Lifafa – ‘Jaago जागो’ review

Solo electronic producer Suryakant Sawhney (also the frontman of India’s most enigmatic band, Peter Cat Recording Co.), has crafted an astonishing album of overlapping beats, samples and lush baritone vocals

”Jaago जागो’ ends as it begins: with powerful vocals captivating your full attention. In between these moments, over the course of eight tracks, Lifafa firmly establishes his sound and identity. Flowing with aplomb between jazz, old-timey Bollywood, soul and RnB funk, fluidity underpins ‘Jaago जागो’; this is true not only in the sumptuous production that makes up the album, but also in Lifafa’s ability to create a singular musical landscape.

The frontman for, arguably, India’s best (and certainly most enigmatic) band Peter Cat Recording Co, Suryakant Sawhney has been releasing electronic music under the moniker Lifafa for a few years now. He’s blessed with a warm, lush baritone that’s reminiscent of a bygone era, and here Sawhney has coupled it with distinctive, layered production. This amalgamation has made his production work as Lifafa stand out amongst the crowded releases in South Asia. ‘Jaago’ only further cements that.

Sawhney’s trademark as Lifafa is a dreamy, synth-filled atmosphere. On ‘Jaago जागो’, he pulls you under the warmth of nostalgia with a concoction of overlapping melodies, beats and samples centred by an exceptionally singular and haunting voice. The chill, textured ‘Mere saath मेरे साथ ’ invokes feelings of long lost lovers, of fleeting moments of sadness. Lifafa continues the feelings of yearning on ‘Nikamma निकम्मा’, where you get lost in the pockets between the vocals, giving yourself over to the lo-fi, glitchy, retro looping synths.

READ MORE: Meet Peter Cat Recording Co., the New Delhi troupe who’ve written an unmissable big band banger

On ‘Jaago जागो’, Lifafa’s purpose seems more certain than it has previously. He’s refined his sound, cutting away the extra noise found on his earlier work. His vocals don’t dominate as they once did. His production speaks for itself – see the dreamy soundscape of ‘Candy कैंडी’ featuring fellow New Delhi-based producer Hashback Hashish. The synth-heavy, club-ready tunes ‘Din Raat दिन रात’ and ‘Ek Nagma एक नगमा’, played back-to-back, fortify a feeling of warmth and lost emptiness in this world.

Lifafa creates music that has rich textures that seem simple, but layered beneath them are complex rhythms. It makes you pay attention. Rare is the project that feels both of this time and timeless. Without saying much, Sawhney has carved a path for himself, setting himself apart from the moody, ambient tracks or heavy, militant and precise electronic projects that has come to characterise the Indian sound in recent years. ‘Jaago जागो’ confirms Lifafa is creating the most singular music in South Asia.