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Varanasi, India: an offering to the Ganges

Today’s field recording is a journey to Varanasi, India by Mike Bingham, who tuned into a fascinating daily ritual in the city:

“Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main ghat in Varanasi on the Ganga River. Ganga Aarti (ritual of offering prayer to the Ganges river) is held daily at dusk. Several priests perform this ritual by carrying deepam and moving it up and down in a rhythmic tune of bhajans.

“I visited the city in 2012 with 10 others on a journey to Kolkata for a friend’s (huge) wedding we were due to perform at.

“Varanasi is a dizzying labyrinth like city that is both deeply spiritual (open cremation is commonly practiced by the riverbank) and overwhelming: colours, smells, sounds and characters leap out at you from every corner.”

City version:

In creating the reimagined sound, it was fascinating to read the context of this field recording – the ritual prayer of offering to the river. The recording is very beautiful and has a magical, mystical feel to it, as the songs and instruments blend and dance together.

We’ve approached the ceremony from the perspective of the Ganges, as if listening from beneath the waves – what if the river could hear the offerings being made to it?


We hear the ceremony going on above the surface of the water, muffled and mysterious, barely able to hear the words of the song. The music and bells tinkle down through the water and penetrate periodically, and the growing bass pulse represents passing boat traffic slowly drowning out the ritual above.

Everything here apart from the bass pulse is made from the field recording, stripping the MIDI from the music to provide most of the sounds, and an a cappella stripping of the vocal providing us with the raw material for the vocal bed in the piece.

Memory version: