Amal Jose, who formed the band with guitarist Vishnu Das, talks of the story behind 'Benhur', the first EP of the band.

Vishnu with a ukulele and Amal stand against the morning sunVishnu (left) and Amal
Features Music Sunday, January 03, 2021 - 19:44

The songs kept piling. Something made Amal Jose write them, one after the other, and then give music to them. But they never got released until a time when things undone so far had to be done. COVID-19 finally made him dust out the songs, some of them written years ago, call his guitarist companion Vishnu Das and bring out an EP (Extended Play – a mini album of songs) called Benhur under the name Benhurmusic.

“That’s just a name I liked,” says Amal, the Kochi-based vocalist and songwriter of Benhurmusic, laughing between his sentences. In November, the band brought out the video of ‘Flower Child’, a song about children, coinciding with Children’s Day. Another video they did is of the song ‘By The River’, on relationships. “It can be anything depending on the mood you are in when you write the song,” Amal says.

His voice gives no hint of the baritone it will assume when he sings. A feature on Rolling Stone India made note of the deep voice. Amal gives credit to the many voice-overs he had done early on, when he began as a 12th grader, trying his luck in the music field. There were jingles and voice-overs, done for commercials. “I have done my bit of voice modulations,” he says.

There are also the ‘influences’, he says offhandedly, thinking about voices he loved listening to. Bon Iver, Janis Jopin, Billy Joel and at last he names the master of baritone, Leonard Cohen.

Growing up in Kochi, attending Carnatic lessons reluctantly as a schoolchild, Amal discovered western music in his teen years. Someone had gifted him CDs of Michael Jackson and Linkin Park, and that was the beginning. After listening to more and more genres, Amal felt the need to write songs of his own. Those are the songs that began to pile up on his desk, from high school days. Keeping them aside, he went out to perform covers with bands at cafes and pubs in Kochi but that stopped when college began.

He did his college long distance, a degree in Philosophy. That helped, Amal says, in his writing. The earlier naivety faded in songs.

“In my final year of Degree, my younger brother Vimal, who was then in Class 12, said he wanted to do filmmaking. Our father has been supportive of our dreams and Vimal and I began a production house called Hippie Films. Vimal shot our music videos, apart from those of our clients,” Amal says.

The songs fall into the easily likeable indie folk genre. ‘Runaway’ and ‘Dancing Chair’ are the other two songs in the EP. 

Listen to Benhurmusic here.

Watch: Flowerchild by Benhurmusic

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