The Indore-bred, Mumbai-based singer-songwriter crafts a nostalgic and charmingly minimal debut album ‘Saar’
As far as Hindi singer-songwriters go, Osho Jain has had a trajectory of his own, skyrocketing in streams thanks to emotive yet sparse songs like “Khush To Hai Na” in 2019 and “Khud Se,” off his debut EP Wahaan last year. At the center of his debut full-length album Saar is poetry and crafting a soundtrack to one’s life.
‘Saar’ translates to “gist” or “conclusion” in this context, according to Jain. “As a kid, if I ever felt like my life needed a soundtrack, I would latch on to songs I loved. This album has a lot of emotions that way, especially about transitions, or obsessions. It has everything,” he says over a video call. The nine-track album features five duets (four with go-to singer-songwriter Sanchi Mannotra and the tongue-in-cheek closing song “Pyaare” with Pulkit Jain), and two spoken-word poetry pieces aided by atmospheric production.
The songs range from a couple of years in existence to being stage-tested to ones written during Jain’s travels through Bir in Himachal Pradesh earlier this year. “As soon as I started recording, I felt like doing an album. It was a very intense decision because it’s a lot to take on. It got very tiring until the very end. It’s more difficult because you’re attached to each and every song,” Jain says.
The playfully-paced “Mazhab Hai,” for example, had its origin in a demo that Jain had posted as an Instagram story about three years ago. He adds, “When I was looking for songs for the album, I thought, ‘Yeh bhi toh gaana hai.’” Jain likens it to a soundtrack to lovemaking, but also puts forward an ever-relevant message of “Woh Ishq hi mera mazhab hai.” He explains, “Love should be the actual religion. It’s what I believe.”
Jain counts that line among his favorites on the album, along with “Bohot Hua,” presented with heavy foreboding. He adds, “It’s a phrase used so often but never heard a song about it in that way of putting out frustrations.” There’s a language of intimacy that the singer-songwriter and producer perfects both lyrically and sonically. “Tu Aisa Kaise Hai” with Sanchi perfectly encapsulates that, Jain adding distinct baritone vocals. The old-world charms of vinyl and tape sounds present themselves on “Kya Dekhu” as well, while “Likhta Hu” employs a fire crackling in the background. “People ask me how do I write? It’s a weird question. I write because I can’t tell you what I’m feeling. I always thought of answering this question. It’s in one take, a sort of recitation,” Jain says about the spoken-word piece.
The minimalist producer-meets-poet approach is heightened on “Sheher Me,” an unsettling, stark story of urban living in India. As someone who moved from Indore to Mumbai (and went back to Indore once the pandemic hit), Jain philosophizes, underpinning layers of vocals with tempestuous ambient elements. It could have some heavy grandiose prog translations on stage, according to the artist.
“Poetry is where I come from; it’s my city, it’s my roots,” Jain says. Even when he wants to be lighthearted, the singer-songwriter takes the shayari-like route on “Pyaare,” the closing track about alcohol and two-facedness. All in all, Saar covers love, life and nostalgia. There’s an air of whimsy to “Pyaare” but also a sense of cinematic storytelling which Jain says lends itself to being produced as a musical, if the opportunity arose.
For now, Jain is back on the live circuit after performing virtual concerts throughout the lockdown months. The full band will head out on tour by the end of the year and through the first quarter of 2022 to promote Saar. Part of erstwhile Mumbai-based folk-fusion band Aankh Micholi, Jain has been on stage and focused on studio work for about a decade now. “My set is very interactive, it’s very candid–I recite poetry,” Jain says.
There are also at least five music videos coming up, starting with “Kya Dekhu” out on November 20th.
Listen to ‘Saar’ below. Stream on more platforms here.