Shorts In The Dark

How three men are defining music in Delhi

These are men who have redefined men in a city of harshness, of unpleasantness.

 |  Shorts In The Dark  |  4-minute read |   21-01-2019
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While New Delhi was waiting for Dot, Amit Saigal’s (of The Rock Street Journal) and Shena Gamat’s sensational daughter (two back-to-back gigs in Oddbird Theatre and where did she go?) to return, three men, yes, men, have defined the sound of the city.

Non-metal, singer-rage, songwriter, singer-blues, these are men who have redefined men in a city of harshness, of unpleasantness. Who are these men, and why are they special?

Sanchal Malhar, an invented surname, used to live with his mom, who was a voice interpreter in Parliament. Dad missing. A Christian bassist to boot, who became a family man. An NRI investment banker for a drummer. A band called Superfuzz, slyly funneled into Indigo Children.

Now, why I mention Sanchal’s mother is that there is no elite when it comes to bands singing in English. Bands often live with their parents. India is all-embracing. India is solidly middle class. I took them to the Doon School. They had a song, which messed with our heads, called School:

“Let’s forget

We’re a happy hearted

Bunch of people today

Let’s pretend we’ve found the rights

To breed our minds this way.”

This was Sanchal playing the guitar that cut into his navel with an always-changing drummer and a religiously committed bassist. His mother told me, on the nights I turned up, “I put all my money into Sanchal.”

Sanchal, before he changed cities, always loved this city. From getting khargosh from Lal Kila (‘Bunny Epidemic’), to getting out of the maze of Delhi night-time barricades: “I’m Satan’s Very Own”, Sanchal was a rock ‘n’ roll singer who didn’t give a dice about the EDM wave sweeping his city.

Then comes Sarab, the second S, in a city of lost children.

lifafa-inside_012019062543.jpgWho are these men, and why are they special? (Representative image/Twitter)

A consummate lost child who fooled the unsuspecting, on a regular basis, for Menwhopause, a band that anchored Delhi with its all-encompassing handouts for the broken, the ripped currency, no beats, no waffle cone. It was left to Sarab, to come back from band wilderness: Why did you go? Who cared, he cared for the drunk fans. A man who sang “My brother is /Walking/his dog /Downstairs/in his tennis shoes”, a lyric that put the quotidian back in the city.

His lyrics, even now, map longing and bisexual desire, in a way that is fearless, bi-musical, and deeply rooted in family and expectation.

And it’s hidden, concealed, never shared except on SoundCloud. And a daughter on the knees who puts him to sleep.

Which brings us to Suryakant Sawhney aka Lifafa, a freak occurrence in south Delhi, an untiring flicker of stonecold tunes that builds sandcastles and welcomes the waves.

A Lifafa gig is surrounded by the same expectation that used to surround any Delhi gig by anyone worthy: men, women, uncles, aunties, even the hyena from the West. Between the three, Sanchal, Sarab and Suryakant, the three ‘S’ of New Delhi, one sees the three modern, pre-modern and postmodern strands of music in a big city. Sanchal, in many ways, is still frightened by what has happened to his town, a provincial capital that exploded to provide him with a living.

Sarab has become a recluse, whose music is soon going to be a trademark, a concealed copyright of incessant songwriting, a man always questioning what a man does.

Suryakant, a soulful voice, with a fluent army of trumpeters, very much of Delhi, and yet of the world, in a terribly, at times, accommodating, longing way. As Suryakant’s solo project Lifafa becomes the fluctuating unavoidable that descends on Delhi after dark, Sarab has a lot to say about a root canal his brother has to tackle, while Sanchal moves to Goa with his mother, forever.

Three strange and brilliant men. With no money in the bank and families to take care of.

This is the future of Indian rock ‘n’ roll, and maybe the past. But there is only one strawberry vapouriser that looks buland: Suryakant’s. He will rise, self-promote; superflower in Europe; Sanchal will retire into the eternal Goan party that will save him and his mum from oblivion, while Sarab will retreat further into a tower, much like Donald, and call out his watchtower for Mauritian rum. And his wife, Kalyani.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also Read: Why we love to hate Delhi


Palash Krishna Mehrotra Palash Krishna Mehrotra @palashmehrotra

The writer is the editor of 'House Spirit: Drinking in India'

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