#SoundsOfSociety: Society Tea blends tea with music brewing a cross-cultural musical collaboration

Society Tea, in collaboration with blueFROG, has initiated a cross-cultural collaborative project with musicians from all over the world, looking to create new beats with elements of Indian music


They say, “You can never dislike a person after having shared a cup of tea with them.’ Tea is that elixir of life that brings hope and drives many a conversation amongst strangers. The world’s oldest known beverage, popular throughout ancient cultures, is still the harbinger of hope in our modern times. Often acting as a connector, it helps infuse people with new ideas, just as ‘music’.

The two may appeal to different human senses, but, tea as well as music, play a common role in bringing people together. Both are agents of relaxation, and often sought after for their therapeutic benefits. As a tea lover myself, I can vouch for the soul stirring properties in common with music.

Which is why, the 75-year-old Hasmukhrai & Co. owned Society Tea is blending the two together, to form a worldwide musical concoction called ‘Sounds of Society’.

For Sounds of Society, the tea brand collaborated with blueFROG to initiate a cross-cultural collaborative project with musicians from all over the world. These musicians are currently in India to discover how they can blend their beats with elements of Indian music.

“For Indians, tea time is a time to take a break from whatever they’re doing, relax and bond with colleagues/friends/family. Music is a universal connector and known for its relaxing and therapeutic benefits so we thought why not blend the two! In fact, in one of our first ads, sound was provided by the great maestro, A R Rehman,” enlightened Karan Shah, Marketing Director, Society Tea while talking about the conception of ‘Sounds of Society’.

Usko Hindi nahi aati, aur mujhe angrezi nahi aati…par music mein aisi dikat nahi….,” quite sums up the musical collaboration between Rajasthani Sufi singer Mukhtiyar Ali and French musician Mathias Duplessy.

The first episode of the cross-cultural project, a little over five minutes, is a delight to the senses. There’s Ali’s folk vocals blending with Duplessy’s flamenco guitar to form an interesting composition over cups of tea.

“In our video series, we have attempted to capture moments where these global musicians transcend their cultural and musical differences and find a common space to connect, creating a blend of amazing new sounds.”

Episode 2 is a mix of Celtic, electronic, bhangra, reggae and dub sounds, blended together by Delhi2Dublin and Punjabi singer Jatinder Singh. A little over six minutes, it shows how music can connect hearts across countries, transcending differences and forming new bonds, new sounds.

The classical folk singer Jatinder who initially thought that he would need to prepare some kind of party song, was pleasantly surprised to discover a different twist being lent to classical Punjabi music.

“The concept is about showcasing how traditional Indian sounds are being lauded all over the world; and artists from everywhere are heading to India to try and bring elements of these sounds into their music. So, we worked with artists who were already travelling to India for shows or to learn from Indian musicians,” he shared about the process of artist selection.

“Likewise, even contemporary Indian musicians are more open to working with these sounds, so this set the theme,” he added. It took a lot of brainstorming, debating, and some serious effort to find people who are open to jumping right in and doing a spontaneous collaboration with someone they’ve never met.

“That’s the first step to a good collaboration - an open mind. And we’re glad we were able to make this a reality,” he reflected upon the tea maker’s journey from ideation to reality.

Presently, the video series comprises a total of six episodes. Artists like Gowri Jayakumar, Vasuda Sharma, Matteo Fraboni, Naviin Gandharv, Hang Massive, Chandana Bala and many more have come together to lend their distinctive magic and create some amazing compositions. Each of the episodes are not more than 5-7 minutes in duration, making them a refreshing consumption, easy to watch and relish. There seems to be a deliberate thought process at work here, we wondered.

Karan affirmed, “The music created by these artists is beautiful and we did not want to detract our viewer’s attention from that melody by making the videos longer. Also, considering that generally one’s attention span on social and digital media is shorter, we thought it’s best to keep it simple and brief when presenting something new.”

“Our greater goal is to build an audience community that is authentic and relevant and whom we can build a long-term relationship with.”

At present, the tea brand is looking at growing its audience organically. The web series is being promoted through the brand’s social channels at the moment. “Currently, a lot of influencers, especially from the music industry, have shown interest in featuring this property on their blogs - so we are exploring that as well. Our greater goal is to build an audience community that is authentic and relevant and whom we can build a long-term relationship with,” he expressed about the kind of community they are trying to build.

‘Sounds of Society’ has the potential to be built into a digital property, much like a Coke Studio, however, the tea brand is looking to study feasibility first. Over the next few months, Karan revealed that Society Tea will evaluate the response to ‘Sounds of Society’, and then ‘take a call on the feasibility of a larger project for the future.’

Well, we do know feasibility studies, for all what they are worth, are a good thing to do, but they certainly do not overpower gut instinct. For a 75-year-old legacy brand, Society Tea is all set to welcome the new ‘sounds of society’ in this refreshingly ambitious cross-cultural project spanning across continents, and in its wake, appealing to the new age millennial generation that is more globally aware, and resonates with brands that match their ideas.

And, as the saying goes, “Tea is to the body what music is to the soul,” Sounds of Society offers a clear road map for the legacy brand.