ghostly and foreboding,” she continues. “It was ludicrous, and in hindsight, I’d go through it all over again… but what followed was seven hours of feeling powerless and vulnerable to a mindset which left us baffled.”
As harrowing of a situation as it was, Vandana’s artistic integrity clearly won out. “Ahsa” shows a creative mind simultaneously on the cutting edge of electropop and inspired by past decades of Indian and Pakistani sounds. She draws on both the old and the new for this video and her upcoming EP Contra. Sleek “Ahsa” demonstrates modern sensibilities informed by the past, but facing the future, with space-age aesthetics to boot.
In the meantime, Vandana’s experience may have been worth it for her. “The culture, music, and the kind of generous people of Jordan are rad,” she gushes, “and I’d go back there without a second thought. It’s easily one of the most magical places I have visited.”
She also notes that, had the police footage not been so low-quality, it might well have made it into the final cut for “Ahsa”. No doubt about it: Vandana is an artist with true spirit, and “Ahsa” is proof positive of how bold she can get.
Contra releases on 9 August.