In Chennai’s constant upheaval to find a space for alternative/independent music, there has been a warm reception of sorts for fusion. But Jatayu is more than that. The band, whose current line-up came together in 2016, have been tinkering with jazz, blues, psychedelic rock and Carnatic-inspired guitar lines.
It all comes together with a few philosophical questions on the side, on their debut EP Chango Tales . Released last month, the EP begins with guitarists Shylu Ravindran and Sahib Singh climbing up and down Carnatic scales on the fretboard on ‘Shringara’, with drummer Manu Krishnan and bassist Kashyap Jaishankar straight away showing off virtuoso level rhythmic chops to match. Thematically, it wants to begin ponderation by the record’s titular character Chango. Where ‘Shringara’ is about love, the funk-tinged jazz track ‘May I?’ is wide-eyed wonderment, putting Swiss jazz/classical duo Krond Flast’s combination of violins and saxophone front and centre.
Jatayu descends into a darker hue on the two-part ‘Pazhi’, the distorted guitars leading to equally heavy and cinematic violin from German artist Holger Jetter. The cinematic elements is led to explore a moment in Chango’s journey where she feels unsafe and perhaps violated. The band and Jetter get progressively heavier, retaining a wailing guitar lead. But then they turn it around almost abruptly into something much more upbeat and perhaps easygoing, signalling a moment of clarity, the sonic equivalent of a smile perhaps, on the closing track ‘Chango’. Jetter returns as well, but everything is more groovier, lilting and tells us that the protagonist has chose to live her best life, unapologetically to lead as an example.
They have no doubt got exceptional featured artists on board to help craft their identity, but Jatayu look like they can take on a lot more in the jazz-rock space all by themselves. For now, they have proven their versatility and sonic storytelling ability, entirely without lyrics on Chango Tales .
Get the EP on jatayutheband.bandcamp.com