Masala and coffee are as different as chalk and cheese. But in the music world , the two words conjure up a scene where a group of musicians up the ante with their alternative folk and rock music. The young band Masala Coffee performed for the first time in the city as part of the Hyderabad Arts Festival.
Ever since this all-boy band stepped into the music industry, one question which is constant has been the inquisitiveness about the band’s name. Lead vocalist Sooraj Santosh tries to recall the number of times they have been asked about it. “There is no story,” he smiles. “There is nothing like a ‘masala coffee’, like a masala chai that has aromatic spices and herbs and brings the diversity, we play alternative rock and folk in our shows; we also play club covers. The numbers are in different genres. The name ‘Masala Coffee’ goes with the music we play as a band.”
Besides a sound engineer, a manager and Sooraj, the group includes eight musicians: Varun Sunil (vocals and percussion), Joe Jacob (drums), Paul Joseph (bass guitar), Preethi P S (guitar), Joe Johnson (keyboard), Krishna Raj (violin) and David Crimsons (guitars). Sooraj calls it a group effort. “We all come from different music backgrounds. While I am trained in Carnatic classical, another musician is trained in western classical. We are all open to various kinds of music. We think differently and there is something unique about it. That is what Masala Coffee is all about,” he shares adding the group discusses many things while jamming together. “That is how an original song is created.”
Masala Coffee’s cover Mumbe Vaa went viral and created the path. The group with 300 performances in India and abroad and two film projects, the independent band had also been part of ‘The Hindu November Fest.’ Sooraj recalls the experience of Mumbe Vaa. “Although it was a cover song, we did it in our own way. As a musician I am not against doing covers. One should have one’s own compositions but there is nothing wrong in performing someone else’s songs. Everyone liked Mumbe Vaa and paved the way for our originals. People also began listening to our originals,” he points out.
Having crooned many peppy numbers, Sooraj is not new to Telugu film industry. In fact his career as a playback singer in films began by crooning a Telugu number. His last Telugu songs were for Pellichoopulu (‘Ee babugariki’) and Srimantudu (‘Rama Rama’). Most of his songs have been mass numbers and Sooraj hopes to sing a soulful number. “The film songs have not been tough but I do not want to sing in only one particular genre. I love different genres. I don’t believe that musicians earn respect through tough songs. Music which is genuine and sincere will earn you that respect.”
Sooraj observes the rapidly changing music scenario is leading to lots of experimentations. “Youngsters have lots of ideas and are boldly presenting it. They are also into collaborations. They want to do something of their own and are not bothered about other things,” he says. But is it easy to survive in this competitive world? “If the music is genuine and sincere it will reach people. If you create something just for the sake of it, it won’t. If your music has content, it will not go unnoticed,” he adds.
Masala Coffee is working on its first album. “We are done with the first phase and are planning to release the album this year. We have 10 original songs and one song is a collaborative effort.”