Most indie music lovers remember Suryakant Sawhney as the lead vocalist for PeterCat Recording Co. Back in 2013, when he started experimenting with his new sounds, it was seen as an attempt to charter the unknown territories of solo music. That was before his album Jaago released in 2019. Since then, he has been Lifafa. Lifafa’s music has an identity of its own, the sound so distinct that it is impossible not to tell it apart from others. Sawhney’s crooning voice with a vintage Bollywood aesthetic set seamlessly to electronic music with layers of synths and samples is a result of his evolving sound through the years.
The experimental journey started in 2013 with ‘Lifafa I’ and ‘In Hi Ko’, which disappeared from the realms of the internet before the release of Jaago. In Hi Ko has now been brought back to life, as a build-up to Lifafa’s next, Superpower 2020. The re-released track is synchronous to Jaago and almost feels like a continuation of the album. Filmmaker Utkarsh Raut breathes another life to this project with his video which has been curated from archival footages of the ‘60s and the ‘70s.
At the first glance, the 3 minutes and 36 seconds long video seems taken out from a ‘chaotic cinema’ piece with rapid and close frames in succession relying on the soundtrack to give it a sense of continuity thus rendering a sense of sensory overload. It is only upon watching it more closely when you realise the chaos arises from the disruption in everyday life which is contrasted with frames from Bollywood films of the ‘70s which is oddly familiar to Godfrey Reggio’s experimental Qatsi Trilogy. Koyaanisqatsi, the first in the trilogy, derives from a Hopi word meaning ‘life out of balance’ that tries to explore the relationship between evasion of modern technology in everyday life with elemental aspects of nature.
“Sourced through the Indian Film Archive (largely Films Division’s instructional films, made by prominent figures of the Parallel Indian Cinema of the ‘60s/‘70s), the film is a cyclical narrative as a meditation on the current times, with Lifafa’s In Hi Ko juxtaposing best to all things vivid India is,” says Raut.
In Hi Ko’s video explores the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic along with the enforced and unplanned lockdown by the government and contrasts it with the mundane everyday experience represented in cinema. The video’s political commentary is subtle, and the rapid images and electronic beats add to the mood of the track. Lifafa’s track In Hi Ko with Utkarsh Raut’s videography is a testament of the emerging indie music scene of India that is bold, derivative, and experimental.
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