Behind that painted smile

Musician Those growing up in the noughties would have surely seen him perform live. Singer-songwriter (now also known as a ‘rock poet’), Suraj Mani had no idea what a great musician he was till he got ragged in college and was forced to sing. His memorable performance left his seniors asking for more. “It was a good thing,” he laughs as he recalls the good old days. A similar incident in Cochin, where he went up on stage in a restaurant to perform a few songs with a band, had him joining the band Suraj Mani

Those growing up in the noughties would have surely seen him perform live. Singer-songwriter (now also known as a ‘rock poet’), Suraj Mani had no idea what a great musician he was till he got ragged in college and was forced to sing. His memorable performance left his seniors asking for more. “It was a good thing,” he laughs as he recalls the good old days. A similar incident in Cochin, where he went up on stage in a restaurant to perform a few songs with a band, had him joining the band itself. The band in question being ‘Motherjane’, there has been no looking back for Suraj ever since.

 Shuttling between Cochin and Bengaluru for a while, Suraj moved to Bengaluru in 2001. Now the lead singer of ‘Suraj Mani & The Tattva Trip’, Suraj is also an engineer who runs his own air-conditioning firm, a record label, a live gig space and an NGO. When asked about how he balances it all, he answers, “When we define ourselves too strongly, we become a victim of that definition. We need to be open to accessing a different side of ourselves,” he notes. This is precisely why Suraj paints his face when he is on stage.

Even then, running a company with 85 employees and pursuing your passion is no mean feat. But Suraj thoroughly enjoys it. “When music becomes stressful, I turn to office work, and vice-versa,” he quips. “I used to be an introvert by nature. But now, thanks to performing on stage for so many years, I can talk to everyone.”

Suraj’s influences come from life, not music. “I am driven more by the things I believe in. If I want to say something, I find a way to say it.”

Although, Suraj’s favourite artistes are bands like Queen and Dire Straits, he feels he has become more critical of music over the years. “Before I became an artiste, I enjoyed listening to different kinds of music. But as you become a professional, you become more objective.”

That being said, he feels that Bengaluru’s musicians are doing a fabulous job.

“I like artistes who write their own music. Some of my favourites are Parvaaz, Mad Orange Fireworks and Raghu Dixit.” Known as a ‘rock poet’ himself;

Suraj describes his music as lyric-driven and full of poetry. “It is soulful, positive, and gives you a break from life. I tell my listeners to take a trip with a different perspective and come back refreshed. I try to be resourceful, innovative and clear about what I want to say. So each song of mine is a conversation. I tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end.”

His NGO Aum-i-Artist Foundation is dedicated to the growth and revival of Indian indie music and arts and has provided a platform to talented bands such as Thaikkudam Bridge and Masala Coffee. The foundation also has an app called ‘The Great Indian Indie Recordings’ (TGIIR) that aims to serve listeners, raise funds for upcoming artistes, and also revive indie music and arts globally. Suraj also organises music festivals and runs a live gig space called OO Heaven in Kalyan Nagar, Bengaluru.

With the rock scene lying low and EDM gathering momentum, Suraj feels that the scene changes as per the convenience of the people. “With a DJ, all you need is a sound system. But for a band, a lot of coordination comes into play. It’s like comparing instant noodles to a five course meal!” With technology, have more avenues have opened up for youngsters? “Every generation has its own challenges to deal with. In the past, not many people could break into music. Today, the entry is easy, but you have to make a mark for yourself inside the bigger platter, which is challenging.”

All set to release more music and play at a few music festivals like Malanad Calling, Momo Festival and Monkey Town Festival with his band, Suraj says he is excited to play live anywhere. “Even if you give me a small room, I will be more than happy to play there,” he signs off.

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Behind that painted smile

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