Lifafa: Avant-Garde with a Pinch of Nostalgia

Words by Teesha Kooraram

Suryakant Sawhney also known as Lifafa began his journey as a filmmaking student to finally land in his home country as a musician imbued with a variety of influences. He made his debut as a vocalist and guitarist with Peter Cat Recording Co. with a heavy signature of jazz music. Peter Cat Recording Co. earned their fame with their musical surprises which go into unexpected ventures. With a history of leading his audience with a dose of mystery, Suryakant Sawhney revealed Lifafa , a solo electronic project offering a fusion of acoustic folk elements and vintage disco, layered with a baritone voice that can be angsty and meditative at the same time. Lifafa shakes his audience with his vulnerable vocals filled with sincerity. Lifafa released his album ‘Jaago’ in 2019, with eight songs carrying an untamed and pure musical signature.

Initially, Sawney had other plans beside music-making. In the midst of his animation studies in San Francisco, Sawhney went to India for holidays, where this very trip triggered his surge of inspiration to now write songs and followed his calling towards music-making as a way to express himself.

Suryakant took a leap of faith and later returned to his native country to materialise his lyrics into fully fledged songs. He debuted as a musician with Peter Cat Recording Co, where he further cultivated and applied his jazz background with a particular interest in guitar.

One day, on a whim, he decided to change his approach in producing music. He experimented randomly on his computer to create music unlike what he usually did. This was a drastic change for him and he delved into the discovery of the new medium and proceeded through emulation. 

Suryakant wanted to try his luck with electronic music with the project Lifafa. When he started experimenting with electronic music, he was heading without a specific purpose and found his salvation in the outcomes. His musical vagaries lead to forging his own artistic identity with an association with his childhood and origins. The overpowering nostalgia delved him into Lifafa, surrendering to his audience via his emotional, social and political musical waves. Suryakant is a musical globetrotter. He has a globalized mindset and set his sails to derive his inspiration from multiple cultures. 

Lifafa performs tracks from his album Jaago for Boiler Room’s New Dehli Edition.

Like a musical sponge, Suryakant absorbs everything around that piques his interests, whether it is traffic noise or a wedding procession. Despite singing in his native language and pouring his soul out, Lifafa was not ready to perform in his own country. Nevertheless, he earned a major appreciation from abroad and obtained the chance of doing many gigs. The primal reason for it was that the world has a particular stereotype towards what Indian music should sound like and Lifafa propels his audience into an unpredicted musical experience with a Hindi touch.

According to Suryakant and in his own words;

‘For me Chinese and Germans are amazing listeners when it comes to paying attention to music. And Portuguese and Italians are people who really respond to it…whereas Indians respond very viscerally to music’.

The album ‘Jaago’ (Wake up) by Lifafa drifts us to a nostalgic night, triggering our sensitivity and stirring our unexpressed emotions. We dip into existentialism and the ‘what ifs’ of life. Like the waves of the ocean clashing against our bodies, we are bound to have a reaction to Lifafa, which awakens our dormant cores.

The album’s title track ‘Jaago’ gives us a reality check about going out of our comfort zones and being aware of our political views. The hindi and urdu that he uses drags us to a cinematic vintage vibe , to the days of  intense love stories with ‘Nikamma’(worthless). ‘Din Raat’ (Day Night) and ‘Ek Nagma’ depicts the tipsy epitome of sleepless nights intoxicated in love and the comfort of falling asleep with a beloved.

‘Jaago’ sways us with the waves of poetry, pricking our vulnerable souls with humble meanings. The lyrics of ‘Jaago’ are thought-provoking, a real revelation to the music enthusiasts.The fusion of the hindi vocals with electronic music put you in a trance to dance with the fragility of your innermost worn out soul. Lifafa renders us perplexed with the way in which we should welcome his avant-gardist move in music by leading us to alien experiences, threading towards an unexplored domain.

Jaago is available for purchase at a giveaway price of only $4, on Bandcamp and Amazon, and available for streaming on Spotify.


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