When it comes to Sami Chohfi, it would be a hard task to separate the traveller from the musician, for each of his trips to different corners of the world informs his music. He seems to be constantly drawing on ideas that he keeps seeing around him, a fact which is evident in his music videos, none of which are alike. Two of them happen to be shot in India, in the days before the pandemic, during the American-Brazilian musician’s previous visit to the country.
His first solo album, Extraordinary World, is a collection of stories he gathered during his travels through Brazil, Armenia, Cambodia, India, Japan and the Philippines.
In Thiruvananthapuram to perform at the opening edition of the International Indie Music Festival (IIMF) being organised by Lazie Indie at the Kerala Arts and Crafts Village near Kovalam, he spoke to The Hindu on things that inspire the songwriter in him.
“When I was growing up in the 1990s, it was the time when we had MTV. I used to wake up extra early to catch the music for an hour before I catched the school bus. Bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, SoundGarden and Metallica used to be on air all the time. After listening to Nirvana, I pleaded with my mother to give me a guitar on my birthday, and she did. Then I started learning all of their songs. Chris Cornell’s singing inspired me to take vocal lessons. Because I had studied all these songs for so long, I learned how to write songs and create structures. What I have always loved is music with very strong melody and powerful lyrics,” says Sami.
With local musicians
In 2000, he moved to Seattle, where the grunge rock revolution had begun waning by then. He started the band ‘Blue Helix’ with a few like-minded musicians, but it never became a permanent thing as many of them could not keep up with the touring schedules. Now, he composes all the music alone and depends on session musicians in whichever country he goes to perform.
In Thiruvananthapuram, he will be performing on Friday with 16-year-old drummer Niveditha and bassist Shalini, both from Bengaluru.
“Many times, when I wanted to play, my band from the U.S. could not go and it broke my heart. I find that it is more exciting to play with more musicians, because you never know the kind of talented musicians that you are going to meet. In fact, the most talented musicians are not in the U.S. They are in places like the Philippines, India, Brazil and Paris,” he says.
Quite a few of his popular songs radiate an infectious positivity, but he is not averse to talk about the issues around him too. For instance, The Awakening is inspired from the anti-racism protests that rocked the U.S. after the murder of George Floyd, while Anti-social butterfly is against bullying. The passing away of his mother due COVID-19 also brought a sobering influence on his music.