Samar Mehdi and Saby Singh are two independent artistes who are re-defining the preconceived notions about the Indian music industry. With their own set of ideas about what music should be, they recently did a cross-country tour, Hai Khabar, together, learning about the music culture of the different states and being inspired by each other along the way.
VibesMojo caught up with the duo when they were in Guwahati, Assam as part of their tour.
For a long time, Mehdi, the Bhopal-born singer and songwriter sneaked his way to learn musical instruments, both at home and school. Learning many instruments like the snare drum, flute, saxophone and keyboards, he eventually found his way to the guitar. His love for guitar grew to this extent that he even got through to the top 10 spot in the 440Hz solo hunt which saw more than a hundred entries from all over the country.
At the age of 16, Mehdi was invited to join music band Acrimony, which experimented with a different style of music and finally arrived at metal. Their first debut EP, False Vacuum, gave the band a push that helped them come in the national spotlight. Following that, Mehdi decided to explore his music and co-founded Ferryclock Yarns, an indie-rock band.
“Eventually, I realised that I need to do this business on my own. To learn and to explore more, I needed to do this journey alone and so I packed up my guitar and started writing music on my own,” Mehdi told VibesMojo.
Meanwhile, hailing from Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh grew up with his grandparents who taught him how to play different musical instruments and the basis of ragas. The singer and songwriter who specialises in the minimal and ambient style of music started writing in English. But his fondness for Urdu music took over and now composes most of his songs in Urdu.
“I am classically trained in Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet and music runs in my family,” says Singh, adding: “My musical journey started when I was 17 or 18 years old. After listening to The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix for the first time, I too wanted to be in a band which I did, two two-piece bands, one three-piece, and one four-piece as well. Then I chucked it all and wanted to go on my musical journey.”
Speaking about their tour Hai Khabar, Singh says, “We wanted to do this tour for quite a while and did not want to limit it to two or three cities and be done with it. During this tour, people have been calling us from the remote corners of the country for us to perform there. This means a lot as our songs have seeped not only to the urban cities but to different remote areas as well.”
Saby Singh and Samar Mehdi in Guwahati
Speaking about the independent music scenario, both say that it has been growing a lot mainly because of the independence one can associate with it. “However, we have to make sure that our compositions are not all random. There has to be an amount of professionalism and this is the biggest challenge. Even though none of us independent musicians are being told what to do but we have to work even 500 times more than the others but it’s a price we are willing to pay” says Mehdi.
An expert with the percussive fingerstyle, Mehdi emulates an entire ensemble of music with only one guitar, which is something that Singh is learning along with the continuous touring. “We learn from each other. There is this wrong idea about independent music that it’s raw and one has to go ahead the other which is not necessarily so. Everyone goes through their own independent journey and that is also why we need each other to build something and share” says Mehdi.
“People have this concept about I, me and myself but if that would have been the case, our tour would have never come together. I play to Mehdi’s people and he plays to mine. Moreover, we have been doing each other’s sounds now and it has been such a revealing experience having Mehdi on my sounds. I have even made some changes to my music due to this guy,” says Singh. He further adds: “We made each other understand our own music.”
Currently, both Mehdi and Singh are working towards releasing their new EPs. Mehdi is working towards releasing his second EP entitled Guruub which will have a total of three songs and one intro song. Two of his songs were penned down when he was of the age of 18. This will also be Singh’s first debut EP as an independent songwriter and is ready to incorporate all his experiences garnered during the tour.