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Suraj Mani: ‘I Had to Start From the Bottom Again’

The Bangalore singer-songwriter and former Motherjane frontman on his newly released set of songs and beginning from scratch with his band The Tattva Trip

Nirmika Singh Mar 17, 2016
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Suraj Mani and the Tattva Trip. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Suraj Mani and the Tattva Trip. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Suraj Mani’s decision to leave Motherjane in 2011 might have been a tough one but the ensuing period turned out to be exceptionally productive for him. “I wrote 50 songs since I left the band,” says the singer-songwriter, who later went on to form his own band, The Tattva Trip the next year. Mani drew from his rich pool of songs for his first eponymous album with the new band. As much as the nine-track The Tattva Trip was reminiscent of Motherjane – his voice with his trademark inflections was still the same – it also indicated a shift from the rock band as the focus moved from display of prodigious chops to more straight-up storytelling. The song became the hero, in Mani’s words.

Over three years after he released this album, Mani is back with a fresh set of songs, which are part of Kappa TV’s Music Mojo Season 4. The Tattva Trip lineup currently comprises Dinkar Nayak (bass, backing vocals), John Melvin (drums, percussion) and Naveen Thomas (electric and acoustic guitar). Says Mani, “I am very excited about the band. We’re four-piece but we have many guest artists that join us. Sometimes we just go fully acoustic also. So it’s very fluid, the way we do things.”

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After having fronted one of India’s best rock bands, starting from scratch all over again wasn’t exactly a cakewalk. Before finding a band to back him, Mani had to invest in a new skill. “I had to learn to play the guitar — to be able to play it for a stretch of at least 45 minutes without my hands hurting. It is interesting how the transition from being a frontman to a singer-songwriter has been. I had to start from bottom again.” Going by the 11-track live session for Music Mojo, Mani’s hard work had paid off. The band share a warm ‘chemistry’ on stage and seem at home with their striking half-painted faces.

Watch The Tattva Trip live here:

Mani himself is his rock-poet best on these songs – on “Mahabali” he talks about an egalitarian society while on “Karmic Steps” he points to the “warm tyranny of the familiar”. On the particularly distressing “Anxious Attachment”, he even questions conventional parenting — “When will you accept/My sense of ‘self/Differs from yours, Mother?” Despite his constantly replenishing song bank, Mani isn’t too keen to put out an album anytime soon. Could it be because it is difficult for artists to break even when it comes to investments? Mani says, “Albums aren’t made to break even…I haven’t thought about a new album yet, but yes, maybe I will do a live album since we already have the tracks from our Kappa TV session.”

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Another thing on Mani’s to-do list is to prepare a few Motherjane songs to play at their shows. He says, “We get requests for MJ songs so I wanted to take a few of them and play it in our own way with the band. We just learnt ‘Mindstreet’ yesterday!’ The band will be playing gigs across Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad in the next few days.

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