Brewing a new sound

It’s been just two years, but with over 300 performances in India and abroad, two film projects, and one album in the making, Masala Coffee has already risen to be one of the hottest independent bands in India. They will be performing at The Hindu November Fest 2016 on November 18.

The all-boy band of eight professional musicians like to call their music contemporary folk fusion. Varun Sunil, the founder, says that whatever song it is, they brew it to sound like a Masala Coffee song. “The genre doesn’t matter. The song can have elements of Jazz, Latin Classical, Rock, Brazilian tunes… For example, with ‘Kaantha’ (one of their recent and most popular numbers which garnered close to three lakh hits on YouTube), I just started singing the original folk number, and Sooraj Santhosh (the lead singer of the band) started playing the flute-like musical instrument kazoo for it. We felt that it worked, so we added that element too. Similarly, we experiment by playing the tabla for a rock song, and so on,” he says, over telephone from Kerala, and adds, “You should also listen to our version of Bharati’s ‘Agni Kunjondru Kanden’ (from Uriyadi) to know how different our sound is.”

‘Kaantha’ made magic for them. It was not intended to be part of their production at all, “but when we performed it at a live gig in Kuwait for the first time, the response was amazing!” And it was the same story in several other venues following that. So Varun and the group decided to produce it, and now, there is no live performance without ‘Kaantha’. “In fact, it was after listening to it that the team of Uriyadi called us to do three songs for the film. One of the songs they wanted was a Tamil version of ‘Kaantha’,” he says. They are glad they did that. The song got them a place in the list of three bands from South India that will feature in Discovery’s #IndiaMyWay, which will be aired soon, he adds. “In general, films are a great platform to make people aware of our band’s voice. After Uriyadi, I got several messages from people appreciating our music; it encouraged them to go check out our other songs,” he says.

For the band, it all started with the show Music Mojo on Kappa TV, for which Varun, who was working in Mumbai then, called up his friends and friends of friends, and formed a band. They performed songs that went viral online. “From there, we took off to doing live shows. Mostly in Kerala first, because five of our members are Malayalis. Slowly, we started getting requests to perform in other states; we have also been to West Asia and beyond,” he says.

The band’s calendar is chock-a-block with projects. They have signed up for another Tamil movie, have a live gig in Singapore next year, and are sorting out their visas for a U.S. tour as well. “But our main focus stays on the multilingual album that we are working on,” says Varun. All this despite each member having a set of individual projects to attend to. Varun, who has worked with legends such Zakir Hussain and popular fusion artists such as Shankar Tucker, says, “while it was very difficult to balance in the beginning, as the fanship grew, the members started focussing more on the band. Now, we are just always together; we jam together, make decisions together... we are happy as one team,” he says.

Song list for the fest:


Munbe Vaa cover

Snehithane cover

Odi Odi

Agni Kunjondru

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 10:34:01 PM |

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