For the uninitiated, tell us who Suraj Mani & The Tattva Trip are?
At heart, we are an act that use songs and stories to spark off social conversations. Featuring Suraj Mani (singer-songwriter, vocals, guitars) as frontman and host, The Tattva Trip is Dinkar Nayak (bass, backing vocals), John Melvin (drums) and Naveen Thomas (guitars) with various guest artists that join us on the trip, whenever they can.
You have described your journey as “one full of coincidences”, how has the journey been so far? Was it all coincidence ?
Well, I started singing after getting ragged in engineering college. That started it off. Another big moment is when I went to drink a cup of tea at a restaurant and ended up joining a band (without a vocalist) that practiced there. This band was Motherjane and I was the singer and songwriter for them for 10 years, during which we released 2 albums and won multiple awards on national and international levels. Then after suffering a spinal injury and quitting the band I picked up playing the guitar in 2012 and now I do rock poetry and host audiences on a socio-mythical journey that I call The Tattva Trip.
Was it all coincidence? well yes. Did I have to work to make each stage work? absolutely!
You were a singer/guitarist for Motherjane, you have however transitioned into a ‘ rock poet ‘. For those unaware, what is a “rock poet” ?
I write first and once I’ve got a poem/ lyric where it feels complete, I put a tune to it, with chords and all. At its core, this is what I do and someone started calling me a rock poet, hence the term. Of course, the journey has expanded to include fellow TTTrippers who join in and add to the music. It’s lots of fun and I’m having the time of my life.
Music for music’s sake, or music for life’s sake ?
Music for life’s sake, and life for music’s sake :)
You have been known to encourage visual effects along with your music. Be it a face paint or a video, how important are visuals , when it comes to your performance ?
For me, the performance space is one where I strive to engage with audiences and I do so using poetry, music, conversations, visuals etc because all these elements make the experience of the show more holistic. Communication is the result you achieve and visuals are a huge part of communication. Having said that I also ask people to close their eyes during certain songs so that they can also appreciate and experience songs as pure aural delight.
As a musician, how important do you think it is to give a voice to social issues ? Tell us about the change you are trying to bring through your music.
I sing about life the way I see it and sometimes the way I like to see it. When I do that on stage and leverage the imagery of The Tattva Tripper as a symbolic traveller, audiences open up and draw parallels with their own experiences. Changing society has always started by engaging the individual, hasn’t it?
How have your musical outlooks and ideologies changed over a period of time ? Are certain aspects of music more important to you now than they were 10 years back?
I am sure you will agree that all of us change with time and yet we remain the same as well. I accept the contradictions that keep popping up in me and hence I adapt to arrive appropriate to the moment and hence appropriate to life itself.
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of an artist to win over an audience but, listening is also an active, rather than a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
An active listener is the greatest gift that a musician can find in the audience, which is why I tend to frame each song and throw light on what each song is about. This can be done with stories, visuals and even by highlighting the emotional state of the artist because all this translates into corresponding states in the audience. It takes some willingness to be vulnerable on stage because you don’t know exactly what might happen during live shows and you have to be prepared for anything. I have faced some amazing situations and awkward surprises during shows but that is what makes it magical.
What are your thoughts on the Indie music scene in India? Do you agree that barring a few of the better-known bands/musicians, there is a lack of live shows here?
There are lots of really good bands and artists around. What we want even more are organised audiences because the scene is not made of artists, the scene is perhaps more importantly influenced by the quality of audiences supporting and appreciating art.
Do you think marketing is important in shaping a musician, or do you think good music is all it takes to break the wall?
No doubt, good marketing always helps a good product. Having said that, good marketing followed up by a bad product leaves a bad taste in the minds of the audiences and that reduces the longevity of artists. A really good artist is one who you want to catch again and again and again.
What insight would you like to give to young aspiring musicians?
Do what you love, love what you do. It always works because without that you’re completely blind to the joy of being an artist.
You can find more information about Suraj Mani & The Tattva Trip at the following links: