French Chanson + Ancient Vedic Mantras + Britney Spears = Indie-Ya

Indie-Ya are a very promising Ukrainian quartet, formed in Kiev a couple of years ago. Their members are Katerina Rokova (above), Sergei Martynov, Nila Gopal, and Dmitrii Kirichok. Occasionally a fifth colleague is credited with backing vocals, Oleksandr Chemerov. Their list of credited influences goes a long way towards helping listeners anticipate the band's sound, especially given the preexisting connotations of their name, i.e. of all things Indian for European pop culture. Rokova and her fellow musicians express a particular fondness for the work of Yael Naim, Andy Dixon, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Jacques Brel... and a long list of other artists, which - apparently - is still "to be continued."

Many elements, styles, and traditions are used to form a happy melange.

Current Russian and Ukrainian news sources inform us that the group spent most of 2009 working on an album; in the meanwhile, we have the songs in this post as a kind of teaser. They consist both of collective Indie-Ya recordings and a couple of tracks that do more to showcase the talents of percussionist Nila Gopal.

In the band's own words, they first came together in order to "combine their love for Indian and French cultures. The group's [resulting] style can be described as indie-hop with a touch of the Indian Peninsula. To the music of that region we can add ancient Vedic mantras and various romantic texts, too, written in French by vocalist Katerina Rokova."

In their search for a middle ground between Punjab and Paris, the members of Indie-Ya employ all manner of traditional instruments: a sitar, a harmonium, tabla, mridangam, and karatalas, "together with Western tools." This second group of noise-making machines consists of guitars, synthesizers, a ukulele, and various metallophones. Recourse to samples and loops is also encouraged.

"The unique combination of instruments [and technology] has allowed the band to create a most distinct sound. Indie-Ya sing songs of love and break-ups, friendship and war, dreams and dreamers."

The unique combination of instruments [and technology] has allowed the band to create a most distinct sound. Indie-Ya sing songs of love and break-ups, friendship and war, dreams and dreamers.

That final pair of categories strikes a discordant note in a snowballing list of stereotypes. The polar opposites of love and war are, allegedly, as tragically distant as songs of dreams and those who compose them. Love and lack are placed in the same column. One senses, as a result, that an undercurrent of romantic irony will be present in the band's discography.

Even the foursome's name, in fact, echoes this same disparity. In Russian, when spoken out loud, it differs very little from the proper noun "India." Turned into a hyphenated, semi-anglicized version, though, that same name becomes a seeming juxtaposition of something "indie[pendent]" and "ya," which is the Russian first person pronoun. Two languages, two references, and two social states are used to create, simultaneously, images of isolation or remoteness and the world's biggest democracy! For all their spiritual kinship with Indian concepts of unity, therefore, the members of Indie-Ya carry with them a stubborn element of atomized Western society.

What results are songs of "love and break-ups" - stories of both blossoms and breakdowns.

As these complex works make the rounds of various webzines, it cannot be said that the group's name has gone down well; quite the opposite, in fact. The truncated adjective "indie" has been woefully overused already by other bands, fans, and forums. Nonetheless, that initial disappointment only increases the degree of pleasant surprise once the music sounds forth.

"The wide range of instruments adds a constant hint of something ethnic, maybe even shamanistic or psychedelic. The whole thing is rooted in aspects of twee-pop, acoustic rock, and some elements of French chanson... which only makes it even more pleasant to listen to!"

Especially under the stars.

Those words come courtesy of Indievid, who also note the kind of stylistically specific rhetoric used to showcase the quartet's new video for "L'Or" (offered below as audio). "The most important element of the band's activity is probably its naturalness. When we made the video for 'L'Or,' we avoided all special effects and clever set designs. There was only natural light, the sun-bleached grass, and some honest individuals who embody the most important feelings of all: love, sadness, and sympathy."

Once again an "inevitable" passage is sketched from our initial encounters with love, moving through their sad conclusion, and into a sense of shared, social consolation over all such lost objects (or individuals) of desire. "This is a song of love," says "Rokova. "It's a song about love... about the love we feel when we see our nearest and dearest lit up with happiness, or when we wish them all the best. Yet we suffer, too, whenever we have to leave them."

It's a song about love... about the love we feel when we see our nearest and dearest lit up with happiness, or when we wish them all the best. Yet we suffer, too, whenever we have to leave them.

Cupid, it seems, is blind to our hopes and desires.

At a recent concert, the band performed with an Indian film version of "Krishna and Sudama" projected onto a back wall. This is an ancient tale of two friends, one poor and the other wealthy. To cut a long story short, it revolves around some basic assumptions that patience, friendship, and humility will lead to great rewards. Journalists present at the gig remarked: "It seemed as if Indie-Ya's music would have been a wonderful soundtrack to that movie."

Based upon what we've seen and heard so far, though, the band doesn't share the sunny outlook of a Bollywood classic.

Perhaps some other songs from Indie-Ya's set-list will help to clarify the group's hesitant attitude towards romance? Their doubting spirit, albeit with a sly or self-deprecating smile, is probably heard with the greatest clarity whenever they turn - in their encores - to a cover version of the Britney Spears 2003 hit, "Toxic." It's hardly the jolliest view of love and devotion ever written. "It's gettin' late/ To give you up/ I took a sip/ From my devil's cup/ Slowly, it's taking over me..."

Despite the grim and disconcertingly fatalistic views here, Rokova has referred on stage to the track as "our song." It's a soundtrack to a troubled outlook on amour; such is the semisweet, often melancholy worldview of Indie-Ya. After all, the distance between Spears' "poison paradise" and the promise of Krishna is enough to give anybody a headache.


Indie-Ya – Dear Neighbours
Indie-Ya – Mon Amour
Indie-Ya – Tamaso

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