If it seems that Somesh Mathur is adopting a different message and different overall theme for each record, then his latest release Mother Maa shouldn’t come as a surprise. Somesh has come a long way over the last few years, at least since I was introduced to him through his 2018 album Time Stood Still with keyboardist Scott Kinsey. That incredibly original album, still part of my core rotation for demo tracks, combined an imaginative Indian songwriter using countless music backdrops including fusion, funk and psychedelic rock.
Somesh followed that album with A Promise Broken, a somber yet heartfelt account of the sadness in the world brought on by the pandemic and its casualties. It’s a serious album, with fewer Bollywood-style flights of fancy and more of a spiritual need for answers. Mother Maa, which refers to Mother India, has more of a “light at the end of the tunnel” vibe and an overall sound that seems to come right out of the ’70s. It’s optimistic but still a little weary.
That’s right–Mother Maa has a delightfully retro feel that’s evocative of a period we don’t normally consider as a whole: pop/rock in the late ’70s and early ’80s before punk changed everything. These are relaxing songs, mid-tempo, with enough keyboard flourishes to remind you of progressive rock after the Moogs washed up on the beaches. Early on in the album I sensed musical landscapes that reminded me of later Pink Floyd, maybe from Animals and Wish You Were Here, a period where Pink Floyd also started to adapt to a changing world of music. Then, on cue, Somesh includes two Pink Floyd covers, “Mother” and “Wish You Were Here,” and you realize it was all foreshadowing and he’s thinking about the same music as you were.
The difference here, of course, is BHARAAT, a musical genre and philosophy that Somesh Arthur supports. The idea of Mother India in this context is that it can be an enlightening filter to view all music, and that filer works both ways. By introducing the maternal themes in Mother Maa, you start to witness the genetic shifts. Hearing a sitar play on “Mother,” for example, seems as natural as it gets. It’s easy to hear the music slip in and slip back out, an equal trade, making you hear different songs and ideas on each listen.
Mother Maa doesn’t reveal this layers willingly at first, and you might be distracted from the pop influences. But Somesh Mathur is acting as the New Order of Indian pop/rock, sounding like one thing while talking about something else, something more deeply concerned with the human condition. I’m still digging into the layers here, and I’m sure I’ll discover more–which is how I love my music.