India’s musical exports to us are usually of two varieties: film songs, or classical Indian music. And then there are the musicians who occupy the grey areas in between, the ones who draw not just on these two, but from a whole world of musical influences.
An upcoming concert in Kuala Lumpur aims to highlight bands that perform in this genre, commonly known as “Indian fusion”.
The Malaysian Independent Live Fusion Festival, organised by Mojo Projects, will bring together four of India’s most exciting bands today – Masala Coffee, Thaikkudam Bridge, Haricharan featuring Bennet and the Band, and Karthik And The Krew. Performing alongside them will be Malaysia’s own homegrown world music/fusion band Akasha.
In an e-mail interview, Masala Coffee’s guitarist David Crimson says the band’s music is meant to give listeners a glimpse into India’s people and their arts.
“Our music stems from one of the most diverse cultures in the world. Every song we do is unique, and allows you to experience the various faces of India through sound.”
Masala Coffee debuted in 2014 on the television show Music Mojo on a Malayalam-language channel in India. The band, which hails from Kerala, was in fact assembled by percussionist Varun Sunil just before their appearance on the TV show.
Its initial shot to fame was a stirring cover of the hit Tamil movie song Munbe Vaa, originally composed by A.R. Rahman.
The band’s eclectic blend of musical stylings – weaving together Carnatic music, bhangra, Indian folk, hip hop, funk, and jazz among others – soon won over even more fans. Among its hits are popular folk song Kantha, as well as original compositions such as Once Upon A Time In Punjab and Karikkinpattu.
“What initially began as a one-off soon grew into a band with a vision, when all the right people showed up,” says David. “And the music wasn’t too bad either!”
Besides Varun and David, the band currenly features vocalist Sooraj Santhosh, drummer Kishan Baalaji, Preeth PS on guitars, Pauly on bass, Joe Johnson on the keyboard, and violinist Krishna Raj.
David says the band aims to change listeners’ mindsets with its music: “We’ve tried to change the general mentality when it comes to music, to break this divide between the different genres. We want to allow people to enjoy all kinds of music without categorising it.
“We hope we can show a classical music audience how beautiful most film music is, and vice versa.”
A particular passion for the band, he adds, is unearthing and reintroducing works from Indian poets and musicians of the past.
Their number Agnee, for instance, takes a famous poem by Tamil poet Bharathi and revitalises it with a heavy metal edge. In Aalayal, meanwhile, the band reworks the words of Malayalam dramatist and poet Kavalam Narayana Panicker.
It is an approach that seems to be resonating with both the audience and the industry. Masala Coffee was recently tapped to compose the soundtrack for the Tamil movie Uriyadi, which was released earlier this year.
The band is also working on its first studio album, Kari, which is due to be released next year.
Masala Coffee is thrilled, therefore, to bring their unique sound to our shores.
“We’re really kicked about playing in Malaysia,” says David. “We will try our best to make it an unforgettable show!”
The Malaysian Independent Live Fusion Festival will be held on Oct 22 (6pm) at StarXpo Centre, KWC Fashion Mall, No 2, Jalan Gelugor, Kuala Lumpur. Tickets start from RM88. For more information, go to www.mojoprojects.asia.