Saby Singh, has completely reinvented his music through his new album, Ouroboros, which is to release on 1 November. His earlier music releases were based on indie-folk, alternative-rock styles, with hints of classical music embossed in thoughtful Urdu lyrics. Ouroboros is a 180 degree of what he’s done before. He has used lots of electronic elements, synthesizers and has created a sonic space that revolves around the concept of trying to re-define himself as an artist. Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail, often interpreted as a symbol for eternal cyclic renewal or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The artwork for the album is designed by Sumegha Malhotra.
Drawing from this explanation, Saby’s new album illustrates the dual nature of his musical abilities, breaking out of typecasting, and that opposite musical sensibilities are not in conflict.
Video of Algal Bloom, new single from Ouroboros is out now
Q. How would you describe your music? What sets your music apart? What is unique, or at least uncommon?
My music is an undiluted, unfiltered, unadulterated expression of who I am. Nothing gives me more joy than the fact that I am neither bound by any professional obligations nor the insecurities of staying relevant in the scene. I am who I am and I think that is what sets my art apart. Most of the artists out there have a perception of how they want to sound like, what people are listening to and what is acceptable and what is not, what is expected of them. People are too scared to experiment, but I love surprising myself and being true to my expression provides me enough stimulation as a human and is such a satisfaction as an artist.
Q. What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
The freedom! I can do absolutely anything I desire – I wrote an entire album on mental health issues, with very minimal and all acoustic elements. Considering 2020, it is an artistic suicide but I really care less for what is okay and what not. The new album, Ouroboros, is a 180 degree of what I did in my last record. It is essentially electronic elements, synthesizers, digital instruments and no organic or live instrument. I can totally do that because genres are redundant, we made them to sell stuff, but music doesn’t care – art never cares about boundaries or conventions. My playlist consists of Derek Trucks to Ghulam Ali to Bhai Nirmal Singh Ji to Infected Mushroom to Aphex Twin to Led Zeppelin to Bombay Jayashree to anything that sounds nice. This freedom is what makes me fall in love with myself as an individual and be my biggest fan, and this absolute independence is what I enjoy the most being an artist!
Q. I listened to your other releases as well, and found that many of your other songs have some deeply relevant messages. What’s inspires you to write such music and why’s it significant today?
I never write about things that I haven’t myself felt. Life is tragic, sad and all you ever do is lose something or somebody, but what society conveys is the theory of the two polars – good and bad! This conventionalisation of emotions is one of the most ridiculous things we have ‘achieved’ as a civilization. Sadness is pure, it is bliss, you open up for yourself, you give yourself the time, all you want to do is shut yourself in a room and just be left with yourself – which is sublimely intimate. We need time to heal, but society (the corporations) render a person suffering with anxiety or depression as a loss of an asset. The entire essence of humanity is lost. I write about that, and looking at my friends, what people are doing on social media, instagram, inspires me all the time. We are going through difficult times and we can’t relate with what is popular now, we need people who talk about real issues, people like Samar Mehdi.
Q. What was the creative process like behind Ouroboros? Why and how did you decide to release an EP?
Usually while writing, I am a huge pain in the back for myself. I take care of all the details, I am always in there thinking and making changes. But for Ouroboros I consciously asked myself to stop doing what I do and just let my instincts take over. I produced this album in a span of three days! I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat well, didn’t even take a shower, just sat at my desk and wrote.
After three days I had the final draft prepared. And with a couple of revisions I got the album. I was speaking with my friend and artist Sumegha Malhotra during this process (she designed the artwork), and in fact, she was the one who dressed my abstract thought process. We had thought of doing 2020 inktober together – a song and an artwork everyday for the entire month of October but somehow it couldn’t work out. I instead wanted to turn this into a statement, a concept with a deeper darker meaning, and while talking to her, it dawned on me how perfect it was. That I am butchering my identity as a “singer-songwriter” and creating someone new, something refreshing, something strange, exciting out of me – Ouroboros!
Q. All the songs sound very different from your past releases? Why did you choose to redefine yourself as an artist? Could you please share more details around this?
People think of me as a singer-songwriter, they associate me with the guitar and urdu, which is super awesome of course, but a type-casted me is my worst nightmare. I am an artist, not a guitar player or a singer. Ouroboros is an artistic statement as well as a redefinition of ‘Saby Singh’. The concept of Ouroboros is the same – a snake eating itself away and giving birth to a new him, which just resonates so well with how I feel right now!
I get bored of stuff easily. I need stimulations all the time. I need to push myself ever so slightly. If I know how to do a thing, then I can’t make myself sit and do it, because it gets too darn boring and monotonous. I need to excite myself, and I could never do that with type-casting myself. I am also working on a collection of short stories and I also paint sometimes. I am a certified web developer and I make websites for fun. I love designing stuff and I take care of all of my design work. Releasing another album like ‘Yahaan’ would be a waste of who I am.
I believe that what is important is that you figure out your individual state of flow, and as soon as you start flowing, life becomes joyful. You forget numbers, conventions and you start observing everything around you. Birds sound beautiful, even the hustle of the city becomes a low fidelity soundtrack. It is all about opening up to yourself – not putting yourself in a box or a label, but allowing yourself the audacity to experiment, a willingness to try and an unbiased jurisdiction to failure.
Q. Do you have any other plans relating to Ouroboros? Videos or Online Shows?
I have a couple of music videos that I am going to release with the album. The first single (Algal Bloom) from the album is out now with a music video on YouTube. All I have done is find public domain footage relevant to the concept and edited it for the music. A few more music videos in the couple months.
I am not playing any online shows lately, just focussed on releasing new music, exploring newer dimensions as an artist. And once the venues start opening up, we will think about shows then. Online shows are ridiculous though. You can not resonate the vibe of a live show no matter how good the technology is, and I don’t deal in that, I am more about feelings and things which make us human.
Q. What are your plans for any future releases and when can the audience expect your next release?
The next album is also ready to be released. I have written a lot of music during the lockdown phases of our country. I have content worth 4-5 albums that I can release in the next few months. Hopefully, my audience can expect another record by the first of December and another one in January 2021. I am optimistic.
Q. What are your ambitions as a songwriter and musician from here? What are your musical plans for the next 12 months or so?
To be really honest, nothing. I have no ambitions either as a songwriter, a musician or a human being. I just want to experience this passing second with all my attention and wholeness as I can. I want to stay in the moment, live in the now. It may seem too philosophical but this is how I am really. I cannot afford to think about my streaming numbers or my instagram following right now. They all divert you from doing what you really want to. I want to feel wholesome right now and live this phase of Ouroboros before moving onto the next part of my life. I don’t care about the scene, about who is who and what numbers popular artists are pulling. I am way above it all in that essence. I am an artist, a human, not a factory. But popular artists today in the industry look at their songs as products rather than expression, which breaks my heart and also makes me feel way better about being me.
But yes, I do want to move to the mountains, that is a plan that I can think of right now. And 2-3 albums/EPs in the next 3-4 months. You never know!
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