Let’s state the obvious; 2020 was a horrible year. I could go on and on about all the negatives, but it’s done and dusted at this point. We’re in a new year, and while the signs that better times are on the horizon are far from obvious, perhaps a little bit of hope is all we need. To Mumbai based soul singer Rohanmaz, optimism is a necessary precursor to 2021.
Although in name seemingly grim, Rohan’s solo debut ‘I See Fire’ is an emphatically hopeful cry for hope. Grandiose and gospel, the track is one of the few of its kind in India’s independent scene. “How sh*t 2020 was, it’s given you the skillset to deal with 2021. I’m anti-pessimism as a movement. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.“, says the former vocalist for Mumbai based rock act The Colour Compound.
The song builds gradually, beginning with a thunderous gong-like drum Rohan sings ‘I see fire burn it down/Ashes all around town’. Slowly, a gospel choir starts to hum in the background. Discarding the angst and letting go of the hopelessness, Rohan cries out ‘Then I hear It gets better/Surely it gets better/Lord this must get better’ with the accompany choir echoing his sentiments. There’s a culture of negativity prevailing around us, be it on social media or our cultural products. ‘I See Fire’ is more than a breath of fresh air. It’s a clarion call to believe that life will improve, that the torrent of setbacks can turn upside down, and that faith breeds benefits.
While Rohan is keenly interested in crafting a solo project, the time hasn’t yet arrived in his view. In conversation, he stated that his objective at the moment is to push single after single with collaboration after collaboration. In many ways, the time that artists have on their hands now has allowed this to occur. With remote production also becoming increasingly popular, it’s paved the way for collaborations across borders to take shape. The production on this track was handled by multi-faceted Nathan Thomas and the backing gospel vocals were all sung by the renowned jazz vocalist Vasundhara Vee.
When asked whether he’s interested in taking his solo journey live, Rohan noted that the situation isn’t entirely conducive as of yet. “Everything that I’m looking at doing now will be large. It won’t translate the same way in the smaller settings available right now. I want to do it properly, with a complete stage setup. Since this will be my first time doing it, I want people’s first impression of my live show to be of the scale that this work needs. Anything else will be counterproductive.”
Accompanied by a video that paints a picture of 2020 whilst signalling for better days, ‘I See Fire’ is the anthem we need right now. Set aside the fact that it’s sonically distinct from any indie track over the last year. Disregard the booming magnificence of Rohan’s vocals. Forget the anthemic choir that crescendos in the song’s uplifting chorus. For nothing other than the hope it will infallibly instil in you, it deserves your eyes and ears.