|Ammo, Sinbad and Jimi|
After all, it isn’t everyday that three brothers decide to dance for a living. Their common love began when the eldest — Gurpal Singh Phgura, who goes by ‘Sinbad’ — was introduced to ‘Open Hand’, a precursor to hip hop and breakdance incorporating elements of funk and bop jazz, after which the other two followed suit.
“The thing about the dance is that because we’ve been doing it for so long, it’s more than just the dance. It allows us to play and move to music that we love. It’s about the music as much as the movement,” says Sinbad, adding, “For the last few years, we’ve actually been treated more like a band because of the way we put ourselves forward.”
Middle brother Amrik aka ‘Ammo’ emphasises their love for rhythm. “These days, a lot of rhythmical moves are being lost to trick moves and gimmicks. We stay away from that. Our dance comes from California, where back in the 70s, it was a rhythmic format. We stay true to that and that’s our discipline.”
“It’s the discipline to fall back on but the rock ‘n roll is the ska, Latin jazz and electro swing that’s throwing the disciplines away and leaving you with the raw energy on stage. The two elements — the disciple and the feel — work well. The music is cinematic and our shows are always a mad sporadic journey!” elaborates Sinbad.
The chemistry between them is tangible both on and off stage. “Jimi’s the youngest, most talented and most handsome,” jokes Ammo, too which Sinbad points out, “Ammo and I have to get noticed; Jimi doesn’t even talk but he’s the image of the trio. There are three different personalities coming together that complement each other. When we go on stage, it’s like entering another world of ‘The Twilight Players’. It’s like a cartoon!”
Sukjeevan aka ‘Jimi’ speaks little. But when he does, he chooses ‘Dev D’ as the preferred topic. “It was an amazing experience. We heard the music while in England and when Anurag contacted us, it was all quite organic. We didn’t know what we were going to be doing and initially, we didn’t understand the music. But after listening to it some more, the byproduct was what the audience saw,” he explains.
Sinbad adds, “We knew ‘Dev D’ was a game changer. We’ve also done Rohan Sipply’s ‘Love and All That Jazz’ and again, that was cutting edge. We pick things that turn us on. As artistes, we have to be in a setting that we’ve chosen with the right-minded people.”
Though the three have had many great shows, the one they recall best is the one they hijacked. “It was a few years back in London. The stage was empty at one point and there was a massive crowd. We gave the DJ the CD, asked him to put it on and hijacked the stage! It’s about that rock ‘n roll mindset and it was definitely a high point for us because it was a revolutionary move,” recalls Sinbad.
Bangalore, for them, is still unexplored and a relatively new City compared to Mumbai or New Delhi. But, as Ammo wraps up, “we’ll be back soon enough”!
(The interview was published in Metrolife, Deccan Herald on June 10, 2013)
Ammo: Me and Jimi used to come to Bangalore a few years ago to visit an ashram. So we’ve never really seen the real scene. But we’ll be back soon enough.
Sinbad: It’s the first time we’re performing in Bangalore – we’ve performed in Bombay and Delhi quite a few times. We’ve always wanted to come and people have been asking us and mailing. I’m glad that we could come now.
Jimi: I haven’t seen the city yet but the film city is quite something!
On what drives them to dance:
Sinbad: The thing about the dance is that because we’ve been doing it for so long and how we do it, it’s really more than the dance. We’ve always kind of stayed out of the mainstream because it allows us to play and move to music that we love. It’s about the music as much as the movement. For the last few years, we’ve actually been treated more like a group, like a band. It’s the way we put ourselves forward. We’ve done six Glastonburys, all the biggest festivals and even there, we’re not a part of a dance show – it’s always been with bands. Our thing was to bring rock n’ roll to what we’re about through stage and personality. Above and beyond that, we can’t stop yet because there’s so much more to do. If we had stopped, then we wouldn’t be in Bangalore now. We kind of pick and choose the things we do but the right people always come to us, connect with us. That’s the reason we do what we do.
Ammo: We love rhythm and dance. And in today’s dance scene, a lot of rhythmical moves are being lost to trick moves and gimmicks. We stay away from that. Our lineage goes back to California, where our dance comes from. Originally, back in the 70s, it was a rhythmic format and we stay true to that – that’s our discipline right there.
Sinbad: That’s the discipline but the rock ‘n roll is the ska, Latin jazz, electro swing, which is basically throwing the disciplines away and you’re just left with the raw energy on stage. The two elements work well – there’s the disciple and the feel. We’re unique because of who we are – we’re Punjabi brothers born in England and having spent time in USA, India and other places too. The music is more cinematic – we try and take people on a journey. The show is always a mad sporadic journey of one kind.
On the club versus arena experience:
Sinbad: There’s no difference really. Our main thing is to always have a good time on stage – that’s what it’s all about. and when we go on stage, we actually enter another world of the The Twilight Players – it’s like a cartoon! So whether the stage is a small intimate one or a big festival’s, the mindset and intention are always the same. If you’re having fun on stage, people see that and enjoy watching the show. I wish I was a musician because then, I could express myself differently.
How is the chemistry between the three brothers:
Ammo: (about Jimi) He’s the youngest, most talented and most handsome one. We have to get noticed – he doesn’t even need to talk. Jimi the Quiff is the image of The Twilight Players to a large degree. We can pretty much go unnoticed at various times but when we’re three of us, especially in India, you’d be surprised how many people spot us. Ammo and I can kind of blend in but Jimi the Quiff stands out!
Jimi: (out of context) “The hairstyle and look I had in 2008 for Dev D – it’s stayed put since then. Right now, I’m going for a Rajasthani moustache too!”
Sinbad: We’re all different. I’m the oldest and probably the most erratic, craziest in a sense. I let them look after me now because I’ve done the revolutionary stuff and now I’m sitting back. There are three different personalities that complement each other. If you see Twilight Players, it’s an umbrella of lifestyle forms – automobiles, photography, dance, music. It fits different things and so we end up doing different things.
On Dev D and Bollywood being a space for such collaborations in the future:
Jimi: Dev D was an amazing experience. We heard the music while we were in England and when Anurag and Abhay and all contacted us, the whole thing was quite organic. We didn’t know what we were going to be doing and initially, we didn’t understand the music. I remember saying ‘what the hell are we going to do with this’? After listening to it some more and getting an understanding of it, the byproduct was what you saw in ‘Pardesi’ and ‘Sali Khushi’ and the rest of it.
Sinbad: It was unique because the music styles, instruments were organic. When you put these things together, something new comes out of it and I love that. That’s why I love to work with different artistes and it always makes us act differently. Bollywood’s getting better but Dev D was a game changer and we knew that. That’s why we waited a while and then did it. And to be honest, we’ve not done anything since. We’ve done a musical called ‘Love and all that jazz’ with Rohan Sippy and again, that was cutting edge and different. It has to be something that has to turn us on – as an artiste, you have to be true to yourself. And the Twilight Players are all about our truths. Everything that we ever do - the timeline connects. We’re the same people in different settings and it always works. But we have to be in a setting that we’ve chosen with the right-minded people and people we love.
Most memorable show:
Sinbad: There was one a few years back when we hijacked the stage in London at Brookson Academy___. We were going to do a piece and then things got out of hand. The stage was empty at one point and there was a crowd of a 100 thousand people. We thought this is ridiculous, gave the DJ the CD and asked him to put it on and hijacked the stage! And you know, it’s about that- it’s that rock n roll mindset. It was the best part of the evening and people still talk about that to this day. It was definitely a high point for us because it was a revolutionary move. After that, we actually left that hip hop dance scene towards different musical styles thinking they’d appreciate our dance. Especially in places where they’ve never seen dance before – like the first Glastonbury that we did – it’s not known for dance troupes. Going there with the crowd not knowing you was a challenge. We’re never complacent – we never sit there. It’s about entertaining youself and having fun.