Lifafa Takes to Protest Rave on Eccentric New Album ‘Superpower 2020’
The New Delhi singer and producer might have got delayed on releasing his third full-length, but there’s twists and turns aplenty
A pursuit for clarity is made and abandoned (and made again) on Lifafa’s album Superpower 2020, which released via Bandcamp on May 21st and is expected to hit streaming platforms later this month.
In his previous excursions – the self-titled album in 2013, his EP In Hi Ko in 2014 which was later taken off the internet and the breakout 2019 full-length Jaago – producer and singer Suryakant Sawhney has often journeyed on trippy terrain, lyrically delving on all things comforting and despondent. On Superpower 2020, the main concern is that of nation, countryfolk and all the emotions that tie them together.
In the works for more than two years, Sawhney spoke about how it was time to release the album even though he wished “it was in better circumstances.” He added in his statement posted online, “We live in one of the greatest experiments ever run in the history of humanity. Never has so much been compressed into so little and forced to endure. Where time moves us, it’s impossible to know, but for now, we are a part of it. This album is not about a country but an experiment called India and all of its people…I had a very difficult time finishing this one, from both a personal and technical perspective, but I hope you hear what I hear when I listen to it, and you go, where it wants you to.”
Watch the video for “Laash” below.
In many ways, Sawhney deviates from the acid-doused house meets yesteryear Bollywood sound on the eight-track Superpower 2020 but that’s not immediately evident. He leads listeners in with the familiar at first, harmonium at hand and euphorically chopped up buoyant beats on “Wahin Ka Wahin.” Thematically, he addresses his country the same way he started off with the title track on Jaago, but he’s just grown a lot more ironic in his delivery. Sawhney says on the track, “Tere desh mein to/Pyaar gunah hai” (In your country, love is a crime). It’s got a sense of defiance worked into it in the way that recalls Shaheen Bagh, but then Lifafa dials it back to lover-boy mode on the similarly comforting “Laash,” toying around with saccharine lines for a beloved until it gets bizarre.
That’s perhaps the best part of Superpower 2020 – if you gain some comfort from it, it’s likely that you’re cherry picking just parts of the album or even particular songs like “Laash.” He cleverly plays around with metaphors for propaganda on “Mann Ki Baat” over what seem like simpler constructions of beats, punctuated by a booming rhythm.
Lifafa work in retorts like “Tatti” (shit) in an otherwise ornate, somber song like “Bewafa Hai Ghadi” but that might be because he’s trying to hold it together when everything is falling apart, revealing a moment of surrender or helplessness. Sawhney dives back into familiarity with a new version of “Irradon,” assisted by producer D80 aka Anubhav Sharma. Originally off In Hi Ko, the shimmering disco-inflected live staple now gets level to instant classic status just for finally resurfacing in Lifafa’s studio catalog.
The final two tracks on the album see Sawhney sauntering in an unburdened manner (at least sonically) – on the lightheaded, bhajan-like intonation of “Acche Din” and then the frenzied, seemingly stream of consciousness production style of “Mandir.” In the melee of noise and electronic blips, a realization dawns: “Bas jeena baki hai” (to live is the only thing left to do).
These resigned epiphanies are Sawhney’s strength every time he puts out music, whether it’s as Lifafa or with alternative act Peter Cat Recording Co. It’s the soul of Superpower 2020, an album that’s aiming far away from the somewhat accessible success of Jaago, into weirder but socially conscious realms.
Listen/buy ‘Superpower 2020’ below. Stream on more platforms here.