Interestingly, a Bollywood flick lead to the discovery of today’s featured artiste. And this film had none of the conventional singing and dancing. Not that it would matter. My finger is ever ready on the fast forward tab. I digress. Anyways, it was worth the effort because here I am about to share my find with you guys.
Shaa’ir (Monica Dogra) and Func (Randolph Correia) is an electro-rock/trance/alternative/ *insert genre here* musicians based in Mumbai. Dogra moved back to the Indian subcontinent from the States, conjoining hands with Correia
(one-fourth of Pentagram) to what was to become S+F in 2005. Four years into their collaborated efforts, they won the AVIMA award 2009 for the most Mindboggling-Out-of-this-world-track for “Together again” from Light Tribe.
What inspired Shaa’ir and Func to make music together?
I think we both were most inspired by our immediate synergy. It was as if we had always been meant to play together. We met in the middle of the night at a jam session, and instantly felt in sync. Randolph was on guitar, and I was free-styling. We could have gone on for hours, it was just that magical.
So when I returned to Bombay, after quitting my life in the US, I found him and asked him to play with me. He agreed, and a few months later our first record was born. After our first gig, we knew we had something cosmic. We owed it to the powers at play to keep going.
Major Influences in your music?
We are most inspired by our environments, and the lives that we lead. We’ve been walking unpaved paths from the inception of S+F – and all those rocks and windy ways, teach us lessons. What we learn goes into our music. Randolph and I often speak about how everything in this world can be distilled down and what you have left over is love. That’s what influences our music. Either trying to distill, or the realization that occurs after that distillation.
How has your compositions evolved since 2007?
I think that with age, your skill level increases, your experience widens, your ability to create becomes more fine-tuned. Practice makes perfect. The Love Album was a lifetime of raw experience put to music, Light Tribe was the chaos of touring around the world as a completely Independent band, and then Mantis came from a more reflective mature space of experience.
I can’t really choose a favorite, but I do think that technically, Mantis was our best effort…our best album. It’s hard to count the number of ways we have evolved, but we are the kinds who try to evolve rapidly and with grace – and when we look back on the short number of years we’ve been a band – we see the distance we’ve traveled, and we feel proud….not satisfied…but, proud. This feeling doesn’t make us lose momentum, but rather it makes us hunger to go even further.
New Day: The Love Album and Light Tribe; both were commercially successful. This would have certainly helped with the spread of Mantis. But why free download?
It’s hard to say what makes a record commercially successful. For us, we just want more people to hear our music…to us, that’s “commercial success”.
How important is clinching a record deal?
In my opinion it isn’t important at all. What matters the most these days is how good your music is, and whether or not you have an internet connection.
What was the band working towards in the beginning and how has that changed thus far?
We’ve always worked towards making the best music possible and uniting people through our sound. Be it on a dance floor, or in a room….
We like to think of ourselves as musical bridges across genres, oceans, and hearts.
How different is Shaa’ir + Func from the rest of the Indie Bands in India?
Favorite achievement as a band?
Performing at Glastonbury after Massive Attack on a solar and bicycle powered stage.
Where do you see yourselves say 5 years down the road?
Bigger. Better. Stronger.
Which is harder? Writing a song, creating the music for it or performing live? Why?
It all ebbs and flows. Sometimes the song is the hardest to conquer, sometimes the production is the hardest to figure, sometimes the skill to execute the record into a live format is the hardest. But, there is something about music that has a guiding invisible force…there’s something instinctual that tells you when it’s done, tells you when it’s good, tells you when changes need to be made. It’s kind of like finding God.
Where have you guys performed so far? Favorite Venue
My most favorite recent venue was Cherry Beach Studio, in Toronto. They made a mini-studio inside of the warehouse space, with Elephants and living kama-sutra statues. It was all very campy, but the gig was insane, and the sound was beautiful. I’d go back and do it again.
Future Albums? Upcoming gigs?
We’ll start working on a new record as soon as we’re both done with our travels. Randolph is returning to India with a massive new setup. So our gigs will for sure be next level. We’ll make sure of it.
Which song from your released albums would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of the duo?
To be honest, you have to listen to them all….We’re pragmatic….We’re so many things at the same time. Check out “My Roots” off the album Mantis.
If could change one of your songs, which one would it be? What would you change about it?
Wouldn’t change a thing. Silly question.
What is it about Shaa’ir + Func that we don’t know, but we should?
We live to love.
People who love (____) will love our music.
New Day: The Love Album (2006)
The duo debuted with their combined efforts some 5 years ago with New Day: The Love Album. I took an instant liking to the track titles, beginning from “Ambidextrous Love Hands” to “Oops” to simple one word titles like “Hit” and “Swirl’. Maybe it’s me, but the songs took time to grow on me. There were a few tracks I was able to relate to such as “Moonlight” which came with a dash of Jazz and “New Day”. “Government” reminded me so much of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.
Light Tribe (2008)
Light Tribe held a lot more power than their debut album. The entire album tackled themes with regards to Freedom of Expression and Choices made. Tracks were a little light headed compared to the themes they represented, which is a little unconventional I’d say. Tracks like “Her Story” with its amazing lyrics and “Lord Inside” were personal favorites. The band is highly experimental and that’s appreciative. “Embrace” can be addictive. Light Tribe carries one of the best written lyrics amongst the three.
This album was a pleasant surprise. “Not Alone” and “Hyperbole” were my favorites. Coincidentally those were the first two tracks so one ends up giving the entire album a good amount of time listening to. Mantis is a good place to start appreciating S+F. The transition within a single track is a lot subtle in this album as compared to their previous ventures.
To quote Dogra, “Mantis was our best effort…our best album.”
Born in Singapore and currently pursuing Medicine in China, Usha Amudhan has to her credit Indie Rhythms series in GingerChai. She also dabbles with various other genres of writing.