Bombastic vocals, soothing melodies and unaffected lyrics were the first three things that came to mind as I was listening to this album. Fusion acts are cropping up everywhere, but what sets Lagori apart is the fact that they have managed to restrain themselves and not go too far. Yes, there are flutes and shehnais, and most of the lyrics are in Hindi, but they still manage to sound completely contemporary and fresh. More than fusion, their songs can be classified under the “Easy Listening” category. This probably explains the immense success that they have managed to achieve in a few short years. Formed in 2011, the band boasts of more than 20,000 likes on their Facebook page and fans from the remotest corners of the country. If this does not validate their appeal and talent for you then maybe a listen to their splendid debut album will do the job.
Lagori comprises of ace vocalist Tejas Shankar, Shalini Mohan from Allegro Fudge on bass, Vinyl Kumar on drums and Geeth Vaz and Edward Rasquinha on guitars. Their music is proof of the easy camaraderie amongst the members and the immense talent of each of the band members. They have managed to find a balance between the Indian and western influences in their music and have managed to combine soft rock, funk, folk, Hindustani classical and pop styles to create a very unique sound. Theirs is the kind of music that appeals to almost everybody – regardless of personal musical tastes, as their songs are catchy, comforting and devoid of drama.
The band takes its name from the popular game that kids throughout the country enjoy – Lagori as it is known in the south or saat-pathar as its known in the north. This game is played with seven stones and the band members claim to be obsessed with this number. It has even influenced the time signatures of their songs! The most surprising fact is that most of the songs on the album, with the exception of ‘Kashmir Song’, are written in Hindi even though they admit that it is not a language that they are well versed in. This is hardly perceptible when listening to their album and they never come across as if they are trying too hard to impress.
Lagori – their debut album was released on 15st March, much to the excitement of their clamouring fans. As mentioned earlier, the songs on this 8-song album are written either in Hindi or Kannada. Lagori claims that their music reflects their upbringing in a cosmopolitan environment. They believe that urban Indian youth can relate to their music as it is influenced by so many styles of music. The songs on their debut album tackle a variety of issues common to the youth these days and although the tracks are not overly angsty or melodramatic, they do strike a chord with the listener.
‘Boom Shankar’ is a deliciously foot-tapping, completely uplifting track on the album. This song is a great choice as the first track of the album as it immediately puts the listener in a good mood. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the song is about being free, living life and savouring every moment. If you do not feel like smiling while listening to this song then you may be clinically depressed! The riff is absolutely addictive and the whole song is mellow and happy without being monotonous. It mellows out even further with a subtle bass dominated interlude before it picks up the pace and ends in a flourish.
‘River Song’ starts off with soothing sounds of flowing water coupled with equally melodic and intricate guitar work. This song is about the magical power of nature and of new beginnings. ‘River Song’ is sprightly and highlights Tejas’ vocals and the band’s harmonizing skills. With great harmonica and flute sections, this track is probably the folksiest on the album.
After the first two livelier songs, the album moves onto a moodier and romantic number called ‘Saiyyan’. It can come off as a bit too Bollywood-ish with some typical phrases in the lyrics and the Sarangi in the background. However, Tejas’ vocals lift the piece and bring forth the sense of yearning. Overall it is a good track but not something you would listen to repeatedly.
The album then picks up pace again and moves away from the Hindustani classical to the rock genre with ‘Jeene Do’. This song sounds like it could become the anthem of every spirited youngster. It talks about living life to the fullest and breaking free of shackles without sounding angry or dark. In fact, it sounds like an inspirational call to action! With interesting changes in tempo, this track is engaging.
‘Darbari’ is probably the track I liked best on the album. A perfect blend of Hindustani classical vocals and rock-inspired tunes, ‘Darbari’ is a song that is bound to get stuck in your head and make you groove. Although this song mixes two polar opposite musical styles, it does not sound forced unlike some fusion songs out there. The song gives way to an instrumental section that starts off as languid and jazzy but quickly becomes a rocked-out jugalbandi between the guitar and the shehnai.
‘Aasma’ deals with similar subject matter as ‘Jeene Do’. This track talks about the troubles that the younger generations face and ends on an optimistic and heartening note. As usual, the vocals are perfectly emotive and changes from angsty to hopeful. Although this is one of their popular songs, it does not stand out from the other tracks in the album.
As mentioned before, ‘Kashmir Song´ is the only song in the album written in Kannada. It is soft, melodic and filled with tricky and catchy guitar melodies. It has some eccentric vocal harmonizing and a wonderfully refreshing Indian folk-inspired outro. As another favourite from the album, I must admit that this track was on repeat for a long time.
The album ends with ‘Ni Re Sa’ – a funky track with Hindustani classical influences, in which the violin section is particularly memorable. This is a clean track to end the album with and allows the album to end on an overall positive note.
Lagori is a triumph of a debut album and is polished, exciting and unique. The vocals are pitch-perfect and the harmonies are flawless and obviously there is no doubt about the talent of the band members. Every song features intricate guitar work and basslines and is earnest and emotional. You can’t help but fall in love with the band because everything they do seems so genuine. On the other hand, the album can seem too polished and lacks that raw quality and edginess that could’ve made their songs even more interesting. Unlike bands like Swarathma and The Raghu Dixit Project – with whom Lagori is often compared to, their songs can be a tad plainer. However, Lagori has managed to achieve a lot of finesse that is rare for a band this young and has managed to be fresh, unique and unabashed. Also, the album art is superb and loud and depicts a cheeky little boy playing the game Lagori.
Want to get your hands on a copy of the debut album? You can buy Lagori’s album from OKListen and you can connect with the band through their Facebook Page . You can also listen to their songs and watch videos on their Reverbnation page. In the meantime make sure to catch them live!