Thursday, July 25, 2024

Tejas Menon,The Archies singer, dresses his music and stories in an Indian folk aesthetic with progressive English pop in his new EP, Museum

The Mughal era-inspired artwork for Museum has been designed by Nisha Vasudevan.

The Mughal era-inspired artwork for Museum has been designed by Nisha Vasudevan.
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

One part introspection coupled with two parts each of retrospection and bereavement make for a heady lyrical concoction served in Mumbai-based musician Tejas Menon’s new EP, Museum. The lingering sense of nostalgia, articulated with the harmonic timbre of the sarangi, sets the tonality of the four-track EP, which takes off on a meditative note in the prelude, ‘Exspiravit in Machina’, where the words “I remember” reverberate on a loop. The voice belongs to the singer-songwriter’s father, who passed away in 2021, and the audio is extracted from the last of his videos. “This one is from when my father was addressing my sister on her 50th birthday. I couldn’t help but reflect on those words. So, I cleaned up the audio with AI and added it to the EP. It’s reminiscent of Mufasa in The Lion King or the ghost of Hamlet’s father… like he’s there with us, in spirit,” Tejas says.

Though Tejas pegs the progression of the EP’s emotional moodboard on the universality of losing one’s parents, making it relatable to his listeners, there is a personal curve to it — the one that is rooted in the complicated relationship with his father.

Tejas Menon

Tejas Menon
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

Museum has been an attempt at not just reconciliation with my memory of my father, but also an exploration into my identity on a more literal level. Who I am as an Indian, as an immigrant, and to study my own history,” he shares. As Tejas takes us through his father’s last years, he talks about nursing him at the hospital as his condition deteriorated from renal failure and other subsequent ailments.

He elaborates on his father’s absence from his life for nearly seven years, his separation from his mother, and how he sets sail to the UAE in 1973. “Towards the end, I tried to be a responsible son and be there for him, but in the earlier times I just didn’t have it in me to do so. I still have regrets about the type of son I was. My music, or what I dwell and write about, is not an atonement but some form of penance or meditation on what it means to lose something that I thought I didn’t care about, but there was no choice really. When he died, I was a mess. I guess you always try to chase your parent’s acknowledgement, and I am no different,” he says.

The voice of Archie in Netflix’s The Archies, Tejas has released one EP Small Victories and two albums Outlast and Make It Happen, before Museum. His signature style is a medley of rock, funk, R&B, soul and electronic, but Museum is a “significant departure” — in his words — from his usual expression. It borrows from his association with a 2021 documentary titled The Beatles and India. “I was briefly interviewed for the film, and in its companion album, Indian artistes were asked to cover the band’s songs. It was a very interesting thing for me to get a sessions Carnatic violinist to come in and track a 150-year-old violin on the cover of Across the Universe.” The music also stems from Tejas’s memory of his father devouring a generous dose of ghazals and folk music while in Dubai.

Tejas Menon

Tejas Menon
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

The EP, produced by Tejas, Jehangir Jehangir and Adil Kurwa, features Indian classical instruments, like bulbul tarang. Released on Misfits Inc., it has Tejas on lead vocals and electric guitar, Adil Kurwa on bass, Jehangir Jehangir on drums, Aari Nanji on backing vocals duty, mandolin and acoustic guitar, Sharad Rao on guitars, and Maalika Barot on backing vocals.

The title is a recollection of Tejas’s visits to museums in different countries with his father, as much as it refers to the museum of memories that reside inside his mind. “I have always loved history. I understand the value of learning from one’s mistakes, and it is such an interesting way to educate ourselves by seeing the objects at the museum and understanding them from that perspective. I had this in my mind, but I didn’t understand that there is an internal museum,” he adds.

The journey of Museum has not ended for Tejas. He is already building upon it and will compile it into a full album, post monsoon.

The EP is available on Spotify and YouTube.

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