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Satsangi Come to India

UK indie rock outfit Satsangi looks to introduce its unique sound to Indian audiences

Neha Sharma Jan 24, 2011

One of Satsangi’s more popular tracks ”˜Iodine’ makes a compelling case for the UK-based outfit founded by vocalist/lyricist Sujatha Menon and guitarist/songwriter John Herbert. Charged by Herbert’s guitar romp and Menon’s fiery vocals, the sound is fresh, crisp and aggressive. The track brought the band to people’s notice, garnering praise from the likes of Bobby Friction of the BBC Asian Network (“I feel I could play that for the next hour or so, but then I’d lose my job. She sounds brilliant.”) and Steve Savale of the Asian Dub Foundation (“The track reminds me a bit of Sonic Youth but with infinitely better singing.”). Listening to the song, British musician Tricky expressed interest in collaborating with Menon. Percussionist/producer Talvin Singh is currently working on a remix of ”˜Iodine.’

Judging Satsangi’s potential by ”˜Iodine’ alone, though, would be a misrepresentation of the band’s eclectic sound which could just as quickly swerve from a raucous strain (”˜Down Down’) to a dulcet serenade (”˜Babel’). The outfit’s tremendous scope is captured on its debut album, No Shoes in Satsang Hall, released last month in India on the Inreco label. Menon’s stylistically diverse and multi-textured vocals lay the foundation for Satsangi’s adventurous compositions. Having spent a greater share of her life in the UK, Menon who is originally from Kerala tries to amalgamate “the richness of her cultural heritage” with the predominant Western influences in her music. Herbert incisively captures Menon’s vocals in his beefy guitar phrases often working a crunchy meld of new wave and garage/punk rock. “The guitar backbones our sound. I like to evoke a more jagged edge on sound using old technology and equipment like a 60 Vox amp and 1959 model of the Fender guitar,” says Herbert who is inspired by the likes of Robert Johnson, Jimmy Page and The Edge. Saxophonist/keyboardist Richard Heath, guitarist David Holland, bassist Simon Demaine and drummer Rob Barrett complete Satsangi. The band, which identifies with the Brit indie scene, takes pride in and impresses upon its distinctive sound. “I think we’re moving towards a more global approach in trying to define something new. We identify more with a merging global scene where artists like Gogol Bordello from different parts of the world are finding their voice,” says Menon.

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While No Shoes in Satsang Hall leaves a remarkable first impression, the band has already got an album’s worth of new material. “We are planning to maybe start recording in the spring and this album will have a slightly different sound to it. While there will still be a lot of drive and it will be riff-y, it will also be more psychedelic with more space in the sound,” says Herbert. While in India, Menon is studying Indian classical music and ragas more deeply which shall influence the music on the next record. Herbert says the sound is only getting richer and bolder. “It’s a little bit more of the garage indie sound. Actually a bit more edgy, a bit more dangerous. Richard has also started to incorporate synth/keyboard sounds, and then Dave brings the psychedelic element on guitars,” he says. Satsangi will be back in India next month as they look to play some festivals/gigs.