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No chill: Here’s what Mumbai bands are up to when they’re not playing

As gig season winds up, a peek into how city musicians are recharging with new sounds and collaborations

mumbai Updated: May 03, 2018 19:25 IST
Jayati Bhola
Musician Aditi Ramesh with Ladies Compartment, featuring singer Ramya Pothuri, drummer Aarifah Rebello, violinist Kristen Marea and bassist Nandita V. An EP is in the works.
Musician Aditi Ramesh with Ladies Compartment, featuring singer Ramya Pothuri, drummer Aarifah Rebello, violinist Kristen Marea and bassist Nandita V. An EP is in the works.(Ronit Sarkar)

The season of multiple-stage festivals and overcrowded gigs in small cafes and bars is almost winding up. It’s now time for busy musicians to unwind, and prepare for new work. Five Mumbai-based musicians who toured the country give us a peek into life during downtime – new collaborations, new tunes, even new bands.

New beginnings

For 27-year-old lawyer-turned musician, Aditi Ramesh, 2017 was a breakout year. The Carnatic/Jazz singer made her way into the scene one gig at a time, including NH7 Pune. She also released Auto Correct, an EP with four songs under the independent record label, Nrtya.

Summer looks busy. “I want to start work on an album, with 12 songs, that I hope to release by the end of this year,” Ramesh says. Two songs, Don’t be Rude and Folders, are said to be out in the coming months. For Don’t Be Rude, drummer Ishan Jadwani came up with a groove inspired by an annual musical tribute to Ustad Alla Rakha or Abbaji by Zakir Hussain and other percussionists also referred to the Abbaji concert jams; Keenan Thomas added a bass line. They then built the entire song off this, adding vocals, lyrics, guitar and tabla.

She’s also playing with the all-woman band, Ladies Compartment, with singer Ramya Pothuri, drummer Aarifah Rebello, violinist Kristen Marea and bassist Nandita V. An EP for the band is in works too.

The off-season is when Ramesh plans to experiment. “I want to focus on my Carnatic music roots and play around with jazz tunes,” she says. Auto Correct covered themes like coming of age. She wants her future work to be more grown-up.

First of many

Anurag Naidu is working on a debut album, J’aifame, featuring piano trio melodies and one track with vocals.

Anurag Naidu’s forte is subtle, groovy, ethereal jazz with a heavy Western classical influence. The 29-year old jazz pianist closed on the gig season with corporate shows and collaborations. This year, things are set to change.

Naidu is working on a debut album, J’aifame, featuring piano trio melodies and one track with vocals.

J’aifame loosely means, ‘I’m hungry’. Naidu studied at the Bill Evans Piano Academy in Paris. The term comes from Paris’s homeless who often hold up a placard with the phrase. Naidu says it represents his own hunger to produce his album.

It’s been nine years in the making, Naidu says. He went back to Paris to record his songs. The album cover will be one of the Metro stations that Naidu photographed. There’s late-night mixing, recording, clean-ups and the hope that a French label comes on board.

This Feeling, the song that features lyrics, Naidu says he literally wrote it in his sleep. “I was unwell and on heavy medication. I had already composed the tune and wanted to put lyrics to it,” he says. “I wrote it as I slept and put pen to paper later,” he says laughing.

The Debutants

Doe, comprising Divya Lewis on vocals, Rohan Ramanna on drums and Amandeep Singh Soni on guitar, have a self-titled EP with three songs coming out by the end of May.

For a band that is yet to debut, its band members had a pretty hectic gig season. Doe, comprising Divya Lewis on vocals, Rohan Ramanna on the drums and Amandeep Singh Soni on the guitar, have been playing in different bands and producing records. Their self-titled EP with three songs comes out May-end.

The artists came together at Chennai’s Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music. “We studied music there and had heard of each other. But it’s only in Mumbai we met again,” says 22-year-old Lewis.

“We’ve waited for four years to put out the album,” says Ramana. Lewis describes Doe’s sound as “R&B, soul, and jazz. The idea is to make people move, groove and feel.” Ramana says they want people to listen to their music in the bedroom as opposed to a club. “It’s almost introspective,” he says.

In rehearsals they binge watch TV shows like Rick and Morty and Atlanta.

“When I write, I try to make it as non-specific as possible because I want people to take back what they want to,” says Lewis. But what’s more fun? Asking people to read the lyrics and ask them what they feel, she adds.

Typical jam sessions involve laughter and long conversations. “Sometimes, we even forget to record what we’ve jammed,” says Lewis with a laugh.

Echo chamber

The months ahead are full for Nirmit Shah and Sid Shirodkar, founding members of Ape Echoes. They’re planning a new EP of eight or nine songs, and new artist collaborations.

Ask Nirmit Shah, 27 and Sid Shirodkar, 25, founding members of Ape Echoes, what genre of music they play, and they chuckle. “We have strong jazz and contemporary electronic influences. We love experimenting with noise, pop, funk and soul,” says Shirodkar.

Ape Echoes started off in 2017, but they performed at top festivals like NH7 Pune and Magnetic Fields in December. They also came out with their first EP, featuring the songs Monkey Do, Monkey See and Comes Alive.

The months ahead are full, with plans for 8-9 songs on a new EP, and new artist collaborations.

Apart from the two of them, Sahil Shah comes on board with drums and Harsh Gadhvi on guitar. “We have intense jam sessions,” says Shirodkar. “We were once humming in the studio during a session and I happened to be recording it on phone. It came out so well, we decided to use it on a song.”

Shah confesses they are horrible with lyrics, so they’re always looking for new ways to write.

Collaborate and listen

After heavy touring, Tejas Menon is looking forward to working on new material.

Tejas Menon who goes by his stage name, Tejas, is associated with the kind of soft, melodious music that makes you want to curl up by a window when it’s raining outside. The sound still fits right into the pop genre.

A self-confessed nerd (he co-produces the Geek Fruit podcast) Menon released his album, Make it Happen, right before the season opened last year. After heavy touring, Menon is looking forward to working on new material.

“I’m working on a deluxe version of my album; some songs will feature new parts,” he says. This means collaborations and experimentation. “The song, Make it Happen, will feature rapper, Enkore aka Ankur Joshi.” Other names include producer Arnob Bal on a song titled River and a grungy new song with Vishal Dadlani called Kindness.

“Collaboration frees me of the burden of creating the entire song,” Menon says. “On River, I gave my vocals and acoustic guitar. But Bal removed the guitar and put a bunch of beats to make it more like a club song. It’s exciting to be able to create new things.”