By David Humphrey
For The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. —
Trevor Junga is no stranger when it comes to performing music in front of live audiences. While a student at Pendleton Heights High School, Junga was a member of the Marching Arabian Band and the award-winning Indoor Percussion Group.
During his four-year tenure at Ball State University, the percussionist performed with various music productions. Recently, the 24-year-old Pendleton resident traveled thousands of miles to play the music he loves.
Junga and members of the traditional rock band The Gap Theory visited India where they played to more than 10,000 music fans in the southern cities of Chennai, Vellore, Salem, Erode, and Coimbatore. The tour was sponsored by Keynote in Westfield, Ind., a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ.
The Gap Theory features Junga (drums), Ethan Ehrstine (guitar and vocals), Stephen Haddenhorst (bass and vocals), Seth Irby (lead vocals and guitar), and Scott Naylor (guitar and vocals). Randall Pahl served as audio engineer and videographer on the India tour. Junga said that visiting the third world country was a sobering, yet enlightening experience for he and the band.
“I knew that things were different,” Junga said. “I didn’t feel naive and closed off from the rest of the world, but experiencing a place like this — there’s nothing like it. I hate to repeat what we’ve all heard a million times, but we, as Americans, even during these difficult times, have so so much compared to a haunting majority that is the rest of the world.
“I am somewhat ashamed to confess that the first time I saw India, the question ‘how do people live like this’ surfaced in my mind over and over. India certainly is becoming a developed country, but nearly the entire infrastructure is a mess.
“Scheduled and unscheduled blackouts were common throughout the day, leaving places without power for hours at a time. The condition of the streets and inner city are surreal; trash, stray and wild animals, homeless people, crumpled roads and buildings all around. In many places, there were open sewers that ran along the roads. There were countless strange sights, sounds and smells. It was surreal and broadening to me.”
As the band members traveled through India, they became more familiar with local behaviors and mannerisms.
“We learned that they are extremely servant-hearted. They broke their backs to accommodate us and made us feel comfortable. We even had to argue them into letting us help during set up and breakdown at each show.
“However, there are major cultural differences that are hard for us to understand. For example, the caste system is tragically strict and rigid. If you’re speaking with someone you know is in a lower level than you in the system, then you don’t even look them in the eye. It’s not that you’re being rude or mean, it’s just the culture. But India is such a peaceful place and the people there are remarkably sweet and very generous.”
The Gap Theory were special guests at a recent Evening with Keynote, where they performed songs from the India tour and shared stories about life on the road. Seth Irby, the jovial lead singer for The Gap Theory, found humor in almost every aspect of his experience overseas. He also has the utmost respect for the Indian culture.
“What I remember most about our concerts,” Irby explained, “was how the men and women did not mix. It seemed as if there was this imaginary line that divided the area in half. On one side were women and on the other side were men.
“But once the concert started everyone began to dance and they continued to dance until the concert was over. When we walked off stage nearly everyone at the show approached us and wanted to have their picture taken with members of the band.”
Irby added. “They loved our music and called our style ‘proper rock.’ I am not sure what that means but we got a big kick out of being called a ‘proper rock’ band. To be honest, we could have played songs by the Backstreet Boys and the Indians would have embraced us. They love anything that has to do with western culture.
“We played at many colleges in India where education is a top priority. I cannot recall how many schools of engineering I saw but there seemed to be one on every street corner. The parents will do anything and everything to make sure their children will do well in school. I hate to say this but it’s a far cry as to how we have come to view education here in the United States.”
Music as a vehicle
Traveling in India was “horrifying,” Junga added.
“There are five of us in the band plus a sound tech and our hosts managed to fit us into spaces where you wouldn’t imagine fitting three people. Indians are great at creatively maximizing their space, which usually means forfeiting any sense of personal space. But having our six-person team packed into a four-seat rickshaw wasn’t nearly as bad as experiencing everyday Indian traffic.”
And what about the Indian cuisine?
“The food was absolutely incredible,” Junga said. “There are a lot of unfamiliar, but delicious, spices used in everything. Of course, you won’t really find beef anywhere, but we had plenty of chicken and lamb.”
The Gap Theory often found themselves snarled in traffic and longing for a Big Mac but the band’s trip to India served its purpose. And that was to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through music and song.
“Keynote’s mission is to use music and art as a vehicle to build common ground with an audience and share the story of Jesus Christ,” Junga said. “Our music was received extremely well by college students, which made up a majority of our audiences. We played at many different colleges for thousands and thousands of college students, all of which certainly loved the show and responded well to the message we brought. For many, it was the first time they had ever heard it. For some, it was a new way of hearing it. The Indian Campus Crusade for Christ staff collected many written responses from individuals at each concert, responses that indicated a life changing decision that day at the concert, or even just a request to learn more about Jesus. It was exactly what we hoped would be accomplished.”