Exclusive Premiere: Exhibition’s haunting black and white video for “Last Dance”
In the video for his latest music project, Exhibition, seen below, Hammarsing Kharhmar takes us on a shadowy black and white journey between Shillong – a tiny state in Northeast India famed for it’s rolling hills and waterfalls – and New York City, where he now lives. Despite the obvious contrast, Kharmar’s two homes have more in common than you’d expect: Shillong is known as the rock capital of India much like New York is the place to be for those with dreams of rock‘n'roll stardom. Kharhmar seems poised to achieve his own: his first solo EP Last Dance dropped last month via Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, featuring vocals from the former Strokes singer on the first single “No One There.”
We spoke with Kharhmar about the video, his upbringing, and his plans for the future.
What was the process of synthesizing your song into something visual like?
I sent the lyrics to the director (Charles Billot) and art director (Piera Wolf) and I think what we really wanted to capture was the confusion, this inner voice from the lyrics. It’s sort of like a conversation with yourself. So it started from there. And I’m hugely influenced by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so I looked at some old videos of him. I wanted it to be black and white because it was going to be the first video of this new project of mine, so I didn’t just want to present everything. I want to keep the mystery a little bit with who I am.
I’m kind of obsessed with the cat that looks like it has a fu manchu mustache – is there any significance to it?
We had limited resources to create this video for a five and a half-minute song, so we were like ‘what can we do just to have different cool things.’ And then we came up with the idea of eyes, and we were like ‘oh, maybe we could have a cat.’ And a very good friend of mine has a Persian cat who named is Kox. Everyone loves that cat. Kox is the real star of the video.
What was it like to grow up in Shillong?
Growing up in Shillong was really cool because a lot of people like rock‘n'roll. The British established it as a capital for that region and it has this Western influence. So like people listen to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones – growing up you heard all that music. And actually people listen to a lot metal. So if you got into a cab you could hear Creedence Clearwater Revival, you could hear Judas Priest.
My dad taught me to play guitar and he's one of my favorite singers. He loves to sing and will pick up the guitar and sing a song at the drop of a hat. Arlo Guthrie’s “Coming into Los Angeles” and Elvis' “Little Sister'” were a couple of his favorites to perform when I was a kid. I was his guitar player.
It’s kind of crazy – Shillong is actually known as the rock capital of India right now because a lot of people have gone on to play and form bands. But there’s not only the Western music, there’s the indigenous tribal rhythm and the songs that have lived over centuries and they’re starting to incorporate that into the Western music.
I love it. I love going back and that's my home even though New York is my current home. New York is my home and Shillong is also my home. That’s the music video for you.
Does the indigenous music of Shillong inspire your own music and, if so, how?
It inspires me a lot. I incorporated elements into the music of my last band Mon Khmer – mostly the rhythms. I like the hypnotic nature and energy of tribal drums. The next batch of Exhibition tunes will have that.
What’s up next for you?
I’m going to go in and finish [the EP] and hopefully put it out by the end of the summer. But we also have plans to put out a video for every song on the record.
We played a sold out show in Willamsburg for the release party and that was really cool. But, yeah, the focus is on making videos and then the next move is going on tour, but in the meantime being very selective with shows. And Albert Hammond Jr. (Strokes guitarist) is going on tour again at the end of this year [Kharhmar will be contributing his guitar chops to Hammond’s shows]. And when I’m free I’m just trying to work on myself. – laughs – I hope to come to L.A. to play. That would be really cool.
Director: Charles Billot
Producer: Nour Sabbagh
Art Direction: Piera Wolf, Charles Billot
Creative Direction: Piera Wolf
Follow Kharhmar on Instagram at @exhibition_nyc to keep with the latest and greatest from the musician.
Written by Kylie Obermeier