With our anniversary show growing ever closer, I met up with our headliner, Kapil Seshasayee, for a chat about his upcoming album, “A Sacred Bore”.
Kapil’s music is as sonically rich as it is thematically rich, the three singles he has released in the lead up to the album are thoughtful, cutting edge meditations on the failings of the caste system in India; a system of stratification that divides Hindus into different class groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (duty). Though part of India’s constitution, it’s generally understood that this method of social stratification has lasted for thousands of years, and Kapil hopes that, through his music, people will come to realize the parallels between Hindu nationalism and caste, and the the kinds of nationalistic and classist ideology that we see in the west.
Check out our preview for the Takeover at Broadcast on June 30th.
CP: So, album out at the end of the year. How do you feel?
KS: Relieved that I’m finished to be honest. I’ve been sitting on it for such a long time, it’s just a relief to get out in the open. I’ve been fighting to get it out.
No. It’s got to that point where I’ve finished it and I’m just really happy with it. I’m nervous about how people will react to it, so there is that. At the end of the day you can’t really care about that too much, though. If it achieves nothing, but makes more people think about caste as the tragedy that it is, then that’s my job done. If they take to the music then that’s obviously great, but so long as the message gets out there I’ll be happy.
So, the most important thing for people to take away from the album is the message?
Yeah, for sure. When you’re writing about something that affecting so many people, but so under-reported, it becomes a mission about awareness rather than a mission for bigger gigs. Playing gigs is nice, but people engaging with the message is, ultimately, so much more important.
At what point did topics such as Hindu nationalism and the caste system become, not only important to you, but an important aspect of the music that you make?
As far as the last single went, it was a result of a lot of research. By no means was it the first thing that came up while researching caste; it came up quite late in the process. I was reading up about things that people are engaging with nowadays. A common topic is how a lot of people, predominantly young men, are radicalised through joining causes that they think are worth fighting for, but what they end up being are cases of hyper-nationalism, bridging more into far-right territory than they give it credit for. When I read into that, I saw the similarities between what’s happening there and what’s happening to similar demographics in the UK and the US. I also realised there’s a lot of tie in between the caste system in India and the way it’s travelled in diaspora, and white nationalism at its key sources.
You’ve been playing in bands for about 10 years now, and you’ve been putting out solo material for about 5. How do you feel you’re music has progressed over the years?
I’m really happy with how it’s progressed. It started off as a congealing of whatever I was listening to at the time; I wanted to be musically sophisticated. What started off as primarily composition-based music has become abstract protest music, almost. I’m now far more worried about whether the narrative of my music is worthwhile, as opposed to how it sounds. But that’s not to say I’m neglecting how it sounds, that’s still important.
How does the writing process work for you? Do you start from a narrative concept or is it more sonically founded?
It used to be the latter, but these days I usually have a narrative in mind. I tend to have the narrative written down, and I’ll write the song like I’m soundtracking a scene in a film. I’m used to soundtrack plays and short films so I’m used to that mode of thinking. I think, “this needs to be expressed here, and how can the music parallel this particular idea”. But sometimes I’ll just be noodling on a guitar, and nothing will come of it and I’ll throw it into storage until the right narrative comes along.
What makes your current material album worthy, in ways that your previous work wasn’t?
I always get a strong gut feeling when I know I’ve finished a release. It feels like the album has a sound to it now, if I wrote anything now it would be deviating from the last set of tracks. With the album, it’s the first time I’ve thought of something narrative that, as a whole, I wanted to get across in terms of message. It’s an album because I had more to say, I suppose. There’s a common thread that I’m tackling throughout the thirty or so
minutes that it plays.
So we can expect something consistent?
Exactly! The album itself is actually part of a trilogy that I’m working on. This one is out at the end of this year, another one in early 2019 and another the year after that.
Is this all under the same label?
We don’t know yet, this one is definitely out under Loner Noise, the other ones I’m not sure yet. We’re still in negotiations. Loner Noise are a label based out in Liverpool, and they’ve been incredible to say the very least. It’s amazing to have a platform for what I do, not just in terms of the music, but the visual art as well. They run a festival, and they’ve given me full creative license to do whatever I want. They’re fantastic.
It’s great to hear that you’ve got people behind you with a passion for what you do. The topics that you deal with in your music are probably quite alien to a lot of people in the UK. Is that something you want to change through your music?
If people on a greater scale understood the similarities between different kinds of supremacy then that would be great. And if I get a bigger platform to do what I want to do, then I’d like to champion other artists who are doing similar kinds of things, spreading similar messages. My goal as a promoter has always been to give platforms to people who I feel needed it, deserved it, but didn’t have it. If this album were to get big, I’d be doing just that.
What’s the feedback been like so far?
It’s been really positive! There’s been far more traction to this project than there has been to anything else I’ve put out before, and this isn’t even out yet. I didn’t really pay much attention to how it would be received, I just felt compelled to make it, and the fact that people are taking to it is a massive bonus. I’m very thankful.
It great to have that reassurance, it must give you hope.
How do you think it would be received in India?
In a very mixed way. I’m planning on going out there to play a few dates in support of the album, I’m working on that just now. I play under my real name, and I’ve done so up to this point because I thought it was unique, but my name has strong caste-related connotations. My family are from the most prevalent caste in the south of India, have committed maybe the most amount of atrocities across the south of India, and while I’m not personally responsible for it, I feel like I need to acknowledge my privilege there in terms of what I’m singing about and the position from which I’m singing it. Lower caste women are the ones who are hit the hardest by the caste system, and as a man of the upper caste who lives in the UK, I have to sing from the viewpoint of someone from that privilege. In India, there will be a mix of people who are ready to engage with it, and others who will cause push back against it. I’ll have to tackle that as it comes.
What you’re dealing with in your music is very polarizing, and you’re obviously going to be getting mixed reaction to it, especially where those issues are still present.
Exactly, I mean the title track of the album, “A Sacred Bore”, came out in August, and that song is first and foremost is about the fact that I’m acknowledging my privilege, I’m not trying to pass the blame over to someone else, we as a class or a caste have to take control over what we’ve done and make changes. It’s not self-loathing, it’s more self-reflection.
Does it bother you?
What my caste has done? It bothers me a whole lot. The conservative part of my family, to be blunt about it, are still rooted in this hateful rhetoric in regards to people in a lower class. When I see conservatives hating poor people as if they deserve it, I don’t see that as being any different to my family members hating on people of lower caste that they’ve never met, it’s disgusting.
Have they heard your music?
Some have. There’s a lot of classical musicians in my family, and they can hear the classical leanings in the music I make. It’s been a mixed response, some of them wonder why I’m singing about this when I live in the UK where it doesn’t affect me, whereas others are really impressed that I’m engaging with it while living out here. It’s been everywhere across the spectrum I guess, between on extreme and the other.
Do you see Indian classical and folk music playing more into your music as you go forward?
Absolutely, now that I’m playing with a live band. I now have the chance to play with really good, seasoned musicians who have toured the country. I’m working with a flute player, a tabla player and a classical singer. It’s really interesting, as I’ve only ever played with guitar bands growing up, it’ll really challenge the way I write. The next record with definitely be composed for a live band. There will still be electronics on it, but they’ll be far less prevalent.
Any closing remarks?
Album is out 14th of September, it’ll be out on vinyl and on streaming. I’ve been releasing a number of visual, typography based artworks in support of it. The fourth of the five prints I’ve released will out next week. Other than that, just looking forward to the anniversary show on the 30th!
Tickets available via See Tickets:
Takeover All Dayer £7 : https://www.seetickets.com/event/cornerstoned-takeover-all-dayer/broadcast-glasgow/1229152
Takeover Hyperforij £5 : https://www.seetickets.com/event/cornerstoned-takeover-hyperforij/broadcast-glasgow/1229155