At the risk of being overdramatic, let’s start from what makes certain pieces of art resonate with people. The answer: no one really knows. And that is a good thing because if we did, all works of art would be reduced to a single formula, essentially sterilising the medium and hence defeating the purpose – thus creating a paradox. But that doesn’t mean every once in a while we shouldn’t take a stab at it. The Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Osho Jain’s debut EP Wahaan impales the concept with incredibly understated precision. Osho, originally from Indore, represents a unique form of expression. He is outspoken and expressive, yet has the ability to be vulnerable without being sappy. Many try to tread this wafer-thin line and seldom succeed. Yet, Osho seems to thrive in this mythical Neverland and this gift of his shines in spades throughout the EP.
The length of this project is 15 minutes and consists five tracks. The majority of the instrumentation is acoustic. Osho uses the ukelele, acoustic guitar and throws some subtle keys to the mix here and there. From the lyricism to the instrumentation to the production, there are zero bells and whistles. What stands out from the very first moments of the EP is Osho’s incredible baritone. His voice is clear, crisp and rock-solid but also conveys an underlying sense of emotional wreckage that bears the burden of the heavy themes of the album. His extraordinary lyricism is closer to spoken word poetry than anything else. His style is reminiscent of legends of Hindi poetry like Harivanshrai Bacchan. There isn’t an ounce of fabrication or pretentiousness in his writing. The five tracks tackle themes of love, loss, remembrance and human connection without mincing words. Themes that writers have pondered over for generations, Osho condenses them to 15 minutes of unadulterated vulnerability straight from his soul.
Even with the weight of all these themes, Osho does not stray away from creating enjoyable, catchy tunes. He goes into every track with solid fundamentals: to convey his message but also to create memorable melodies. The bright, shimmering tone of the tracks all come with an underbelly of pain and melancholia. Take the track, ‘Khud Se’. We get great harmonies and a catchy tun,e but upon closer inspection, the sad undertones are revealed. The lyrics tackle his qualms with loneliness with well written and cutting verses. The production of the track serves his voice and the minimalism perfectly. Osho also has a way with words and metaphors like on the track ‘Hichkiyaa’. The track is perhaps the most clearly melancholic cut on the EP with its sombre, low key instrumentation. He talks about the essence of his speech and voice being lost or blocked due to hiccups. The lyrics are heart-wrenching and incredibly poignant. What is even more awe-inspiring is the fact that the song contains only two verses and clocks in at just over a minute long!
He uses the concept of money as a gateway to ask questions about the relevance of human connections on the opener, ‘Paisa’. The lyrics reflect a childlike wonder as he questions the various aspects of life that are touched or influenced by money in some way. How important is our lust for wealth? Is it really above human connections and things that really matter to us?
Osho’s usage of the ukelele in the EP is extremely effective. ‘Har Baar’ is the most upbeat and energetic song on the EP with its marching melody and larger than life harmonies. It talks about how love is a double edge sword that can cause immense pain as well as bring a lot of joy. The lines alternate between him talking about how he is done with love and also how he desires it more than anything else.
On the final track, ‘Door Na Jaana Ji’, Osho creates a haunting atmosphere with just a ukelele, a tambourine and background vocals. The lyrics talk about his fears of being forgotten and abandoned. All he wants to do is to leave behind a solid legacy regardless of storms or natural calamities that may erode the remnants of his memory.
On Wahaan, Osho emerges as songwriting powerhouse. The EP is an example of how you don’t need to be flamboyant with your art in order for it to have an impact on the listener. All you need is an acoustic instrument, a piece of paper and authenticity to capture somebody’s soul.