This is not a typical article about Tienas and his music. We know that side of him, pretty much, or not really! In this TFword exclusive, Pratika goes deep into a day in Tienas’ life, the struggling indie musician he is, his simple lifestyle and everyday routine. She wanted to understand what makes him tick, how he works on music, and the diversity in genres he has explored as a musician. Tienas is NOT JUST A RAPPER.
11.13am: I wake up and look at my phone. As soon as I do, I get a notification saying, “Pratika bro aaj ka cancel karte thoda shot ho gaya hai” (translates to Pratika, bro, let’s cancel today’s session, there’s a bit of a scene). I, waiting to meet Bobby a.k.a Tienas, whose real name is actually Tanmay Saxena (T n S, get it?), went for a toss that day. We’d meant to make some music since the lockdown. Disappointed, I dragged myself out of bed and told Specter and Quest, both part of Mumbai hip-hop collective FTS, that plans are canned for now.
11.15am: I expressed my disappointment because, after a couple of weeks of back and forth, we had finally come to a consensus on a date to meet. Our schedules have had ups and downs since the lockdown was imposed, so I was prepped for this one. I then came to understand Bobby was recording some local rappers, and it is one of the main things he does to earn for daily kharcha (expenses).
3.34pm: Bobby messaged, asking if I could come over. I agreed since I was planning to head over at that time anyway. So I got ready and left for his place.
5.32pm: I’ve entered Bobby’s house, and his lovely mom greets me, saying, “Darling, the ACs not working in that room right now, would you mind?” I politely nodded and said it was okay. I don’t have an AC at home, so it made no difference to me. When I stepped into Bobby’s room, it was packed with Nuke, Specter, Rayson4 7 (all members of FTS), Tienas, and their friend Sharan. Two quarter-liter bottles of Old Monk mixed in Coca Cola were lying in two corners of the room, bidis lit.
They all seemed to be in dismay because they were trying to understand why the microphone, cable, or audio interface stopped working mid-recording. “The gain’s too high, there’s too much white noise.”, trying to adjust the cable and test the mic on the 2i2. Meanwhile, the local electrician has asked us to clear the room so he can fix the AC, but we just adjusted and floated around the room to make space for him.
6.15pm: Fully frustrated and unable to understand the problem, I merely suggested we could consider removing the cable and untangling it because it had probably gone into a tangled loop since it entered his house. While I began straightening the cable, Bobby’s mom helped with tying the cable using a rumaal (handkerchief), so it would stay that way. We tried plugging it in after that, again to no positive result. So we grabbed some stuff and went to the terrace to talk, just wait for the AC dude to finish. Sharan had left with Nuke by then.
6.38pm: We’ve climbed three floors to the top of the building terrace, where enthusiastic aunties in their traditional kurta pajama and sports shoes were amid a fitness parade, storming up and down the terrace. We walked past them and climbed to the top of the water storage tank on a lanky iron ladder. I was so sure it would give way if I landed both my feet on it, but the goal was to go there. The terrace was important to Bobby and FTS. You will find silhouettes and shots from his terrace in Tienas and FTS videos. Overlooking the railway line from Santacruz West, we discussed life, hip hop, and what it means to different people. All while an aunty in the building was staring up at the densely cloudy skies in the hope of finding the first day of the waxing crescent moon, a symbol of wishes, intentions, and hopes. But looking in our direction wasn’t gonna help that evening. *giggles* With two bidis and another round of conversation done, we made our way to Bobby’s ground floor apartment.
7.32pm: After two phone calls to Specter’s phone, Bobby’s mom questioned why it took us so long to come downstairs when the AC was fixed an hour ago. We expressed our love for conversations, and aunty dearest exited the room. Let me remind you, aunty used to head and conduct an orchestra band, the ones that play Indian functions like birthday parties, weddings, and sometimes even funerals. She is a badass in the true sense of the term, displaying confidence like few other moms in Indian households.
I looked around. The AC had begun again. I nudged Bobby to try the recording now. Maybe it was all the humidity in the room. Many sips down, along with the mini-party on the terrace, I was hit! And to our good luck, the audio interface started working! We yelled in excitement and thought, let’s play some beats we can all fuck with.
I knew the bugger had a nasty collection of beats lying around. For his first album, he’d probably sent Mo (Managing Partner at Azadi Records, Tienas’ record label) around 50 songs, which were then narrowed down to 13 for his debut album O (read letter O from the alphabet, not zero), released in June 2019. But today, two albums and 7 singles/features later, he had not less than 150+ tracks lying around in his computer. All weren’t his; some credit would have to go to the other producers in FTS. Bobby started polishing his mixing skills more than ever. Every track sounded massive. I was blown away by the amount of well-produced tracks they had. Some had vocals, others were in a phase of contemplation. Specter, sitting in one corner of the room, pulled out a couple of poems he’d written and started reciting them.
“You wanna fuck with this?” Bobby asked me. I removed a pen, and a book immediately took the poem from Specy and wrote a hook in a minute. I just vibed with the song so much. Specy immediately stepped in after my harmonies were done, recorded two versions, both in one take. A few minutes later, Rayson4 7 recorded some adlibs and vocals on the other end of Specy’s verse. One of the RA TA TAs is really hard to get over! “Dude make her listen to that track na.” said an eager Specter, a.k.a Abhijit Nair (apologies for late introductions). Rayson4 7 a.k.a Aadesh Bankar, was a rather quiet guy, composed and observing the room more than anything. The song will be ready when Nuke’s verse is added to it and will be released later this year on a split tape.
Back to Bobby. Did anyone ever tell you about Bobby and Bob Dylan? If there’s someone Bobby idolizes the most outside of hip hop, it’s Dylan. He even picked up the guitar sometime last year, which was good to know. I wasn’t new to Bobby’s melancholic songs with English and Hindi vocals. The songwriting is influenced by Dylan, who he holds in very high regard. He’s also sent me a random retro track that sounded beautiful. A couple of times, I myself have tried to give him some music to listen to – primarily rock artists. He’s been awestruck by Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun for a few weeks now, and I’m glad he got to hear a band from the 90s, with the late Chris Cornell belting on most songs.
While sifting through tracks, Bobby’s other influences began to creep in. “Will you sing on this punk track?” playing a heavy-ish upbeat Liam Gallagher inspired song. I mouthed parts with nonsense syllables. I think more than any intoxication, I was ODing on the tracks playing one after another.
10.17pm: We then stopped and decided to wrap the session up. Bobby seemed tired from recordings earlier in the day, so it was only wise to do so. We headed up to the terrace for send-off smokes and left soon after.
Every experience around Bobby only gives you insight into what a genius he is. I think he should put all his music out there. I want to hear the hip hop bangers, the sad singer-songwriter tunes, the punk rock tracks, the occasional retro-pop fascinations, and the beautiful singing hooks orchestrated to sound like a choir. But then that’s me.
Fuck all the people who thought Bobby could never do it. He was dissed as a kid with a stammer, and teachers would call him a bluff for not speaking properly because he could sing and rap flawlessly. It’s like a light shines on the talent in him, and there’s no stopping him.
So please, the next time you call Bobby a rapper, read this article again! Expect a lot from Tienas and FTS in the next three months.