The Sound Cafe
A Conversation With Ajay Srivastav
Photography by: Rupesh Savani.
Stevie Connor chats with Ajay Srivastav for his latest Sound Cafe Podcast, they chat about Ajay's brand new album 'Powerless'.
You can listen to the entire interview and music HERE
Stevie Connor is an award winning musician, composer and producer based in Ontario Canada, he is the founder of The Sound Cafe Magazine and multi award winning Blues & Roots Radio. He has served as a Juror for the JUNO's, The Canadian Folk Music Awards and The Maple Blues Awards in a number of different categories over the years.
I just wanted to say my thing,” says Ajay Srivastav, of the motivation behind his fiery, spiritual and sublime second album, “Powerless”. “I was tired of listening to other people talking – I want to speak, and this is what I have to say. And I hope people understand where I’m coming from.”
His message arrives in the form of ten powerful, soulful, stirring songs that are the product of a crossfire hurricane of influences, drawing equally from the Mississippi Delta that sired the blues and the Varanasi Ghats where prayers, birth-rites and coming-of-age ceremonies are performed beside the Ganges. It’s an album where Ajay’s resonator guitar and glass slide channel the karmic thunder of Muddy Waters and Son House and the lithe grace of the sitar – but one where his aching, wise vocal sounds like no-one but himself. An album that’s unapologetically political, reflecting a turbulent era, but one that closes with a Sanskrit mantra aimed at delivering a much-needed peace of mind.
After discovering Muddy Waters’ “I’m A Man” It was the blues that inspired Ajay’s path into music, but the sounds of the elders felt “inaccessible” to him. British Blues Boom heroes like Keith Richards and Ray Davies inspired his own early forays into rock’n’roll.
But the course of Ajay’s fate has never followed a predictable path, and he has chased his muse in a myriad of directions, opportunities pulling him in unexpected directions. He replaced Nitin Sawhney in the ranks of legendary DJ and broadcaster Ritu’s world-music band The Asian Equation, touring the globe.
He wrote Asian-fusion songs in Hindi and spent some years swimming among the sharks in the shadier end of the Indian music industry, ending up with only disappointment. He’s fronted a 60s-style soul and funk revue playing Bollywood songs – the brilliantly named Botown – and displayed a gift for scoring musical theatre.
It was this last step in his charmed career that led to Ajay’s debut solo album, 2019’s critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Karmic Blues’ which topped the Amazon Blues Chart in 2019,
As momentum behind “Karmic Blues” grew, he began work on a new set of songs, looking forward to performing them across a packed slate of gigs planned for 2020. Well, we all know what happened next. But as the pandemic kept Ajay locked down, the enforced pause – along with the seismic political upheavals of recent years – set these fresh tracks fermenting, and a new sense of direction overtook him.
“I wanted to have a positive message on the new album, to be spiritual but bluesy,” he says. “I have a lot of hope, a lot of love.” But as the year wore on, with the lockdown, the political upheavals and the summer of Black Lives Matter took shape, so did the theme of his second album, “Powerless”. “The first album was beautiful and positive, but I’m going in heavy with this one. What’s going on in the world played heavy on my mind. The world is divided, I’m anxious and upset.”
The title track is the album’s emotional and philosophical anchor. “Powerlessness, for me, is not being able to hit back at whoever has knocked you down. So, we knock someone weaker than ourselves down. We’re seeing that all over the place.” It’s an album beset with images of war, of struggle, of injustice. But it’s also an album possessed by an indefatigable sense of optimism, in how it distils the anguish into beautiful, uplifting, righteous blues fusion music, and tales of triumph against those forbidding odds. Music that’s unabashed in its spiritual essence (the beautiful interplay of violin, tabla and guitar on Holy Mother) and its feeling for joy (Golden, which sounds like Chuck Berry navigating his giddy way across the Indian subcontinent, whispering “We are golden because we’re alive”).
“The album opens with The Line, which is all about the polarized times we live in” Ajay explains. “And it closes with Shanti, this Sanskrit mantra for peace of mind. Inner peace and inner strength are what this album is ultimately about, because if you’re sorted on the inside, the chaos of the outside world can’t get you.” And with its soulful, healing properties, its irresistible musical uplift and songs that are timeless and universal, there is little that will sort out your inner peace than some hours spent in the company of “Powerless”.
There’s something indefinable but very special about Powerless that makes it irresistible.
Ajay is committed to his own vision and his forthcoming fiery, spiritual and sublime second album, ‘Powerless’, is perfect for these turbulent times.
The album is available on all digital platforms and can also be bought at www.ajayhq.com
You can listen to the entire interview and music HERE
Photography by: Rupesh Savani | Design: TheUnloved.co.uk
Jul 20th: Brent Libraries Online
Jul 24th: Celebrate, Camberley
Jul 27th: Acoustic Couch, Bracknell
Aug 7th: Slapton Music Festival
Aug 21st: Weyfest, Surrey
Sept 11th: Norden Farm Centre for Arts
Sept 18th: Leconfield Hall, Petworth
Oct 16th: Printers Playhouse, Eastbourne
Dec 12th: Saltburn Blues Club