Thinking Out Loud

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Joi- Reaching Out

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rock Street Journal- 2012

Mumbai based Singer/Songwriter Joi Barua has been building a solid fan-base for himself with his brand of Pop/Rock tunes and charismatic live shows around the North-east Indian circuit, including a packed house in the INK Conference held in Jaipur last year. His debut album, Looking out of the Window, released in December 2010, was the first step-up in his career as an independent artist, one that saw him permeate venues and ear canals around states like Assam and Meghalaya. “I have been working as a composer and a playback singer here in Mumbai for quite some time now. Even so, I had always wanted to work on original music myself, steering clear of the mainstream ‘scene’, as everyone refers to it- which is the only reason why me and a couple of friends formed the band, in the first place.” says Joi.

What started out as an almost naive idea of amalgamating Assamese lyrics with Pop/Rock tunes has now become his musical brand, of sorts. Needless to say, this mish-mash garnered laurels for him around the circuit in Assam- and has eventually evolved into his unique selling proposition. “The day came when we realized that all of the issues and stories we wanted put across, could best be done through our own language – Assamese. Good music will always transcend linguistic barriers and eventually it did.Our album was received well by a lot of people around the country and it was overwhelming to watch all these people connect to the songs despite the fact that a large portion of them didn’t even know what we were talking about,” Adds Joi.

On the spirit of hits like ‘Tejimola’ and ‘AikonBaikon’, Joi’s music comes across as a very off-the-cuff blend of folk, rock, soul and world music, and his voice and lyricssucceed in cutting above the instrumentation. The album was also in part Mr.Abani Tanti’s initiative, rooting from his vision to bring original music to the forefront in the Indian circuit. Abani, who is a Mumbai-based producer himself, is one of the pioneers and the leading figure of music production in Northeast India especially in Assam having produced bands like Mojo, Friends, King Apple and the ilk, during their hey-days. “Abani Da has been fundamental in the making of this record- and one of those producers who’s got the ability to take up the entire creative mantle, reinterpret it and make it look all the more better. He is one of the prime inspirations behind this album along with my Brother-in-law who was a mentor to me and passed away right before we made this.”

Post the release of Looking out of the Window,the video to one of the most popular tracks off the album – ‘AaikonBaikon’ did significantly well on YouTube and received massive airtime on local channels across the circuit. The song talks about the race of urban life and how hasty life has become, in general. “We’ve all come from sizeably small towns and the transition from these places to cities like Mumbai can be both overwhelming and challenging at the same time. The song talks about two young girls playing bridges and trains and running around and how that eventually transforms into closed rooms and a droning life.” Emotions of the same vein drizzle throughout the album – that being, in bits and pieces, the underlying theme of the record. With a message and a set of lyrics that managed to reach out to a large audience, owing its minimalist script and overall appeal, ‘AaikonBaikon’ was a genuinely trend-breaking video that proved to be an extremely smart move by the band, one that carries the same feeling of ambition that Swarathma picked up on, in the early part of their career. “It was an instinctive decision really. I don’t know why we picked that song for a video, but we just did. We knew it would appeal to the audience that we had in mind, and in due course, it did.”

While his attempts bore fruition in the form of substantial cd sales, gigs and hyperbolic praise in publications and online forums around the region, his music has undoubtedly remained, for the lack of a better word, truly ‘underground’ and unknown to most other parts of the country despite its universal musical appeal. And the fact that he sings in Assamese isn’t here to change that. With a firm foundation in Bollywood, having sung for movies like Zindagi Na MilegiDobara, Dev D, Love Ka The End and Help, and also with a brave sensibility for independent forms, he stands discernibly on two different lands- and both forms seem to coaxingly exist in him- which is why he’s extremely assured about his understanding of the crowd that he hasn’t been able to reach to yet and a positivity that the ‘reaching out’ will continue to grow with every subsequent release.

Known for his genuine star quality and his reputation as a sober, intellectual artist- Joi, seems less concerned about the commercial end of things and believes that the music he creates is aimed at making an impact rather than money. “We never really had a very marketable concept in mind, to be very frank. That means, we never really talk numbers when we released music. I make this music for myself and for the people around me. For me, it’s how many ‘people’ I’ve reached out to, at the end of the day – that is what’s most important.” He also adds that the music industry today is in dire need of thinkers and that musicians, in general need to transmute into more intellectual entities as opposed to just being good performers or composers and that it’s important for him to be remembered as an artist ‘who tried to make good music and inspired others in the process’.

Bearing that in mind, the question at hand is whether or not he wishes to continue with the same ethos for a larger audience- and whether or not that’s really going to work well for him. In any case, with the kind of optimism he carries, we’re pretty sure there’s no disappointment heading our way. That being said, Joi clearly has new excitements to conquer now- be it bigger gigs or a follow-up album. “We have a lot of material in stock, and a follow-up is definitely in the making. But it’s imperative that the music I make is backed with a solid purpose behind it. Maybe, once I find the linking pin between some of the material I’ve finished working on, I’m willing to pack it into a compiled release and put it out there. Until then, I just want to keep touring and making music because that’s what I love and that’s what I’m best at. I’m waiting” he says. “So are we.” We answer.


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