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Vidya Vox's new EP weaves stories of love, loss and redemption

Updated on: 15 May,2024 09:25 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shriram Iyengar |

With her latest EP exploring South Indian rhythms, language and life experiences, Vidya Iyer AKA Vidya Vox heals a difficult past and seeks inspiration through music

Vidya Vox's new EP weaves stories of love, loss and redemption

The latest EP by Vidya Iyer (above) also features the voices of Nikhita Gandhi and Rohith Jayaraman

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Vidya Vox's new EP weaves stories of love, loss and redemption

Familiarity in the unlikeliest of places can be a delight. It evokes a sense of belonging; the memory of an invisible bond that connects individuals. The first sound of the nadaswaram in the single Yazhiha by Vidya Iyer AKA Vidya Vox hit this writer with such an evocation. The wind instrument pops up in the track that marks the finale of the singer’s latest EP Sundari; a product of ‘healing and self-discovery’ as she puts it.

The six-track EP that was released on April 10 marks a return for the Los Angeles-based singer after her last major collection, Mad Dreams in 2019. She is quick to point out that she has been busy with releases in Thalaivi (2020) and more recently, Shubha mangalyam (2023) and Kakarattan (2023), albeit singles.

While many of her songs in the past, starting from her debut EP Kuthu Fire (2016), did have elements of empowerment and independence, they felt “Thalaivi was the first instance that was directly inspired by my grandmother. I took the pandemic to delve deeper into my past. I wanted my next record to be inspired by my mother,” she says.

The result is a compilation that is shaped by a deep emotional core. From the struggle of her mother’s domestic abuse, a divorce and successful rise as an independent parent and woman, the EP delves into some key moments. 

Iyer agrees, adding, “As an adult, I now understand how hard it must have been; the resilience she had to show for raising two girls in a country that was fairly new to her.” Then, came the matter of coming to terms with expressing it. “There was definitely a little bit of hesitation. But talking about that stuff was important. I had to remind people that I had grown up with it, and they have led to positive things. My melodies have been inspired by them. It [the EP] felt like peeling off a layer of the onion peel to get to the core,” she admits.  

The past also informs several elements of the music, such as the Tamil verses by lyricist Madhan Karky. “I wanted the lyrics to be mainly in my mother tongue, Tamil. We really pored over the words and went back and forth to find the right emotions,” Iyer recalls. This also carries into the music. Whether it is the mridangam in Ini ninte lokam/Go off, the thapattai in Sundari or the nadaswaram in Yazhiha, the music consciously sends out markers of the singer’s South Indian heritage. Of these, this writer is partial towards Yazhiha for its upbeat, vibrant blend of instrumentation and lyrics; a medley of Tamil rap with Carnatic classical elements. The other captivating track is the unapologetic, sassy Dangerous with Nikhita Gandhi adding to the attitude through elements of hip-hop. The tracks build up to a sense of rebellious independence and self-discovery. With Shankar Tucker bringing in his nous of production, the soundscape is vibrant and different to any of her past works.

“It was an intentional ordering of the songs, lyrical themes and transitions,” she reveals. It seems like a long journey from creating covers and mash-ups to diving into production. “It has been fascinating. I have been learning through the process,” she reveals.

The EP also feels like a release of pent-up emotions. “I need something lighter to work on for my next record,” she laughs. While she is already sampling disco bytes, Iyer shares that Sundari remains a core of herself as an artiste. “I think I have found my most authentic self as an artiste with this record. It contains elements of all the lessons I have learned through my journey, the musical ideas, stylistic elements, and emotions. I needed to experience all of it to arrive at this place,” she observes. But India is not far from her mind. “I hope to return to performing some of the songs live and connecting with people. Perhaps, later this year,” she concludes. That should be some homecoming.

Log on to: Sundari on Spotify; iTunes

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