The Fanculos’ Debut EP “Gangsta TV’ is a Much-Needed Absurdist Critique in Today’s India
Frontman Ramon Ibrahim breaks down the more political tracks on the ska band’s new record
The initial inspiration for the title track on Gangsta TV, the new EP from ska band The Fanculos, came to the group founder during a marathon viewing of Breaking Bad. Making the connection between the American TV show and the song “Gangsta TV” is not hard. On the song’s chorus, founder and lead vocalist Ramon Ibrahim sings “Gangster on my TV, gangster on my TV show,” which could very well refer to Walter White, or indeed almost any of the other colorful characters on the Emmy award-winning show.
But Ibrahim found that the song began to mean something else while he was writing it. “As the song evolved, I began to see it as a commentary on the ‘common man’s’ absolute belief and faith in the majority of the manufactured rubbish that spews out of the TV (and social media) all over the world,” he explains. “Some seem to want to believe the ridiculous fake news that’s been appearing simply because it’s entertaining.”
Like Breaking Bad, The Fanculos’ music is airtight, high on production value, unfailingly original, often borderline absurdist. And it’s also not afraid to dig deep into some serious issues. “Nothing to Say,” another track off Gangsta TV, was inspired by a friend of Ibrahim’s who was denied their vote in the last Indian election because of a bureaucratic error. “I was so shocked that this could happen in a modern Indian city that when I started to write a song about it,” says Ibrahim, “I just got very angry and decided it was best to say nothing at all.” On the track, Ibrahim gets scathingly sardonic about his speechlessness at the futility of attempting political change in India.
Ibrahim founded the eccentric, freewheeling group after he moved to India from the U.K. a few years ago. “I’ve had the idea of writing and gigging a ska set for a few years now,” he says. Ska music, Ibrahim believes, is “good time music!” Ibrahim developed a familiarity with music from a very young age, after he picked up the trombone at age 11 and learned to play the keys a few years later. Though he’s played in various different musical settings in the years since then, ska and reggae, he says, have always had a place close to his heart. “It’s … very organic,” Ibrahim says, “warts and all.”
The majority of The Fanculos’ set was written a few years ago, and Gangsta TV was recorded last year. On the EP, Vinay Lobo took up guitar duties, but parted ways with the Mumbai-based band when he moved to Canada. He has since been replaced by Apurv “Lala” Isaac. The current band lineup includes Isaac, Ibrahim on vocals, trombone and keys, Ryan Sadri on tenor sax, Saurab Suman on bass and Jehangir “JJ” Jehangir on drums. Together, the band walk the line between absurd and cheesy as they weave songs out of their carefully constructed horn sections and guitar riffs.
Also toeing the same line is the band’s very name, which may sound familiar to you if you know a thing or two about Italian, or if you own a copy of How to Swear Around the World. “It’s derived from a very rude thing to say in Italian–‘vaffancul,’” says Ibrahim, although instead of providing a translation himself, he advises those who are curious to just “google it.”
Watch The Fanculos perform “Nothing To Say” in Pune last year: