How A Breakup Inspired Mali’s New Song ‘Ashes’

The track is the Mumbai-based singer-songwriter’s first release since her 2021 debut album ‘Caution to the Wind’

David Britto
Nov 25, 2022

Chennai-bred singer-songwriter Maalavika Manoj aka Mali. Photo: Stefan Sappert

Last year, Chennai-bred and Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Maalavika Manoj aka Mali released her eight-track full-length debut album Caution to the Wind. The release sealed the musician’s reputation as one of the prominent singer-songwriters in the country as she also bagged a spot on Forbes India’s 30 Under 30 list for 2021 and even graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar India’s October-November 2022 issue. Although Mali has been regular with releases since 2016, she’s recently had her longest dry spell without sharing any fresh material. The answers for not dropping new music are heard within the artist’s just-released melancholic yet lush and uplifting track called “Ashes.”

Mali says, “I had actually written the song before Caution to the Wind was out. There was a lot going on then and my objective was to see the album release through despite it. I’d made a demo which I sat on for a while and then we fleshed the whole song out just a few weeks ago in a day’s time.”

Produced by Aria Nanji, the track also includes breathy guitar parts from Jishnu Guha aka Short Round and delicate cymbal playing by Jehangir Jehangir (of ska outfit The Fanculos). On her part, Mali handles synths and piano duties as her poignant vocals standout throughout the track. Lyrically, the singer-songwriter has penned some of her most heartfelt lyrics, such as, “Can’t stand the sight of my reflection anymore/A walking callous numb from skin to the core/Hope you’re happier now than you were last year/Now the flames put out and I have only ashes to inhale.”

While listening to the track, one can feel the emotion Mali portrays through her songwriting that stems from a real and honest place. Talking about the track, she says, “The song is about a very difficult breakup I went through two years ago. After it happened, there was a period of time where we refrained from speaking to each other so we could heal.” Mali adds, “It was during this time I felt an immense connection with my ex because it felt as if we were both sharing an experience except that we were apart. The song is really an open letter to him, asking how it’s going and explaining how things are on my side.”

An upcoming music video for the song, which has been shot at a castle constructed in the year 1149 in Klam, Austria will be released in the first week of December. The clip — filmed and directed by Fabian Uitz — is set to feature Mali performing the track in a single take as she walks through the castle’s corridors and rooms. With more releases lined up from the singer-songwriter in the coming months, Mali is also gearing up to hit the big festival stage at the first edition of Lollapalooza India in Mumbai in January 2023.

Stream “Ashes” on Spotify below and on other platforms.

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