A Peek Into The Style And Music Process Of Chennai Band Jatayu

A Peek Into The Style And Music Process Of Chennai Band Jatayu

Chennai band Jatayu’s sound is dominated by Carnatic melodies played on guitar, with a good dose of jazz, rock and funk thrown in

Narendra KusnurUpdated: Saturday, June 01, 2024, 10:56 PM IST
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Chennai band Jatayu’s sound is dominated by Carnatic melodies played on guitar, with a good dose of jazz, rock and funk thrown in. They also love teaming up with different groups to provide an eclectic sound. At their last show in Mumbai, for instance, they were joined by Mumbai mridangam player Viveick Rajagopalan and the band Bombay Brass, formed by saxophonist Rhys Sebastian.

Jatayu consists of rhythm guitarist and band leader Sahib Singh, lead guitarist Shylu Ravindran, bassist Kashyap Jaishankar and drummer Manu Krishnan. They recently won the Indian Music Diaries Award for Best Rock/ Metal Artist Of The Year. Their innovative approach has helped attract a loyal fan base. Says Singh, “We love collaborations, and we love changing the arrangements of our songs at gigs. Collaborations help us understand our music even better.”

Singh, who also makes announcements and adds a dash of humour at shows, says the band started off as Ravindran’s bedroom project. He adds, “His father Prapancham Ravindran taught mridangam and konnakol (spoken Carnatic rhythmic syllables) at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, Chennai, and we met there.”

According to Ravindran, who also plays kanjira, the idea was to create guitar compositions based on konnakol. “There is a lot of mathematics involved in these rhythm-based structures,” he says. After the line-up was finalised, they chose the name Jatayu, not because it was the name of a bird in the Ramayana, but because it represented their music, which has a strong traditional Indian element and yet soared to different contemporary sonic territories.

The band began by playing their songs live, but released their first EP Chango Tales in 2020. It featured collaborations with Swiss jazz duo Krond-Flast on May I?, and Auroville-settled violinist Holger Jetter on Pazhi and Chango. “Our fondness for collaborations began then only. Those who played in the recordings wouldn’t always be with us at shows, and we would do a different take,” says Singh.

After releasing the single Thoppai Vibes, featuring violinist Akshay Ganesh, Jatayu released the EP Moodswings in 2021. While the title track again had Akshay Ganesh, the other tunes didn’t have any guests. On the next single Restless, the band was joined by singer Harini Iyer and percussionist Praveen Sparsh. Their November 2023 release The Wild Kids features Taiwanese singer Putad Pihay.

Though the songs are written by Singh and Ravindran, the others chip in with inputs. “All four of us have had multiple influences, though jazz is common,” says bassist Jaishankar. “I started by listening to Metallica, Linkin Park, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but at Swarnabhoomi, I got into jazz and neo-soul too,” he says. Between the others, the influences range from Carnatic vocalists M.D. Ramanathan and K.V. Narayanaswamy to tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, mridangam great Palghat Mani Iyer and flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia to guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler and Baiju Dharmajan to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, saxophonist Anthony Braxton and Brazilian bossa nova.

Though individual projects keep them busy, the group members try to catch up once a week if all of them are in Chennai. “We understand each other’s musicality, so every meeting ends up with some ideas,” says Manu Krishnan, who chips in with an occasional vocal part in concerts, like he often does on Marugelera, an adaptation of a traditional piece in raag Jayanthashree.

Though the band has its own niche and a set of devoted followers, they are sometimes faced with comparisons with the group Agam and violinist Karthick Iyer’s IndoSoul, simply because they all blend Carnatic music with western sounds. Jaishankar thinks it’s just a mindset. “Our individual styles are totally different,” he says.

Singh says Jatayu has many plans for new releases and fresh collaborations. The band has gotten over the fiasco at this year’s Lollapalooza festival when they were asked to cut down their set drastically because of some confusion. “We have more plans for shows in Mumbai, and even plan to record with Mumbai artistes,” he says. In keeping with their name, the Jatayu boys are spreading their wings.

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