I remember my first encounter with a leopard. I was on safari with a friend at Nagarhole forest in South India. We were just completing the safari, disappointed at not having seen much, when suddenly we heard an explosive sound from only feet away: the alarm call of the barking deer. We stopped on the dirt road. Shortly afterwards we heard the call of a Sambhar, then a Cheetal (Spotted Deer) call, ever closer to us.
The deer make these sounds when they are panicked by a predator – a tiger or a leopard. Could it be that one was heading in our direction? The calls were getting more and more frantic. We couldn't have asked for a more thrilling build-up: it was almost like it was orchestrated. The suspense was killing us.
And then out of the thicket emerged one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen. A gorgeous male leopard, walking majestically, bathing in the golden sun. The sight was mesmerising, especially after such a build-up, and I knew then that forests would forever be an integral part of my life.
Years later, sitting alone on the terrace at night in the lodge at the Sitabani Wildlife Reserve, and listening to the eerie alarm call of the barking deer, I was reminded that the Indian forest is a place filled with such intense drama and suspense. Mortal fear is an everyday reality for so many creatures, where every moment could be their last…
A desire was born to capture this emotion, and weave a story of drama and suspense combining real sounds recorded in the forest with music. I returned some months later armed with recording equipment and portable music gear. I spent almost three weeks recording sounds day and night, and also trying something new: composing music while immersed in that magical environment I was present in at that moment. You can hear the result of that experiment on two tracks: Still and Conflict, both composed on site at Sitabani in the middle of the night.
The album Hunted is set at night, and the first two tracks, Still and Alarmed provide a suspenseful build-up to the centrepiece, Hunted. This track is a story built around the power and raw emotion of the alarm call of the Barking Deer.
Spirits is inspired by the beautiful and mysterious call of the Indian Cuckoo. Conflict, Extinct and Reflection focus on human-animal interactions and conflict.
I hope this music moves you, and inspires you to explore the magical world of our Indian forests, and to be a voice to protect whatever little that remains!
Here is the link to the album.
I would love to hear from you! To contact me, and for information on my other work, visit www.rohanshahmusic.com.