They are willing to work hard, build bridges and are wholly open to learning.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, at least in India, and at least with those around me, is no one has been more busy during the lockdown than the Zoomers. My observations don’t come from what I read, hear or notice from a distance, but because I have a brother who belongs to this generation. And it’s a rare pleasure to have a sibling born not in the next generation, but the one after that. While a thirty-year age gap can make one a parent-figure, it doesn’t make one an actual parent. The relationship is still that of a sibling, but with a world of a difference. First, one has got to keep up with them. Often dubbed the first true digital natives, many see Gen Z as consistently glued to their phones and unable to focus.
But I invite you to inspect closely.
The oldest Zoomers were born when the digital era was already commonplace. They were just a couple of years old when broadband took over the nation, and by the time they came of age, the first iPhone had already launched. They are master-multitaskers who can play a game, watch someone else play a different game, listen to simultaneous unrelated commentary and possibly write a blog post about the entire affair. In fact, I'd go as far as to say, they're better at grasping the complex endeavours of the day. Even today, I struggle to get some of the older generations (not that old, many in their 40s) to switch from MS Word to Google Docs, which is essentially the same thing. Just can't do it.
There are always going to be drawbacks, like for example, mental health-related issues. Loneliness and isolation are the first that come to mind, but in this post I am going to focus on the plethora of positives because they can work on everything else with a little help and guidance from older generations. Plus, according to the findings of John Protzko, a postdoctoral scholar from the University of California, Santa Barbara, they are better at delaying gratification, which has been shown to be “associated with positive life outcomes decades later". If true, shouldn't we all be glad?
This brings me to our artist this week, Mayur Koli, and his collaborators on their EP Unspoken.
In the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of long telephone conversations with a bunch of Gen Z musicians and I’ve grown quite impressed with their outlooks, in particular with their views about the past and the future, and what they intend to do with their lives. Just last evening, to get this wonderful story from our new entrant into the world of music, we spoke on phone and texted for at least a couple of hours.
Mayur has just released his debut EP, in which he delves into his past, incidents that still haunt him, how he’s dealing with them and finding eventual closure. What fascinated me was the practicality with which Mayur views stuff at the age of 21. Though quite aware of ground realities, and not overly optimistic about the future or relationships, he and his peers welcome collaborations. Artists like Mayur seem more likely to promote other artists that contribute to their music as much as themselves, if not more. They’re not shy of admitting their mistakes and taking ownership of their actions than any generation before them. In this EP, he has the support of five other artists (In fact, each track features a different one), each of them not only identifying with his story but also offering unwavering support in life.
Mayur and gang know the value of sharing in the digital world. I often call out older folk for not quite grasping how the online world works, especially when they expect their peers to like, share, comment and subscribe to their efforts but won’t return the favour when they’re asked to. How many such WhatsApp-related efforts do we get daily? Of uncles and aunties launching new and sure-to-fail digital businesses who would never do the same for you.
Mayur is humble, grateful for the lack of a better word.
“I don’t want to be famous and I don’t want to be famous alone,” Mayur shoots back, “One day I will have to do what I can to feed myself, but until then I don’t want the baggage, I don’t want fakeness,”
Many Zoomers I've noticed, especially in the case of my little brother and his friends, are actually quite good with making others feel comfortable around them. They may not always put their consoles aside for you (or even look at you), but if you want to join them, they will include you right away! This is echoed by his collaborator and singer, Harsh Vaibhav, all of nineteen and currently an engineering student all the way in Vellore.
“Honestly, I was petrified when Mayur approached me because I’d never really been part of a project this big. He made things so convenient for me, big props to him for that.”
The EP took around four months to realise, and in this time Mayur had organised everything from his laptop. He’d been a musician for a mere two years, playing rhythm and bass guitar for his college band and learned to compose/produce music only during the lockdown (Bringing me back to my point about Zoomers using their time well, instead of indulging in misguided online rants and social media lynches).
“Social media badi toxic cheez hai, but what to do, hypocrisy ka kuch nahi ho sakta,”
He has channeled all his questions into the album and its five songs, each of which narrates a story in his life. Helping him tell his story are Harsh Vaibhav, Trisha Gaitonde, Anoushka Sivasankar, J and Dwain Willis, the former three recording their parts from homes with a condenser microphone. In fact, Mayur had to courier the mic to Harsh, who was in a different city. For this effort, I am going to say - may their tribe increase!
The story begins with the self-titled introductory track Unspoken, a conversation between two friends about Mayur having disappeared from their lives and into the world of heavy metal music. Mayur tells me that this happened at quite an early age, a genre of music and the lifestyle of it he still feels he’s judged about. It’s raw and real. While perfectly mixed and mastered by Hanish Taneja, one of Mumbai’s finest audio engineers, there’s a certain irreplicable honesty in the way they speak to each other, the way young Mumbaikars speak today. What I most appreciate about these youngsters is that they’ve stuck to their authentic Indian accents for most of it. So impressed was I with the diversity of styles and voices, and I must admit, though I’m not a big fan of genre (Barring, maybe, the late Lil Peep, XXXTentacion and Juice WRLD, who I suspect will be remembered for decades to come), that I listened to this EP three times over.
Harsh, who recorded the second track, House of Cards, has a clean presence reminiscent of R&B artists in the 90s. “When I sat down to write House of cards, all I knew was that the theme was heartbreak and dishonesty, and so I envisioned a round table, 2 chairs diametrically opposite and a flaming house of cards on the table. Hence, lyrics like ‘One breath away from falling out’, ‘Each one a clown, no card of hearts’, ’2 cards on top, but only one crown’ etc are all puns for a House of Cards.”
Heartfelt, the third track featuring Trisha Gaitonde and J is more in line with the quintessential trap style we’re all familiar with but, man, is the background track haunting. If Trisha’s vocals don’t find a place in our hearts, I don’t know what will. J’s rapping style reminds me of something someone recently told me - Forget K-Pop, we need I-Pop. It’s time that Indian singers in English gain international recognition for their own unique styles and colloquialisms.
A nice surprise was the interlude (a pleasant touch with a reminder message from Mayur to be who you are). It’s apparent that there is not one insincere bone in this young man’s body. Also, it’s mighty brave an act to put oneself out there.
The reason I see so many Gen X-ers, like myself, able to converse better with Zoomers than any other generation is that Zoomers, like Gen X, prefer the simplicity of the past even in the complex digital world. In fact, many I’ve spoken to share my nostalgia even though they weren’t born then, much like younger Gen X-ers who recall Page and Plant like they knew them personally. Within a minute of my mentioning how in my time all we did was sit at a chai tapri for six hours after college singing Guns ’N Roses and doing nothing significant with our lives, Mayur remarked, “Woh best life thi bro... Bohat sahi time tha aap logon ka... So basically I’m a Led Zeppelin person in a Lil Pump generation. I tried electronic because experiment karna tha”.
Mayur’s generation seems more likely to question themselves than the world around them (Maybe sometimes a bit too much), but a breath of fresh air in today’s world, what with the self-importance of the generation whizzing by, who can’t seem to separate themselves from the ‘entitled’ tag. Gen Z, in my experience, has been more accepting, more liberal in their outlook, and definitely more likely to praise their peers on a collaborative effort. A sentiment expressed by Anoushka Sivasankar;
“Mayur’s my senior in college and we’ve performed together for so many intercollegiate and commercial projects. I was super excited when Mayur asked me to be a part of Unspoken. He’s always been so passionate and hardworking, and I knew that this would be an exceptional experience. We worked on ‘Last Time’ together, and the idea for the chorus was something that instantly struck me when I first heard the track.”
In the lyrically astute fourth track, Closure, Dwain Willis immediately brings to mind XXXTentacion’s Sad. If anything, I’m grateful that XXXTentacion and Lil Peep left us with lyrics that entirely took away the foul taste in our mouths from the 2000s. I’d, in particular, refer readers to Life is Beautiful. Quality lyrical content that hooks you from the word go.
Anoushka Sivasankar, who ends the EP with the single Last Time blows us away. ‘Nuff said. She’s a singer who needs to be discovered by the top 100s TODAY.
“There was something about it that was so raw, deep, and heartfelt, that instantly drew me to it,” Sivasankar adds, “The first draft of this song, in fact, was a very different one in terms of its concept, and we eventually found our way to this final one after a few more versions. This process was such a great one, because Mayur was so open to different approaches, and patient, as we tried different things out. Overall, the primary goal was to just have music that’s sung and produced from the heart and strikes a chord with its listeners. And Mayur’s done that the best. It’s a brilliant EP, all the other artists have performed phenomenally well, and of course, Mayur’s conceptualisation and execution is just impeccable. It was an absolute honour to be on-board!”
Rapper J, echoes the sentiment, “It was great! I could relate to every word Mayur wanted to convey. It’s why I could bring what I did to the table.”
Our conversation ended with Mayur telling me, “I don’t want to make commercial music, I want listeners to first care about my story and self expression. I want to stay true to my roots, whatever they may be.”
Mayur, like many from my generation, doesn’t feel the need to speak out of turn, ‘educate’ or ‘change the world’. He says everything he has to in his music. He admits that he isn’t the most social person, but with collaborations, he is all open. “Abhi EP ke liye collaboration and dusri cheezo ke liye I have opened myself logo se baat karne ke liye, Because mein jab tak express nahi karunga mujhey kya karna hai log samjhege nahi and kaam hoga nahi,”
My takeaway from all this - A sweet generation in an otherwise shitty world.
Once the lockdown is over, he plans to make music videos for all the tracks in the same vein of them being part of a continuous story. This is something we at Flipsyde are really looking forward to!