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Homegrown band, Olam is the outcome of native musical inspirations of four friends

Four musicians gathered in a warehouse that overlooked the backwater in Mattancherry and played the music they liked. Each brought in his own feeling and memory and the casual jamming slowly evolved into musical pieces that they could call their own. The warehouse they practised in is Uru Art Harbour and the band they came to be is Olam. It was the end of 2016 and the musicians had no big plans. All they did was play music and it progressed into a residency programme. By 2017 October, when Uru was formally launched, Olam performed its first song.

“It happened over time, organically. We were just trying to explore music in our own way. That was the beginning,” says Arun S Kumar, who plays the drums.

During its initial days, the musicians spent a lot of time at Uru, over four to five days a week, playing continuously for hours on end. Some patterns that repeated itself became the songs. “We bring original content. Not covers or popular film music,” says Syam N Pai, the guitarist.

Olam is an instrumental band comprising drums, guitar, bass guitar and keyboard. It hasn’t felt the need for a vocalist yet. “Our music leaves a lot for the listener to interpret and form his or her own impression. We communicate with the listeners not through lyrics, but through music,” Syam explains.

They performed recently at the biennale in the ‘Music of the Muziris’ segment and are encouraged by the feedback. The band wants to create an experience of sound for its listeners, urging them to explore their own inner aural worlds.

“It is interesting to observe how our music has evolved. We had a lot of freedom to experiment, and to make mistakes; we had our little differences of opinion. But over time, we stumbled upon some patterns that we chose to keep,” says Ajoy Jose, who plays the keyboard.

Though their repertoire is rich by seven songs, they work around a loose structure as of now with each song seamlessly progressing to another. They steer clear of labels and their music is a mix of genres and influences.

The four musicians have known each other much before the formal organisation of the band. While Syam and Arun used to play for another instrumental band called ‘Kaav,’ Ajoy was the keyboardist for a Carnatic-blues based band, ‘Backwater Blues’. Manu Ajayan, the youngest member of Olam, used to be the bass guitarist for a thrash metal band. “Though we are only four, we have a great network of friends who help us take our aspirations ahead,” Manu says.

The music is accompanied by visuals projected sometimes on to the musicians themselves, which completes the experience, says Syam. “Some of the visuals we have shot ourselves, but we also have cinematographer friends, who film for us. We are trying to explore how one approaches the sounds one makes through visuals.”

One of the videos show footage shot in and around Uru—of backwaters, the sea and the birds, an indication of where they come from. “We are from in and around here, all from the coastal belt. Syam is from Vypeen, Ajoy is from Alappuzha, Manu is from Cherthala and I am from Palluruthy. I’m sure we share common influences,” says Arun.

The space they jammed in has contributed greatly in crystallising their ideas. It is a casual, but vibrant space. Large, airy and sort of secluded. When there is no art show happening, they are left alone with their music. “The locals who got used to seeing us are curious. Sometimes, they wander in and watch us jam,” says Ajoy.

We grew up here, so our influences are drawn from a lot of film music, rock and world music. “We listen to all kinds of music. I guess, as musicians, whatever we listen to gets recorded subconsciously in the mind,” says Manu.

Alongside building their musical repertoire, the band is also working towards creating visual content that can complement their album and find more venues across the State and the country.

The video of the band’s performance will be released at the Kochi Muziris Biennale’s Youtube channel.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 8:56:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/kochi-based-instrumental-band-olam-on-their-music/article26520960.ece

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