Mumbai-based funk-nu disco duo, Madboy Mink well known for their distinctly unique mash up of electro and funk with old school Harlem swing, consists of Imaad Shah (Bollywood actor Nasruddin Shah’s son) and Saba Azad. With scintillating live gigs at major festivals and soulful performances at underground parties, the duo present a pure and unpretentious love of music in their post-mod electro cabaret experience collection. The duo also incorporates live guitars, synthesizers, vocals and vocoders to create a sound of their own.
Verus Ferreira met musician turned director Imaad Shah at the stage presentation of The Three Penny Opera recently to know more about his music and his theatrical offering.
So before we go to your latest work in theatre, let’s rewind to where it all started.
Saba and I met during a play that we were in, Saba was directing and I was acting in and because of the play we ended up spending a lot of time together. We started discussing music and our musical influences. Back then I was producing a lot of my own solo stuff at my parent’s studio, and I had heard Saba’s voice, her voice struck me as really interesting. So I asked her to sing to one of my old solo songs and I really liked the way it sounded and before we knew it we were working together. Then we thought of making a band and so we started Madboy Mink.
How did the name Mad Boy Mink come about?
They are our two individual pet names. It’s just we’ve been using it as Mad Boy for many years, and infact we are going to put out an app very soon of Mad Boy. People don’t really call us that unless they are fans who don’t know our names then they call us Mad Boy Mink.
What influenced you to choose this genre of music that you are in right now?
This genre was actually a product of all stuff that we have done in the last couple of years, and it’s come from various sources, but in the end we like to think of it as our music. We want to create a sound which no one has ever done before. We are trying to create something which would come to be known the Mad Boy Mink sound of, and its work in progress. We have drawn from our musical influences to make something which is very ours.
Your second EP Delite. Can you tell us something about it?
It was the second EP as my solo act 'Madboy'. I did a tour around the country with it and it's been getting played and selling quite a bit online. The tour was pretty great too. It was an extension of the sound I've been working with as en electronic producer. This one was dreamy and explored slower hip hop inspired beats and lots of synthesizers and analog sounds. I wanted the songs to feel like daydreams and fantasies and to evoke a kind of sleepwalking, in between state.
To someone who has not heard your music, how would you label your sound?
I suppose there are various extensions of my sound. I like working with various styles, the Madboy/Mink stuff so far, has been in the direction of funk and electro, and now we're getting a lot more political with our songwriting too. The Madboy stuff has been more of a playground for me as a producer where I try my more dreamy, experimental stuff.
What do you feel is the reaction of the crowd to your music?
We think that they enjoy it, and we aren’t associated with EDM, we like to do more of electronic music, not the most banging EDM. Vastly live and vastly EDM too. We are striving to a sound which is more live and not very fashionable.
So now coming to theatre and your directorial work Threepenny Opera. Can you tell us something on how you came to take this project that is set in the Nazi era?
It isn't really set in the Nazi era, but it was a statement about the Germany and Berlin of the 20's, just before the rise of Fascism. It has many eerie similarities to the world we see around us today. I was first struck by the music of the play; it hit me in the gut when I first heard it. I've always been very passionate about this play and it's been high on my agenda to do this production for awhile, because it really speaks to me and rings true to the world I see around me.
The music in the play is influenced with jazz overtones. Did you work on the original music score for the play?
The music we have used is the original score by Kurt Weill. We did work on the arrangements a little, and the lyrics were reworked, but always with an eye towards staying true to the original. The original music gives me goose bumps always, so I would never try to mess with the genius of Kurt Weill. It was the early days of Jazz, when this music was written, so there definitely is that influence. It's dark, beautiful and very profound, jazz influenced, a little creepy, sexy and very passionate. The song writing is very skilled, so I thought of my responsibility as that of highlighting and making clear the original meaning and moods of the play.
What are the challenges you faced while working on this play?
The pressure of doing justice to this great play and its wonderful music was always a challenge. Working with a cast of 20 plus talented and energetic individuals was another. Both these challenges were also very much blessings. They are both also the reason I did this play in the first place. So while working day and night for months on end, closely with every single department of the production, low on sleep and rest, was difficult at times, it never felt like a day's work because I've always felt so strongly about this play and the material.
During the show it was announced that The Threepenny Opera is not an Opera, but a play. Your take on this?
The Threepenny Opera and The Beggar's Opera were both actually reactions to Opera, and to its elitism. At the time, Opera as a form was a big part of life, but only for the educated, genteel and wealthy sections of society. The thought behind this play was that if the beggars did an opera, what would that be like? Opera was rarely an art form that questioned status quo or gave birth to uncomfortable questions about society. This play turned that on its head completely. So while the music is in parts, operatic, and definitely Brecht used devices from the opera (like the appearance of the Deus Ex Machina) he always does them with tongue in cheek and creates farcical humour out of them by challenging conventions.
Actor, musician and now director. What role do you think fits you the best?
I'm definitely getting closer to where I want to be, and that is a director. Everything up to this point has been my own personal training towards this goal and for me, being a director is also about being many other things under that umbrella term. So my work as an actor and as a musician is indispensable to me as a director. I think this role definitely fits me best.
So back to Madboy Mink. Any musical collaboration in the last one year or so?
There's a remix I did, coming out in a week or so for a band called 'Bombay Black'. They're a legendary Bombay band, one of the earlier 'musician's collectives' from the city.