Vaisakh Somanath releases debut EP with soothing Tamil vocals and soul-jazz influences
Millennials are breaking the colonial hangover of the previous generation and digging up their roots. Vaisakh Somanath takes this love for regional languages a bit further by composing his debut EP in Tamil rather than his mother tongue Malayalam.
“Even during childhood, I used to try and read Tamil literature. I figured that writing in the language comes naturally to me when we were composing for the project Free Fall in 2015,” says Vaisakh, continuing, “Tamil has a certain poetic quality because it has small musical words for even big concepts.”
The four-track release named Thevai (meaning need in Tamil) revolves around the idea of a sustainable/alternative lifestyle. “Each track has a visual in my head and I laid out demo recordings including the keyboard and drum programming,” says the vocalist, who bases his compositions on ukelele.
Balancing influences from contemporary English musicians like Tom Misch and Jacob Collier with that from Tamil composers such as Pradeep Kumar and Sean Roldan, Vaisakh’s songwriting exhibits soul and jazz detailing over soothing vocals and atmospheric layers. Written over a two-year period, the recently released songs were developed further over a year in the studio with the help of Vivek Thomas who mixed and mastered the record.
Despite being a solo artiste, Vaisakh did bring in a few people to finish the record including Palee Francis, Jayakrishnan Unnithan, Dave Mathew and Romil Sinha. “During my writing process, I always get ideas to be executed on wind instruments and I either programme or record it as a hum. But, for the release, I roped inPeruvian saxophonist Lucia Sarmiento and trumpeter K J Bijumon,” says the 31-year-old who hails from Malappuram.
Thevai’s opening song Pattampoochi pulls the listener in with a joyful vocal delivery and uses narration to question the current education system. The vocal-driven title track rightly uses little instrumentation to address minimalism as a lifestyle. Neelavaanam talks about sustainable living with an emotive use of keys and a folksy-drum tone.
The last number, Mayapenne, features the trumpet to tell the tale of a man who escapes mundane life by picturing an alternative life as a magical girl. Currently relying on a Chennai-based five-piece lineup to play his songs live, Vaisakh is already working on new material that can be played out by the quintet.
Listen to the album here: