Alternative band Shaa’ir + Func speak about their eventful musical journey ahead of their gig in Kochi

Shaa’ir + Func are Mumbai-based duo Monica Dogra and Randolph Correia. Dubbed as one of India’s early alternative, electronica bands in the underground scene, S+F has since toured the world and the country several times over with three successful albums to their credit. Currently on a national tour, and ahead of their gig in Kochi on October 5, Monica (Shaa’ir) talks about S+F’s body of work, and their distinct sound and stage style.

Edited excerpts from an email interview:

You’ve been labelled a funk-rock band, an electro-indie pop act, among several other titles. If you must, how would you define your music; do these labels matter to you at all?

We don’t really believe in labels. Never really have. But, we’ve been called so many different things, and all of them are true to a point. We created Shaa’ir + Func so that we could just express, purely, without agenda, in a format that we believe to be the most powerful—the miracle that happens when like-minded people are gathered in a room, jumping, laughing, dancing, head-banging, and loving. We created music that we believed would feed that miracle.

It’s been a long journey since you met in 2005. From New Day: The Love Album, to Light Tribe and to Mantis, how has your sound evolved over time?

We have evolved in many different ways, but the tricky thing is, when you’re inside of something, it’s hard to look at it subjectively. It’s a bit difficult to see and gauge your movement, when you’re the very thing that is moving. When we look back at our earlier work, we’ve definitely expanded production wise on our live set. We’ve bought new gear, taken on new band members, rocked out stages to thousands of people. When we started there weren’t any music festivals. Now there are so many. Our records have become even more experimental, and I think we’ve graduated from writing songs that are extremely personal and love oriented, to pondering a bit more on the world we live in. The more music you write, in a way, the slope becomes steeper than before, in terms of creating something authentic and full of the same life as what you’ve poured into your previous work. And we’re nearly four records down. So yeah, it’s really hard work!

Previous interviews say your music comes from where Monica’s lyrics meet Randolph’s beats and rhythm. Could you talk a little bit more about the creative process of Shaa’ir + Func?

That’s not completely true anymore. Randolph now writes a lot of lyrics and songs, and he’s even begun singing. There’s really no method. I think the trick is to be together, and just play. When there is no agenda is when the most beautiful and honest music is made.

Shaa’ir + Func has always been as much about the art of performance as it has been about the music. As a student of ballet, tap, jazz, kathak and mohiniyattam, your stage act is full of movement. Is movement as important to you as the music?

The music is obviously what I’ve worked on much more than the dance aspects. But, the dancing is something that I’ve honed in myself as a way to get outside of my body, and outside of my conscious mind—into a place where I can be as raw and as connected to my core as possible.

Your stage performances also incorporate sets, costumes and makeup. How do you go about creating the visual effect for each show?

I’ve been a creature attracted to the alchemy of performance art. To connect with the many senses within a performance should be an ultimate goal. Of course, that keeps in mind that music is a transformative form—one that activates all senses. That’s why there’s music everywhere—in bars, restaurants, airplanes.

Is a fourth album coming soon?

Very soon.

What can Kochi look forward to at your performance?

We’re bringing all we can bring to this gig. We usually don’t disappoint. Without sounding arrogant, that is an understatement.