Sage For The Ages Is A Pondicherry-Based Band Reviving Homegrown Jazz Music

Sage For The Ages
Sage For The AgesSage For The Ages

Listening to Jazz in the 20s, i.e. the 1920s — now that’s something that every nostalgic fool has dreamt of. Although the year is 2023 and the alcohol is free-flowing (at least for now), jazz as a genre has managed to prevail in India. From the halls of 1920s Bombay to our Spotify channels, and beyond the realm of mainstream music in India, there is a continuing jazz movement. 

Sage for the Ages is a great representative of this. The 6-piece jazz band is embarking on an eight-city tour in February, including prime performance venues across the nation. Following this, they are planning on releasing their first full-length album titled Second Nature. The band combines psychedelic styles with compositions that feature jazz influences of complex chords, polyrhythms, and stunning harmonies. 

The Inception of Sage For The Ages

Sage For The Ages began as Kirtana Krishna’s songwriting project. She is a vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter from Bangalore, who is now based out of Auroville, Pondicherry. She began the project in 2017 with a different set of musicians and recorded the EP Dual Nature. 

But the current line-up started when Kirtana started jamming with Dhani Muniz, an Indian-Brazilian guitarist and bassist with a love for unifying musical aspects and improvisation and with Raul Mattia Proietti, an Auroville-raised drummer, with a flair for versatility in style and touch. With a list of unrecorded songs in hand, Kirtana wondered if she should put them out into the world and see how it goes. 

From there, more people became part of this project. Aman Mahajan is an Indian pianist-composer who has been active with his solo piano work and collaborations of renown. He was a regular visitor of Auroville and a friend, who was invited to be a part of the band by Kirtana. In talking about the inception of the band, Aman Mahajan said, ‘Since the rest of the group had already worked together on the music for a while before I was called in, it was quite fun for me to come in on the tunes and do my own thing. I had the luxury (and enjoyment) of approaching the album in an improvisatory way.’

Vocalist Anushka Gunputh and sound engineer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Varun Rao were part of another project that Kirtana was working on. Their undeniable vocal chemistry was the perfect addition to complete the band. According to Anushka Gunputh, "As one of the last additions to the band, I feel very much like the garnish of a well-balanced plate! I think each of us was hugely supported and invited by Kirtana to bring our musical gifts, inspiration, and flavour to the songs. I feel we were somewhat handpicked.

It’s great to work with musicians that welcome a sense of co-creation and collaboration so that we as musicians/artists can relate more to these pieces of music that Kirtana has written. We are all familiar with each other in other musical contexts and outfits, but this particular lineup as Sage for the Ages is a real meeting point of a range of backgrounds and musical personalities truly connecting. Being on stage together has been playful and we comfortably bounce off of each other’s individual qualities, energy, and musical contributions."

When Music is Second Nature

‘In May of 2022, the album was in barebones, and in September we recorded the album. A little before that, we got together and worked on it together. In all honesty, the entire band met two days before the actual recording of this album. It was one intense day of jamming that got us ready for the recording,’ Kirtana said, in talking about their first full-length album. After the release of the first EP Dual Nature, Kirtana had decided that the second offering from Sage For The Ages would be titled ‘Second Nature’. 

Each song that is featured on the album has two distinct parts to them that one would be able to make out. But at the end of the day, in the lead singer’s own words, ‘the message that we’re trying to get across is that this music - it’s a part of us. It’s second nature. It’s not separate from us.’

This album features six original songs composed and written by Kirtana, who is also the lead vocalist and guitarist on the album. While Aman Mahajan plays the keys, Dhani Muniz is on the fretless bass, Raul Mattia Proetti on the drums, and Anushka Gunputh and Varun Rao are on the backing vocals. While the arrangements are a band effort, the mix and master were done by Akhil Kodamanchili. The album was recorded at Open Road Studios in Bangalore and features artwork by Ashiqa Salvan.

While Kirtana is the creator of the songs, the inputs and unique perspectives of each artist of the band added to the final album. According to Anushka, ‘It was a super interesting process to sit with Kirtana to learn the pieces and more about what inspired this collection of songs. Having her share the meaning of each song and its narrative highlighted the significance and relevance of what was felt when I first listened to/experienced the album. Writing out the lyrics revealed such strong imagery for me. Like a process of synesthesia, the more I listened to the album (in this stripped-down context of just melody and form), the more I developed a black-and-white montage of events that gently unfolded as Kirtana’s storytelling. Teamed with Kirtana’s tasteful vocal inflections, ad-libs, and vibrato, colour began to emerge into these stories and they beautifully came to life’

As with most jazz compositions, there is a lot of room for reflection and interpretation of these tracks. As a listener, the tracks can take you on a journey through sounds and stories.

‘As much as I greatly appreciated learning about Kirtana’s songwriting process and the meaning behind the lyrics, I also love exploring as a closed-eyed listener being taken on a journey through sound and visuals. This is especially true with the song ‘If’. What a wonderful experience to have the freedom to interpret a piece of music due to how you receive it and unpack its impact on you, rather than be told what its meaning is, this also leaves space for it to evolve with you’ - Anushka concluded. 

The Octacity Tour

In anticipation of the release of the album, Sage For The Ages is embarking on an eight-city tour in February, performing in most of the major cities of the nation. Starting from Kalabhumi in Auroville and ending at On Stage in Kochi, the tour takes them through a multitude of performance venues. From the Piano Man Jazz Club in Delhi and Gurgaon to a morning performance at Kirtana’s alma mater Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, the proposed tour hopes to take the sound of the band to a variety of audiences across India. The tour is being organised in association with HEARTLAND Experiences - a Kochi-based music experiences venture. 

This tour has been made possible by the result of a fundraising campaign, and the patronage of the people. While the verdict is still out on whether similar campaigns can be a way for independent artists to reach more people, it has been a great avenue for this band. As Kirtana says, ‘For us, a lot of family, friends, and even strangers have been generous to the point of moving me to tears. But at the same time, whether this is something that every Indie musician can do, is a bigger question. It is a hard thing to reach out and ask for money and is something many of us are not comfortable with. If you’re not funding it yourself, or seeking help from loved ones, it is a chance to take. Through a fundraiser, you could show people that you want to do this on your own...the hard way. And that you believe in what you’re trying to put out there. So they should too.’

If you’re a lover of independent music or an ardent lover of jazz whose interest has been piqued by this band, you can watch their live performance at a venue closest to you. 

You can listen to Sage for the Ages on their Spotify.

Follow the band’s tour on their Instagram.

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