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Exclusive Stream: Kochi’s Vaisakh Somanath Crafts Cinematic Soul on Debut EP ‘Thevai’

Influenced by topics such as sustainable living and minimalism, the four-track EP features keys by indie/folk band When Chai Met Toast’s Palee Francis

Anurag Tagat Jul 19, 2019

Kochi-based Tamil singer-songwriter Vaisakh Somanath. Photo: Midhun Madhav

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Underneath the shimmering soul and alternative elements and the earthy Tamil vocal melodies of singer-songwriter Vaisakh Somanath, there are uncomfortable truths. Presented in metaphors and often abstract Tamil poeticism, Kochi-based Vaisakh’s debut EP Thevai (which means “need” in Tamil) is a riveting listen even if you don’t understand the words.

Vaisakh, who has been writing music since 2016 and is also part of genre-bending duo The Free Fall with singer-songwriter Abhilash Choudhury, called on producer Vivek Thomas to record, mix and master four tracks in June 2018. The record features keyboard parts by Mumbai-based Jayakrishnan Unnithan and additional keys, guitar and production from Palee Francis (from Kerala indie/folk band When Chai Met Toast), among others.

The composer specifically reached out to Minneapolis-based Peruvian saxophonist Lucia Sarmiento via Instagram. Vaisakh says, “I liked her playing and messaged her out of the blue and she replied. I sent her the songs and she liked it. It was done.”

While the songs have a saccharine delivery, slick arrangements and atmospheric production, Vaisakh is singing about things like the current education system in India (on the easygoing jazz-leaning “Pattampoochi,” which translates to “butterfly”), minimalism as the way to love life (“Thevai”) and sustainable living (on the piano-centric “Neelavaanam,” which means “blue sky”). Vaisakh says, “Back in 2015 I visited Sarang Hills in Kerala to meet the first homeschooled kid in Kerala. He lives with his family there. That visit made me realize that homeschooling, sustainability, environment conservation everything is related. The thoughts and positivity I got from that place eventually made me visit Auroville. Life worked in strange ways to connect me with all the like-minded people. When I started songwriting, all these things started to reflect on the songs. It all just happened.”

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The only sort of off-topic song is the whimsical closing track “Mayapenne” (“magical or mysterious girl”). The singer-songwriter explains, “It’s about a man who is fed up of his reality imagines himself in an alternate reality. That girl is the alternate reality.”

Stream ‘Thevai’ EP below.

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