Listen: Kapil Seshasayee releases new single 'The Gharial'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 19 May 2020
Glasgow multi-instrumentalist returns with the second single from his upcoming second album
Kapil Seshasayee has been a key figure in the Scottish underground DIY scene for some time. But in the past few years, and certainly since the release of his debut album in 2018, the Glasgow-based multi-instrumentalist has firmly cemented his position as a purveyor of some of Scotland's most exciting new sounds.
His highly acclaimed debut, A Sacred Bore, takes a deep dive into India's caste system, exploring how the practices associated with the system extend beyond India and continue to result in the gross mistreatment of lower castes. With praise from the likes of Pitchfork, VICE, BBC Introducing, The Guardian and Rolling Stone India, Seshasayee followed the album with new single 'The Item Girl', a subtle electronic groove looking at Bollywood misogyny, with hints of psychedelia showing how the multi-instrumentalist traverses many genres in his DIY and punk-influenced experimentalism. Now, as he returns with 'The Gharial', the second single from his upcoming second album, we catch up with Seshasayee to find out more about the song, the new album and what he's been up to since lockdown.
Can you tell me a little more about 'The Gharial' and its main themes and ideas?
'The Gharial' (named for a species of crocodile found in India that plays a significant part in Hindu lore) is an exploration of the way a recent wave of Bollywood period films profiteers off of religious conflict. Masquerading as attempts at historical retellings, these films often bake in divisive anachronisms to generate controversy into their narratives.
With this particular song, I'm exploring 2020 hit film Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior. A battle over territory between two Hindu leaders (Maratha Tanaji Malusare and Rajput Udaybham Rathore) in 1670 is oddly misconstrued into a tale of religious conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Even the trailer featured the Maratha flag with a historically inaccurate Aum (Hinduism) symbol (all historical evidence points to the flag being one colour and nothing else) that was later removed (for a want of greater historical accuracy as lead Ajay Devgn explains in interviews).
If the inaccurate depiction of a flag is enough to warrant a redo – why stop there and leave in a scene where Udaybhan roasts a crocodile and eats it as if he's some sort of Disney villain? Is it a coincidence that an animal significant to Hindus is the one being roasted on an open flame by a character depicted as Muslim? Following the success of films like 2018's Padmavaat, religious controversy is an excellent marketing tool but you're feeding this into a massive audience already divided along religion and caste lines all for the sake of profit.
Why was this song chosen as the first track on your upcoming album?
I once read an interview with Björk where she discussed her approach to writing each album with a consistent palette of instruments or voices in mind. The notion of challenging your creativity within fixed parameters has always intrigued me as a songwriter. 'The Gharial' was the first track because it's an ideal trailer for the palette of sounds you'll experience across the record: the lush Prophet V synth sounds, granulated electronic percussion inspired by artists like Arca and the Indian classical guitar ornamentations you'd find on my first LP.
How have you found the response to previous single 'The Item Girl'? Do both tracks present a decent intro to the new album?
They're right next to each other on the album! They're (sonically and narratively speaking) a great look into what I'll be exploring with this new LP. I'll be looking into decades-old traditions within Indian cinema and how they've shaped the current pop culture landscape both in India and abroad in the diaspora in terms of what films are being made today and how they reach an audience. I'll also be exploring the way they've influenced the attitudes of the people who grew up with them – asking perhaps more difficult questions than I did with my last album.
How have you been passing the time during this weird period of lockdown?
It's been a productive few weeks! The extra time I've had has let me expand on the narrative and ambition of the upcoming LP tenfold. As I'll now be looking to release the record much later than anticipated with the current lockdown situation, I've been working on new songs and expanding on the themes of the original iteration of the album. Over on my Instagram account, I'm doing deep dives into the research behind the album and giving my followers a window into what sort of themes are being explored on the new LP.
What is the best way that audiences can support their favourite musicians during this period?
Buy. Their. Records. Streaming isn't really going to keep your favourite acts stay afloat unless they're already on major labels with millions of streams every month, so head over to Bandcamp and buy an album or some merchandise! The platform has already announced that they'll be waiving their cut of sales again on 5 June so you've got another chance to help your favourite artist succeed in a challenging environment.
What are you most looking forward to doing once lockdown restrictions are lifted?
This new record is very much one that was written for touring in mind with a full band. A Sacred Bore was arranged for me, a guitar and a laptop, which was great for getting out there loads on my first few UK tours, but this new record was written with my live band in mind so I'm very much looking forward to taking these new songs out on the road as soon as lockdown ends. A lot of the live instrumentation is yet to be properly recorded and I've a number of interesting collaborations in mind for this upcoming LP – a mix of past collaborators, artists I've spoken to for my culture site desifuturism.com and even some surprises, so watch this space.