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The local way to rock on

Kurangan is a collective of English-speaking musicians, who came together three months ago to make music in Tamil. Photo: R. Ravindran

Kurangan is a collective of English-speaking musicians, who came together three months ago to make music in Tamil. Photo: R. Ravindran  

Raveena Joseph meets members of city-based band Kurangan that makes catchy music with intelligent lyrics

Nothing gives away the fact that Kurangan — the latest addition to the city’s independent music scene — is just three gigs old. Their attitude could put even Aerosmith to shame. They smirk at questions, roll their eyes at requests and when asked to pose for pictures, they get their diva on and sulk. For a four-member outfit, they prove to be quite a handful. However, it’s the same attitude that makes them — bassist Tiburtius V. Rubin, drummer Srikrishna Natesan, guitarist B. Vijay Sudarsan and singer-songwriter Kaber Vasuki — a delight to watch on stage. Their lyrics are intelligent and their music, catchy.

But who are these guys? Tiburtius attempts to explain, “There are two types of people in every classroom. Those who like to speak the native language and those who speak English. We are the guys in between — the bridge between ‘the peters’ and also, our boys.” The other band members, suitably impressed with this description, nod in agreement. Tiburtius grins.

Kurangan is a collective of English-speaking musicians, who came together three months ago to make music in Tamil. Yet, they are not sure which genre of music they classify themselves under. “We are a Tamil pop band,” asserts Tiburtius. “Machan, we don’t even have a keyboard. We are a rock back,” says Kaber. Tiburtius argues, “But The Kings and The Beatles are guitar-driven.” Vijay interrupts, “Each song has its own influences; the mood varies with each number.” A Tamil pop band with rock influences? Let’s just go with that.

But why Tamil? “Would you ask someone why English? It’s just a language; a way to communicate,” snaps Krishna. He then says he can talk about Nietzsche as well as he can about Kannadasan. Why is that relevant? “When we say Tamil music, people immediately assume we are going to play Harris Jayaraj,” he says. “But our influences come from artistes like Jamiroquai, Dave Matthews, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher.”

“Go to Germany, and you can count the number of English bands there. Go to France, you will predominantly find French bands. Their first preference is native music,” says Krishna. “The Beatles too wrote music in their native language,” quips Tiburtius. Even in India, says Kaber, English music stands outnumbered in the independent music circuit — think Avial, The Raghu Dixit Project, Swarathma.

So who does their music cater to? “Those who understand good music and think for themselves,” says Krishna, adding that, “language is no barrier.” Tiburtius smiles, “When Kaber sings, you want to listen, because something draws you to the song, even if you don’t understand the lyrics.”

Kaber, a writer, started penning songs in college. He first did so in English, till he realised it sounded derivative. He also realised that Tamil cinema music, over time, had gotten into fewer genres lyrically. “There is a hero introduction song, romance song, love failure song, alcohol song and maybe a fight song, if the director feels like being innovative. But you can say a lot more through music,” he says. His lyrics, which he describes as “honest, self-reflective and not frivolous,” move away from these themes and are largely inspired by current events that irk him. They are also smart, witty and full of local flavour. “The idea, to say things simply and directly, is what is new about Kurangan,” points out Kaber.

The three performances they’ve had so far, they say, have been brilliant. They had people dancing to their tunes at The Covelong Surf and Music Festival, the audience loved them at their performance at GRT Grand and they had the entire crowd cheering and clapping during their latest show at the Justice Rocks concert.

Now, as a recently-formed band, they have their task set — to find gigs. But, in the meantime, they say, they might just resort to busking (performing on the streets). “Musicians, across the world, when they don’t have a stage, perform on the street. Unfortunately, in our country, we need police permission to do so. We will get that and get there,” grins Kaber.

Band and bonding

Everyone wants to sing about love. So when Kaber started writing lyrics that deviated from this genre, he says he didn’t find too many takers. “I learnt the guitar because nobody would play for me. I started singing because nobody would sing for me,” he says. Last year, when he was crowd-funding his first album, Azhagu Puratchi, he met music producer and bassist Tiburtius. He then connected with Vijay through the internet. “I heard one of Kaber’s songs online and really liked it. I wanted to play with him,” says the guitarist. The final member of the band, Krishna, was roped in through the bassist. Thus was formed Kurangan

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 4:01:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/kurangan-is-the-latest-entrant-to-chennais-independent-music-scene/article7800343.ece

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