Indian music fans might remember Rosemary, the three-piece psychedelic rock band from Mumbai. Four years after it disbanded, its frontman Achint Thakkar (25) is back touring the country — this time with a debut solo album, Shalimar. The 10-track world music project is classically rooted, while incorporating modern-day electronica sounds. He will also be performing live at the indie music fest Nariyal Paani in Alibaug (January 23 and 24).
We meet him at his home studio in Juhu. Thakkar tells us he started work on Shalimar three years ago, while studying music production at the Pyramind Media and Music Production School in San Francisco, USA. Feeling homesick, Thakkar tuned in to musicians he grew up listening to, including Bollywood and Indipop singers from the ’90s. “Jatin Lalit, AR Rahman, Nadeem-Shravan… they were my introduction to music. Soon, I started fusing folk and Indian sounds with world elements,” he says.
Songs in the night
“Shalimar means moonlight. I was staying in a warehouse in the USA for a couple of months. I lived in the basement and worked in a hostel. All my work on Shalimar would happen only in the night,” he shares.
Thakkar’s live sets consist of songs from Shalimar including remix versions that have been amped up to make them energetic, and a few covers. For on-stage performances, the vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and percussionist is accompanied by Suraj Manik (ex-Rosemary) on bass, Ajay Jayanthi (part of Anand Bhaskar Collective) on violin and Viraaj Saxena on drums. “Musicians can’t survive on album sales anymore. The only way to get people’s attention is by going out there and playing,” he says.
We don’t need no education
Thakkar took to music so he could have a legitimate excuse to bunk school. “I was part of the cricket team, but got thrown out for being late for practice. Then, I saw one of my friends play the guitar and another boy playing the drums. I became their roadie and would tell everyone not to touch their instruments, so I could hang out with them. It looked pretty easy. I thought if they can play, why can’t I?”
Thakkar coaxed his father into buying him a guitar after his class seven exams. He then faked his way into the school band, which mostly played covers. “I told them that I could play, whereas I actually couldn’t. I learnt by watching other members play,” he says.
Post-school, Thakkar and two other members from the school band (Manik and Jason D’Souza) went on to form Rosemary. “Jason got replaced by Aditya Ashok, who’s now DJ OX7GEN. With Rosemary, I started writing my own music,” he says.
The band won major college festivals like Mood Indigo (IIT-Bombay) and Strawberry Fields (National Law School of India University, Bengaluru). They even released an EP, A Legacy of Ruined Days, in May 2011, before disbanding since the members wanted to build solo careers.
Returning to Mumbai in September 2013, after his course in San Francisco, Thakkar took up ad film work to support himself. “Shalimar’s opening track, Enter Shalimar, was based on a scratch I’d made for an Adidas commercial, that didn’t work out,” he shares.
Half the album was composed in the USA, and half of it here. “A friend and I visited my grandfather’s village in Bhetasi, Gujarat, to explore my roots. I composed the namesake track after that trip,” he shares.
Apart from singer Neeti Mohan, Thakkar has collaborated with AR Rahman’s long-time flautist, Naveen Kumar, on two tracks — Forest Fires and Moonlight Sonata.
Incidentally, sound engineer and record producer PA Deepak got delayed in mixing Shalimar. Deepak, who won the Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for Slumdog Millionaire (2009), was working with AR Rahman on the Tamil film O Kadhal Kanmani (2015). “The Tamil film project got delayed for two months,” Thakkar says. Making a makeshift studio in a hotel room in Chennai, Thakkar ended up tweaking parts of the album. “The nadaswaram (a traditional south Indian wind instrument) that you hear in the song Last Dance was added there,” he explains.
Must-attend acts at Nariyal Paani
Headlining day one are the dancehall act, Ska Vengers. Their sound is a mix of reggae, ska and jazz, and their live act, a riot to watch.
Headliners for day two are the equally dance-friendly Laxmi Bomb. The electro-rock outfit is inspired by 90s Indipop.
Back to the motherland
Zoya: Nariyal Paani will see India-born, California-raised musician and song-writer, Zoya sing about her life and experiences.
Catch it live
What: Nariyal Paani, Morapada, Alibaug, 3pm onwards
Tickets: Rs 2,200 onward on insider.in