Medusa’s on a High
Electronica converts get a nod from Indian fans and international producers
An elderly relative of Medusa’s guitarist Rahul Nadkarni looks on suspiciously as Nadkarni leads us into his den. It’s a lazy Friday evening and the Medusa boys have just begun celebrating at Nadkarni’s sea-facing South Mumbai home. Twenty-one-year-old shoegazing guitarist Nadkarni of the four-year-old Mumbai electronica band Medusa has just graduated. He’s the self-assured sort of musician you’d like to have in your band to show the crowd a good time. Raxit Tiwari, the 22-year-old cocky frontman of the band will in all probability show the crowd his middle finger. A rather stoned Tiwari attempts to explain the origins of a catchy Medusa original called ‘Anticoke Ganapati.’ “I don’t know what it’s about. Sometimes songs make sense, sometimes they don’t. It’s difficult to explain it,” he says. Nadkarni pitches in reluctantly that Siddarth Shah, their former bassist came up with the track. “I think it was in Nagaland,” he says. “No, it wasn’t,” drawls Tiwari, blinking slowly. When it’s settled that nobody knows when or why the song came into existence, the conversation veers towards their most recent gig at the British Council auditorium, when Medusa auditioned for two UK producers – Safta Jaffery, the board director of the Association of Independent Music and John Leckie, the producer who notably began the career of several bands including Radiohead – a Medusa favourite – and the Verve. The producers were talent hunting and looking to record with Indian acts, with a possible UK tour later.
And Medusa couldn’t have asked for better luck. Jaffery happened to miss Medusa’s performance and the band turned out to be the only one to perform twice. Although the second stage appearance noticeably lacked punch, the band had made its mark. “There was no anxiety,” recalls Nadkarni. The surge of confidence is impressive because the band performed a trippy track called ‘On a Hill Top’ in public for the first time. Leckie also felt that Medusa was probably the only band that would connect to an English audience and chose them as one of the Indian acts which would go into the studio with him, by the end of the year.
Watching Vinayak Pol, the band’s 26-year-old drummer and voice of reason switching on loops on the laptop just before Tiwari launches into a languorous rendition, you wouldn’t guess that Medusa once had a gritty metal incarnation that quaked the bowels of Razzberry Rhinoceros – one of Mumbai’s original rock bars. The passive aggression on Nadkarni’s strings is probably the only remnant of a harder force. “Bands such as Chemical Brothers, Radiohead and Depeche Mode were inspirations to shift to electronica,” says Pol. Tiwari brought home a groovebox after a trip to America and that set things rolling. By 2005, the time when Pol made an entry into the band, Medusa was turning into an electronica convert and their quirky compositions put together by Nadkarni and Raxit made sure that they hadn’t signed their death warrant.
Fans were surprised but acceptance came easily and quickly, offers Pol. The band, which had already released an EP titled Survival of the Fittest with six tracks, has four new compositions including ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ that show off their new sound. Medusa spread fast around the festival circuits – Hornbill and Eastwind being the two significant ones. “For the first time in my life, I witnessed a festival that started sometime in the afternoon and went on until late in the night,” says Tiwari of Eastwind, sounding particularly humbled.
Medusa is currently working on a new set of tracks and hopes to start recording next year.