Masala Coffee melds different kinds of music to new effect

Within ten days of its release on YouTube, ‘Munbe Vaa…’ by ‘Masala Coffee’ has gone viral with more than a lakh hits. Comments range from “beautiful” to “awesome” to “just went back to heaven”…Sooraj Santosh’s soulful rendition, the original of which was composed by A.R. Rahman for ‘Sillunu Oru Kaadhal’, has people raving about Varun Sunil’s interpretation of the song.

Of the song he says, “I didn’t want to meddle with the song for the sake of it. Our aim is to make good music.”

Masala Coffee made its debut on Kappa TV’s Music Mojo a few months back. The channel recently uploaded all the songs by the band on YouTube.

Apart from ‘Munbe Vaa…’ the other covers are ‘Krishna Nee Begane’ (Colonial Cousins), ‘Kunnathoro Kaavundu’, ‘Mahi Ve’, a medley of Rahman songs and ‘Paani Da…’ The original numbers are ‘Karikkin Paattu’, ‘Naanam’ and ‘Once upon a time in Punjab’ - of which only the first two have been released.

‘Karikkin Paattu’, an ode of sorts to ‘karikkin kallu’, has been written by Anu Elizabeth Jose and the ‘Naanam’ has been written by Anil. R. Menon.

The music defies labels – if one song is a rap-Indian classical jugalbandi then another is a Hindi song. About choosing ‘Krishna Nee Begane…’, the Colonial Cousins’ hit song, he says, “I have good equation with Hari-ji (Hariharan) with whom I have played, therefore it was inevitable.”

Coffee spiced is masala coffee, a mix of spice and coffee which makes a heady beverage. Similarly a desire to bring different, unexpected musical elements led him to putting together a band of eclectic sounds.

With Masala Coffee, the 27 year-old hopes to make music which melds different styles of music. “The band members span genres and the compositions have been so arranged that we explore at least some of these,” he adds, “the ‘esraj’ is an example of an instrument that is rarely heard in India, but it finds a place in the band.”

Apart from Varun, (who is the band’s producer, vocalist and percussionist) the line-up of vocalists includes Sooraj Santhosh, Suchith Suresan and Yadu Krishnan. Daniel Kenneth (lead guitarist), Ben Sam (bass guitarist), Sunil George (keyboard), Shirish Malhotra (saxophone, guitar, viola and flute), Arshad Khan (esraj) Joe Jacob (drums), Nithin Menon (ethnic percussion), Ajay (DJ and rapper) and Vishnu Sunil (backing vocalist). The sound engineer is Jayakrishnan.

Most of these musicians are ‘Coke Studio’ musicians according to Varun, “they have played with various musicians on the show and are known names in the circuit. They are among the best in live music and they know their music. It was, however, a struggle getting everybody together to jam.”

The reason being that some of the musicians are based in Mumbai and are busy artistes in their own right. Varun made their acquaintance while working in Mumbai.

Varun has worked with various musicians such as Taufiq and Fazal Qureshi, Ranjit Barot, Astaad Deboo, Sadir Khan, Dilshad Khan, Hariharan, Swedish flautist and soprano saxophonist Anders Hagberg. He has also played for music directors such as Jerry Amaldev, Johnson, M. Jayachandran and Rajamani. Besides composing jingles for Cadbury’s, Sundrop oil, Castrol, Kurkure Monster Paws and Britannia besides a series of others.

The band is gearing up for concerts in India and abroad.

This Masala Coffee is piping hot!