In Spring 2015 Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and The Rajasthan Express – an eclectic group of Rajasthani musicians – were hosted by the Maharaja of Jodhpur at Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India.
This beautifully unique coming together of artists was documented by filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (Coffee & Cigarettes, Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk-Love). Junun portrays this mish-mash of cultures and faiths and their joyously energetic musical coalescence. The film is a powerfully uplifting ode to the creative forces of humanity.
Although there is very little dialogue during this 1-hour long musical feast, many important themes seem to be touched on subtly. One of these themes is of cultural diversity and the treasures hidden within each culture. The cultural melting pot of India with its diversity of languages and faiths illustrates this intensely. On a couple of occasions, characters explain how their instruments are unique to their people and have been played for an unknown number of generations. The ancient significance of the relationships to their art is highly moving and speaks to the rich fabric of culture that weaves through all of us.
The theme of harmony across cultures and faiths, facilitated by the pure, unbridled creative energy of the musicians is also highly poignant. In one of the few occasions of dialogue in the film, one of the central musicians mentions that they play music “for all of the gods”, the Hindu gods, for Allah and the Christian God. He says that he is not defined by one faith, that he accepts and loves all of the gods equally. Amongst the deeply inspired and relentless creation of stunning music, the power of this statement left my hair standing on end.
Jonny Greenwood’s distinct style of guitar-playing is unmistakable and really adds force to the driving, high-energy compositions. The full album, also “Junun”, can be listened to on Spotify. Watch this masterpiece with caution as you might find yourself called to take the next flight to India!