Whitesugar, a city-based band uses music to highlight the plight of the common man

Will you tell your daughter, she can’t just be whoever

She’s gotta live her life like a man told her

You are no son, no brother, no father neither

You think you’re a man kid, you’re just a joke…

--Whitesugar

If music be the food of love, play on…. But music need not always be the vehicle of love and sweet somethings, says a city-based band of musicians who call themselves, Whitesugar. It can be a powerful medium to disseminate hardcore realities faced by the common man, they say. The band melds activism with melody in good measure and belts out meaningful, sensitive verse that reach out to people.

Pressing issues

From potholed roads to larger issues of displacement such as the ones triggered by the Mullaperiyar dam and the Kudankulam projects; the Delhi gang rape case, gender bias, erosion of tradition and junkie culture to stereotyping the young, the band addresses issues that concern society. For the young members of Whitesugar—comprising lead vocalist James Peter, drummer Gilbert Xavier, guitarist Clement Samson Correya and bass guitarist Nijo Sebastian— music is the harbinger of reality, a sweet pill for the bitter ills, “pure as white and sweet as sugar and hence Whitesugar.”

Launching their debut album Sugar Rush on World Aids Day on December 1, James and Gilbert recall their eight-year journey so far. “It has had its ups and downs,” says James who belongs to the family of well-known musicians, Joe and George Peter of 13 AD fame. It was in 2004 that Gilbert began jamming with musicians from his neighbourhood in Kathrikadavu. James joined in two years later and in the following year Clement, who sings in Malayalam, and Nijo joined in and formed the group. Their first performance, they say, was a dampener. Disheartened, James was ready to quit after he felt their music to be wanting.

Besides, all the four youngsters, aiming to be rock musicians, were encouraged by their families to pursue professional career choices. They were supportive of our music but wished for more surety for our future, they say. But they stayed put and continued to make music together. Success and accolades came soon when the group won at the Amal Jyothi College competition. “The judge came up to us and asked us to hold on to our unique sound,” they say.

And their unique sound comes from a mix of folk and alternative rock. Called rap-core, it has melodic rapping aimed at composing groovy music. As their lyrics originate from a zeal to create awareness, to bring in social change, they are loaded with meaning and often complex. That’s one reason why the musicians offset it with melodious beats. “Much as we want the audience to connect with our lyrics, we want them to groove along, too,” says James.

Their first music video ‘oru meesha karyam, Light on the Road’, in 2011, was on the bad conditions of roads. It sprung from a road accident in which Gilbert was injured. This was followed by another oru meesha karyam performance, which are street performances, on the Mullaperiyar issue. Recognition came when the Kudankulam Samara Samithy contacted the group and requested them to stage their cause. The composition saw the members wear gas masks and croon the cause to dramatic effect. “We always dress to aid the cause. Our music can be a protest or it can be plain awareness,” says Gilbert, who is a graphic designer and has won an online award for best poster design.

With an aim to reach out to everybody Clement sings in Malayalam along with James who croons in English. Their friends pen the lyrics.

Sugar Rush will be launched with a gig on December 1 on Marine Drive Walkway, GCDA Complex, at 5 p.m.