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Sajid Akbar

From rage to unrequited love, Delhi vocalist Sajid Akbar has it all covered

Rolling Stone IN Nov 08, 2008

Lakshman Anand

“I run away from things that rely on electricity to write music, which is why I went to the acoustic guitar. It’s totally uncomplicated, you just pick it up and start playing,” says singer-songwriter Sajid Akbar. In a city heavily polarised between dance music and mosh-pit mayhem, Akbar’s tentative voice, swimming in and out of richly-instrumented acoustic songs about unrequited love, is a unique one.

Akbar is aware of the kind of space he would like to create in Delhi’s limited sonic palate. “I want to make music that people remember, not something they move to and go home and forget the next day,” says Akbar, who was guitarist for popular Delhi rock band Killer Tomatoes (which played Rage, RHCP covers and a couple of originals including ”˜Can Chimp Live Forever’), until he stopped playing when his outfit disbanded in 2003. “We all got older and we weren’t as angry any more”¦ we grew out of the random anti-establishment spirit of youth. Everyone started feeling it wasn’t worth their while I guess… I did too,” he says, adding that the band was also drifting into softer sounds like Dave Matthews, later on. So after the hiatus (a period during which he interned at a sports channel and acquired the video-editing skills that pay the rent today) when he picked up the guitar next, it wasn’t so strange that it was an acoustic, loud guitar-rock past or not.

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“When people ask me why I started writing after so many years, I tell them now I have something to say. All this while I was just absorbing,” Akbar says. The first batch of recordings he has made, in a mould part Kings of Convenience, part Duncan Sheik and part early John Mayer, can be heard online at myspace.com/sajidsmusic. The consistent knack for hitting standout melodic hooks peaks on ”˜The Sky is Falling.’ “Sajid is a wonderful musician. His songs sound complete just with guitar and voice, so working on top of those was great fun for me,” says Advaita and Artistes Unlimited keyboardist Anindo Bose, who played keys on and engineered some of these recordings at his own home studio.

Akbar’s repertoire may have grown, but he doesn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to put it out there. Despite being around as a solo musician for almost two years, he seldom gigs (his last performance was in February, at Eastwind) and has no fixed album plans at a time when a lot of his peers are stepping up at least to semi-professionalism. Does he not get antsy? In a manner befitting the easy mid-tempo vibe of his music, he says, “The only light in the tunnel is your own light. The pleasure of putting down what you want to say should be enough to keep you going.” Sajid is performing at The Home Club in Singapore City on October 11 as part of an eight hour gig of artists from across Asia under the Enigmatic Army lable (www.theenigmaticarmy.com). Akbar will also launch hisEP Kid Without Candy at this gig.

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”˜Mira’: The track that got him noticed first. Washes of acoustic guitar and high seconds saw this song through to the opener on Sahi Bol: The Urban Transmission compilation.

”˜The Sky is Falling’: “Now if you don’t look up/How would you know the sky is falling”, Akbar sings over a hundred little guitar licks. Look out for the rollicking guitar-drum vamp at 2:45.


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