A New Day, the Laya Project remixed album will reach the dance floor, trance festivals, lounges, and even TV commercials and feature films, which will greatly expand awareness of the Laya Project and the people affected by the 2004 Tsunami,” says producer Joshua Jacobs, whose goal is for the message of Laya and the hinterland sounds to reach new audiences and age groups.
The original Laya Project is a 2-CD set and documentary film created by the Chennai, India, based recording company EarthSync. It is a tribute to the victims of the tsunami in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, and Myanmar. The usual reaction by the music world to a disaster is a compilation recording by big-name artists. The EarthSync team wanted to pay tribute to the ordinary people, to the resilience in them.
“The  tsunami did not differentiate between cultures, races, religion, or economic backgrounds. Neither does music, except that one destroyed and the other heals,” says Sonya Mazumdar, producer of the Laya Project.
Recognizing that music or, in general, local performing arts are the soul of rural communities, they set out to record impromptu sessions with ordinary people. They traveled on impossible routes to remote places, and made recordings using a car battery. For two years, the team recorded regional folk music traditions, and brought them back to the studio to create a composition that mixes and arranges the original sounds. The album features 20 tracks, rare recordings of forgotten regional melodies, powered by the suffering and sublimity in everyday life.
Part of what became the track “A New Day” was a love song sung by a fisherman in Sri Lanka, in memory of his wife whom he’d lost in the tsunami. “Water Side” was made possible by the Jarasathusorns, husband and wife, vendors on Phuket Island. “Farihi” was sung by Shaheema, a Maldivian woman whose striking face graces the original CD cover. “While recording a group of male percussionists, Shaheema approached us from the bush and requested to sing us a welcome song,” sound engineer Yotam Agam remembers.
Myanmar’s “Glorious Sun” is haunting; India’s “Tapatham” absolutely reverberates; Indonesia’s “Muliya” has sweet-sorrow as its tonal quality set to an inspiring beat; the list goes on, as do the tapestry of emotions.
The energy in the Laya Project has unfolded on to several other media, in an effort to continue the efforts to provide sustainable exposure and outlets for local creativity. The website presents stunning images and video of the epic journey, along with details of the route taken.
The music too gained a new life, in the remixed version—A New Day. To unfold this new musical space, Jacobs drew on some of the strongest forces on the global dance floor, an established corps of DJs reveling in the possibilities of traditional music from around the planet. For example, the trebly overtones of a jaw harp and elegant beats bring out new sides of an Indian Sufi song “Ya Allah” (“The Please Wipe Our Tears Remix (Cheb i Sabbah)”). “The Pitch Black” remix is an ethereal dub version of the original track, and will be incredible for yoga.
The powerful tagline of the project sums it up—“Six shores sharing one ocean, one sky, and one language of survival and music.”
Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music and avidly tracks intersecting points between folk, classical, and jazz genres. She has had training in Indian classical music and continues being a student in spirit.