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In Conversation: Suryakant Sawhney Doesn't Fit In A Box

New Delhi based artist Suryakant Sawhney, founder of Peter Cat Recording Co. and the artist behind LIFAFA, spoke to Strand about his upcoming projects and the future of music.

Photo credits: Graham Meyer

I am the kind of person who falls in love with one album and plays it on repeat for months. In February this year, I blasted Portrait Of A Time: 2010-2016 by Peter Cat Recording Co. on any speaker I got my hands on, may it be at theatre rehearsals or in the KCL Radio studio. It reminded me of home, of my dad's jazz collection, and of New Delhi's evolving EDM scene.

Formed by Suryakant Sawhney, PCRC breaks the rules with its jazzy-electronic sounds. You can’t pigeonhole this band. The genre-bending doesn't stop here. LIFAFA is his solo project where tracks sample Bollywood music with vocals in Urdu and Hindi, drawing a sketch of present-day India politically and musically. Reflecting on the political state of the country is a theme found in both the acts, one he is set to explore further in LIFAFA's new album Superpower 2020.


1) How did PCRC come to be? Do you feel having new collaborators keeps the writing and producing process interesting?

It's been a long journey to the current state of the band but there haven't really been planned replacements of personnel to keep it fresh. Think of it more like the evolution of an organism towards being its highest form.

Photo credits: Nitish Kanjilal

2) Which people, places, things inspire you or are currently inspiring you?

I feel my writing/music is most informed by life experiences, sometimes even imagined. I'm always looking for the deeper, universal truth under the hood in everything, be it the way leaves grow or the way dogs behave in cities. Human history and memories continue to fuel me.

3) Did you explore new artistic projects during lockdown?

I explored a lot less art and much more non "art" like setting up a house or cooking, even though one could technically call it all art. I became a huge fan of having a bowl of cereal in the morning.

4) How would you describe gigging in New Delhi? Do you feel audiences react differently when you play music with your band compared to your solo work?

Both audiences often crossover but I believe a lot of the people are coming out to see us doing what we do in the living flesh, and playing out their musical fantasies there with us. It is becoming more and more of a community-driven event, almost tribal.

5) Can you tell us a bit about Superpower 2020?

It is the next Lifafa album, due out anytime now. The artwork for me describes where the album is headed perfectly. The title reflects the false dream sold to the masses of India. The album is a tragedy.

6) What's the future of music? What is streaming and performing going to look like for you?

The future of music is the future of all of humanity. Maybe in 100 years, we'll look back and joke about how humans had to sit and actually create music by themselves for each other. We inch towards living a life of pure desire with everything handed to us, for the luckier ones anyway.

Streaming is a sham but perhaps all of it was already. I find it both exciting and scary that we have no idea how to fix the music industry but in the short term, we seem to be headed towards direct artist-to- listener connections which is lovely but we'll see if it's enough for an artist to survive, my guess is no. I'm really looking forward to performing again, it's the only thing which keeps reminding me why I do this.

Stream Peter Cat Recording Co.’s digital album Happy Holidays here. Superpower 2020 out soon.

Album cover by Aditiya Singh

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