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Interviews |  18 Jan 2018 16:53 |  By Kavita Yadav

EDM does not have any intellectual value for me: Lifafa

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MUMBAI: He will not say what's pleasing to the ears, but what's true to his heart. He will not mince his words, but words do matter to him. He is not the biggest star, but indeed the brightest when he takes over the stage. We are talking about Suryakant Sawhney aka Lifafa. This talented man has been making some of the finest music pieces and his baritone voice has been dominating the live space.

In a candid conversation with Radioandmusic, Lifafa talks about future of electronic music in India, Bollywood, EDM, his band Peter Cat Recording Co. and more. Excerpts. 

Is electronic music growing in India?

Well, I think there is a big difference between what is considered electronic music here and what people consider electronic music abroad. Talking about India mein scene kya hai... ultimately Bollywood swallows everything.  Electronic music gets swallowed and spat out fast by Bollywood. But, the interesting fact is that most electronic music in India is not being made in the cities, it's being made in smaller towns of  Haryana, where they are playing music with more effects and freely, experimenting with aesthetics. People in the city are still trying to find out the combination of what we listen in the west and mixing that with the ideas that we have.

Your style of making electronic music is very different.

I have been in the music scene since 2011. I started with the band, Peter Cat Recording Co and I still play with them. The next year I started making electronic music because that’s something that I wanted to do. I did not realise that there was anything commercial back then. Now, it’s blown up everywhere.

What kind of music according to you are taken seriously in India? Where does electronic music stand?

I don’t think music in India is taken seriously. It’s just the background. People like three types of music in India – sad, romantic and mindless dance music, the kind of music that is played at hookah bars. People just dance to it and go home.  In terms of looking at people making music as electronic musicians, that sensibility does not exist in India.

You earlier mentioned that there is more talent in smaller towns, but they do not have a platform. Don’t you think there is a need for talent scouting in smaller towns?

Nope, they should figure out things themselves. That’s really how things work out in the world. I think I’ve noticed that there are more collectives being made. Especially, in places like Bengaluru, there are groups of people who are 20-22 and they are coming together and working towards becoming musicians. And they are going towards the global crowd. Nobody is making music for India. They want to but there is such a gap between education and what people really are. It’s hard to say.

Are you saying there is no future for electronic music in our country?

It’s hard to say, electronic music is not a fade; it has been around since the 70s. I think people will have a certain inclination towards it because it is loud and efficient, you don’t have to hire a band, you can bring two speakers, hire a DJ. Economic wise it’s cheaper and that is what’s working for electronic music. Personally speaking, I still prefer live music. I think people in India still feel closer to a live form of music. It’s just there are not enough bands making regional music. It’s all the same. Well, educated guys make English music. It’s is difficult to reach out to smaller cities. The bigger question is if art’s growing in India? It’s not. It has never grown. There are more and more people getting into it, but that is not an option.

But, you’re making electronic music as Lifafa.

I didn’t know what to do. I had a certain urge. At some level, it is a lot of arrogance. I told myself that I am going to do it. I am going to die trying to do it; I am going to try making a living out of this and for me, that worked. For a lot of people, they have a lot of money in their family and that gives them the opportunity to try it out. You have no choice. That’s the nature of it.

What is your take on EDM? The most talked about genre these days.

Unfortunately, EDM is mass entertainment; it does not cater to people making music. Like comedy, everyone loves comedy but that’s mass entertainment and arguably a form of art. EDM is like that, it does not have any intellectual value for me. I think people want to get drunk on the weekends and forget everything in life, but they are not going to listen to it at home. Not when they are missing their parents. It will not fill a void in their life.

Don’t you think electronic music is the way forward?

I have a balance of people who know to make electronic music and have not forgotten to make music without any laptop or software that solves the problems. I think the future of music will be that. It won’t be about sitting on the laptop and producing music. There will only be one thing about computer music and that will be that computer programs will make it. There is already a music that is called Algorave, algorithmic music. It essentially means that people program a program to make music.

Dance music is especially a leaner grid and when it comes down, we will come to a point where electronic music will be made by software. This will leave live music to be made by human beings because you need that imperfection and that drunken dude singing on the stage.

I think that’s the division of music where everything will become clear. I still like making this sort of electronic music, but I would say that the aspect of making live electronic music is hard. Right now making electronic music and DJing it is the way to do it. People still are figuring out how to combine the two and India is still discovering DJs.

Will we get to hear more music from Lifafa and Peter Cat Recording Co. this year?

We have a Peter Cat album this year. I have a Lifafa album that I’ve completed and I will release it this year.

In your last interview, you mentioned that you’d be focusing more on gigs in India. Does it mean a goodbye to foreign gigs?

I will not say 'no' to gigs abroad, but I am focusing on how to sell and distribute music in India. My new album is almost complete and 10-11 songs of the same are in Hindi. I’ve tried to mess with a lot of ideas in our culture. I am trying to integrate that and, I’ve tried to integrate our way of disco music. The album also has a qawwali style thing, without making it sound like I’ve added Abida Parveen in the song. I am trying to keep it real with lyrics. It will hopefully inspire and move some people. I am not interested in mindless stuff.

Most independent artistes have made a swift shift to Bollywood, what’s keeping you away?

I don’t want to go to Bollywood and be asked to make songs according to them. If they like my work, I am ok with people asking me for my music. They can license and use it. I prefer that to someone saying, ‘hey bro, come let’s make a movie’. I have great stories. They walk up to you and say I want to make a song like this particular song. I say, ‘I make music; you can decide whether you want to use it or not, just pay me for it’. I think that should be the approach of music directors eventually in Indian. Nahi toh saab ko naukar bana denge woh log (Otherwise they will make everyone their servant). They are all stealing music because they have to make music for 10 movies a month. No human being can make 60 songs a month.