“What just happened?” That’s the way one audience member described her evening last Saturday night at the UCSB multicultural center, after spending the last hour and a half engaging in the following activities: constantly trying to discern what an older South Asian man in full traditional garb was saying, trying to learn a simple dance from said Indian gentleman, listening to a song about food stuck in a mustache, voting (by applause) in a dance contest between a 20-something gay man and a 50-something man in a turban with a neck beard as thick as a wheaten terrier’s coat. All this is to say that at the Black Mahal concert on Saturday, guests got exactly what they wanted.
In between songs about mangoes, Vijay Chattha, Black Majal’s frontman (rapper/singer/guy-who-consistently-recommends-that-beats-get-dropped), told the story of how the band – from the Bay Area – was founded. According to Chattha, they were at a wedding and his uncle started freestyle Punjabi-rapping to the hip-hop music that was being played. Chatta’s uncle is, coincidentally, Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti, the “godfather of American Punjabi music.” Punjab, for those who don’t know, is a region of South Asia that stretches from northwest India into Paskistan.
Then one thing lead to another, and Black Mahal was born. They’re a full-blown band with a drummer (Jon Cook), bassist (Mandeep Sethi), guitarist (Tim Chang), keyboardist (Satish Pillai), DJ (Jay Slim), second vocalist (Pangfua Her), and another dude (Sandeep Bhatt).
At first glance, Black Mahal look a little thrown together, like they all worked at the same Staples in San Jose and decided to start a band. But make no mistake – they’re all very talented. Their passion and enthusiasm is contagious. And while I still have literally no idea what 90 percent of the songs were about that night, I know I had a lot of fun. Everyone did, including Black Mahal. And that’s pretty great.
You can learn more about Black Mahal on their website, www.blackmahal.com