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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Kitanu, a Delhi-based five-piece band comprised of Rohan Prasanna on Sarod, Siddhant Sarkar on vocals, Omkar Raghupatruni on guitar, Guru Ganapathi on drums, and Arman Handa on Bass Guitar, features a unique sound of merged styles. Their debut EP is filled with influences from Jazz, Funk, Rock & Roll, Blues, Metal, and Bossa Nova. The band’s aim with their debut was to make good music and have fun, and through these three tracks, they have conveyed their love for music and their joy in making it. In this interview, they talked about the process behind their songwriting, the Indian influences in their music, and more.
How important was it to not define your music by genre, and do you define it by anything?
Siddhant: I think it is the very core of all of us as musicians to not be defined by a genre – especially as we all evolve individually as musicians too and our own styles and inclinations keep developing, we plan to remain genre-fluid. We feel when you decide to stick to a genre, you limit yourselves, and we all view our music as an amalgamation of different sounds rather than something specific.
Rohan: When we first decided to make music, we didn’t have any genre or deadline to commit to. The band just went with a style that merged widely varying styles of all five members, making each song sound unique.
While there is an emphasis on the musicality of your work, what role does lyricism play in your music?
Siddhant: I think the way we view our music, we view the vocals as an “instrument” too which has to lend to the rest of the music. That said, I believe lyrics play a very important part in music.
For instance, “Pebbles” is a jazz-inspired journey that celebrates one’s sorrows, the lyrics are about the chronology of heartbreak and really adds meaning to the song.
“Faith” in itself is the journey of a child trapped in an abusive environment with an alcoholic father and how he is hopeful that despite all of the misery of it all, he’ll get away from it and make a life for himself. How hope/faith is eternal, hence the name of the song. Personally too, this song is close to my heart.
“Vacation” is about how we try to mold ourselves so we can fit the narratives of someone else’s idea of us, just so we can be with them, yet, at the same time, we have the realization of how futile and desperate it is. It is also about how the other person in the relationship is full of fear and resistant to make the jump that we are willing to make. The song ends on that note and we “lyrically” don’t go further about what really happens in the end – but we let the guitar solo do the talking and I guess it is for the listener to decide how the story ends. Personally, I think I’d walk out and that is how the guitar solo resonates with me too.
What did it mean to have the Sarod blend in with jazz, funk and soul, and the blues?
Rohan: When Kitanu was formed, I had just joined college and the college music society opened my mind to experimenting with genres other than my own (Indian classical). Because of this, I was very keen on experimenting with how the sarod would blend with other genres. It was a learning experience as I got to expand my own vision of “sarod”.
Has your Indian background affected your work? How?
Siddhant: I haven’t really thought about it until now, I guess our cultural aspects obviously play a role in how we perceive life and how we subconsciously operate. Ideally, I would have said my “Indian-ness” has nothing to do with my work because even the music we are making is using “western instruments” but if I am being practical, I would say – it most definitely has. Not to mention, that we are using a “Sarod” which is an ancient Indian folk instrument.
Omkar: Well, India is a pretty diverse country and so is our music. Our parents were all from different cultures and that has, to some extent, been reflected in our music. All of our mother tongues are different (Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil) so our approaches to music and life are also a little different and it blends whenever we jam and make music. Also, the fact that we are all very spiritual people so one can say that too stems from our “Indian-ness”.
The three tracks – Vacation, Pebbles, and Faith – are very distinct and flow from one to the other musically. What was the thought process behind the sequencing and making of this EP?
Omkar: If we are being completely honest, we just randomly picked 3 songs that we thought were similar yet different. “Vacation” was the song we put first because it has a great intro. “Faith’s” ending is pretty energetic and we thought this has to go last. We were left with “Pebbles” which then went in the middle. As it turned out, the songs just naturally flowed from one to the other like they were meant to be.
Rohan: We just wanted to make music while growing individually as musicians and that was the thought process behind the making of the EP, at least for me.
Listen to their debut EP on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, and Youtube.
Swati Ramaswamy is a recent graduate from UC Davis and an aspiring creative writer.