It took Mumbai-based Hindi prog-rockers Coshish two years of writing, rewriting, recording, producing and even programming to bring out a coherent concept in their debut album “Firdous,” that released last week on Universal Music India. And it doesn’t have anything to do with constant money and production delays most Indian indie artists seem to suffer from, but everything to do with spirituality and the personal journey Coshish’s members (Mangesh Gandhi (vocals, guitars, mouth organ), Shrikant Sreenivasan (guitars), Hamza Kazi (drums, xylophone) and Anish Nair (bass)) took during the making of it. With ten tracks on offer, “Firdous” meanders through the protagonist’s journey from the everyday plain of mere existence to his quest to find higher meaning in life, and makes his final stop at “Firdous” (the Farsi word for Paradise or Garden, in this case nirvana). “The entire theme revolves around an individual’s struggle and journey towards eventually reaching salvation, attaining “Firdous,”" says Nair. “Every song in the album has a flow,” adds Gandhi, “In a way, it’s each of us living our spiritual lives in the aim of reaching that higher plain. Each song is a prequel to the previous one, with the first song putting the entire album into perspective. From there on, it moves to the idea of the final song, Mukti.” Gandhi offers cues to listening to the album.
Beyond the depicted protagonist’s journey, the band members themselves went through a spiritual transformation. Each member recounts a distinct spiritual break while writing “Firdous.” “Look I’m a singer/songwriter guy,” says Gandhi, “While writing for this album, we found ourselves pushing the envelope much further. A lot of people have been upfront in their views of Hindi being our choice of language, and it did feel strange, but then I thought ‘Fuck this shit. There’s so much more beyond just the language in our music.’ Everything about this album is an amalgamation of our thoughts, our ideas, our inner struggles, our achievements, ourselves.” The spiritual experience in this context translates into their artistic evolution.
Beyond the band’s inner struggles, the long-drawn recording process can also be partly blamed on geography. The band members are spread out all across the island city of Mumbai, which made band jams a near impossibility. (Kazi lives in Mahim, Gandhi in Gorai, Nair and guitarist Sreenivasan come for jams from Belapur and Kharghar respectively, most times after working full hours at their offices). And in Gandhi’s words, “search for perfection. Different songs took different amounts of time to be written. While some of the pieces would fit right into the music it was being set to, others would just take forever. Certain songs, like Firdous for example, took six months to write. I thought on it for months on end, but the final lyrics came to me only a night before I had to sing the song. With the mounting pressure to complete the song, I guess everything fell right into place.”
The album has been produced by contentious record producer Zorran Mendonsa. “Anyone who knows Zorran knows that he is a master at anything he does musically, and we owe a whole lot of what the album sounds like to him. Besides, he put our needs before his own personal commitments, and we are very indebted to him for all the help on the album,” Hamza offers a thank you note.
The artwork of the album is an extension to the theme of nirvana. The front and back of the album cover represent the two plains of existence - while the back represents everyday life, the front is a quasi-suave, trippy rendition of what the higher plain leads you to (flying fish, meditating yogi suspended over a city). The artwork literally depicts soul’s journey through the universe-multiverse paradigm. Nair builds, “There are so many levels on which perception works through the visuals of this album, and that’s what the band seem to be aiming for - anyone who looks at the artwork would perceive it some way or the other, and in this way, while explaining their own story to “Firdous,” people are free to make their own interpretations.”
Kazi believes that the best word to describe the effect of “Firdous” on the band is evolution in its infinite forms. When the band first formed in 2007, founder members Gandhi and Sreenivasan saw Coshish go through a number of line up changes. Without taking any names, Kazi explains that many former members were either stuck to their choice of music, or were unable to comprehend the thematic style of the band. Afaque Azad (Infernal Wrath) suggested to Gandhi that he approach Kazi for the paced drumming that the band’s sound was looking for. The spot for the bassist in the band was filled quite by accident. Nair came on board as a session bassist for a gig and ended up becoming a full time member.
Considering the fact that their music has quite a bit of mass appeal, owing to their fresh take on Hindi music, quite a few times they have been asked whether they’d be open to doing mainstream, commercial projects, like composing for a movie. That, it looks like, will be something they would decide when such an opportunity comes about. Sreenivasan says, “Yeah, we’d do music for a movie, provided we are given the creative lease to set the sound to the way we perceive best. If they want a shitty love song for some cheesy scene, that’s going to be a no-no.”
Currently the band is working on a music video for the song Raastey off the album, that will release shortly.
- Coshish plays at their first launch gig along with Blakc , on September 11, 2022 at Blue Frog, 8 pm onwards. Entry free. The band will then proceed for a tour. Deets:
TBA, Thiruvananthapuram - September 15, 2022
Counter Culture, Bengaluru - September 21, 2022
The Little Door, Mumbai (Acoustic Set) - September 24, 2022