Sabu addresses a generation obsessed with maximizing self-optimization

Jessica Kilbane

Mumbai-native Andrew Sabu has yet to pop up on the wider public's consciousness, but has been quietly building a following within indie music's inner circles. He's the co-founder of  house gig property LVNG and a crucial part of the Bengaluru music label RECK. He's also managed artists such as Arunachalese fingerstyle guitarist Taba Chake. As a singer-songwriter, he goes by his last name, and launched his debut EP late last year.

Sabu recently released a music video for his song Rest, which speaks of mental health issues and the slow process of recovery. Lyrically and visually, he communicates that it’s okay to take a step back. It’s okay to lie low and do what is required for one’s mental peace. The singer-songwriter believes that it's important to make this pandemic less of a productivity competition, as it has grown to become across the media.

The video was shot by Gorkey Photowala and Prateek Verma at Photowala’s home in New Delhi. It was edited by Sohan Ray, during lockdown, with the rest of the team co-ordinating remotely. The protagonist of the video is the caretaker of a house and the video portrays his daily routine – encapsulating the importance of living a slow, balanced life instead of a fast-paced, overwhelming one.

Rest talks about spending time with oneself and taking the time to reflect. The message is relevant now more than ever as we are faced with the challenges of a pandemic, and world over, people are forced to stay away from the ones they love and their normal, everyday lives. “The point is to be able to give the listener time and space to themselves," says the musician.

Could you tell us a bit about how you got involved in the music industry?

I didn’t initially know that I’d be this involved in the music industry, honestly. I started out by wanting to be a producer for film and began my journey at music school. At the end of my course, I started writing songs and performing them. I eventually realized that I'd have to do a lot more than the norm if I was to even survive in this space, financially or otherwise.

That’s where RECK comes in. With LVNG, we curated gigs for artists in private living rooms across the country and that initially helped me build an organic fan following. In fact, when there were delays in set-up or something, I'd kick off the night with a short, ten-minute acoustic set. We eventually ended up building a music festival in Bangalore called the sxene and managed a couple of artists as well. Of course, personally there was a lot of financial difficulty, but somehow I managed to sail through - my supportive family is to take full credit for that. I'd be nowhere without them.

You’ve needed to hustle quite a bit. How does the message that Rest sends – that balance and recovery are essential – fit in?

You will always need to hustle in life. That never changes for anybody. Everybody’s hustle is different, but it shouldn't come at the cost of your health, otherwise one day your mind and body will face the consequences.

Sometimes you also just have to take a back seat and not be hell-bent on moving forward in life. Sometimes it's okay to take a step back or temporarily dwell in the present.

Why do you think it’s important that people, not just people in creative industries, re-think their ideas about productivity?

Productivity that results in happiness is true productivity. Productivity for the sake of validation is counter-productive. The latter ends up hampering your personal growth.

Do you think that lowering the expectations we place on ourselves is a sign of giving up, or is it closer to pragmatism?

It's best to not have any expectations at all. But that does not mean you shouldn’t set measurable goals for yourself. Those are two completely different things. The former will help you let go of any pent-up pressure you feel to live up to something.

What was your favorite part about working with Gorkey Photowala and Prateek Verma?

Despite the lockdown, Gorkey and Prateek were super smooth to work with from day one. We had a WhatsApp group and would regularly video call to communicate. They are immensely talented and genuine people and I’m glad I got to work with them.

How do you stay creative in ways that don’t lead to “output”?

By reminding myself that I absolutely enjoy doing this in the first place.

Images by Ronit Sarkar and RECK.

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