Monoriff Unpacks The Complexity of Being “Human”
Review by Wai Lu Yin

“Human” single cover

What does it mean to be human? We strive for many things; to be perfect, have a sense of fulfilment and be accepted by others. As Marilyn Monroe is quoted at the beginning of Monoriff’s “Human” music video, “we are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle” in the same night sky. Yet, one thing we forget is that while we all have our struggles, not everyone is in the same boat, or has the same access to resources

Niralji Ravishanker and Rakesh Joshua Daniel

Niralji Ravishanker and Rakesh Joshua Daniel form the alternative rock band, Monoriff. Using their own lingo “louve”, which sounds like ‘love you’ and means an immense passion for that person, their songs highlight the ways in which we love others and ourselves. From “Hey You” to “Covered Emotion” to “Only Lourver”, their music style is a compassionate conversation with their listeners. On Jan 29, they released their latest single, “Human”, a song dedicated to those who have lost their loved ones and those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the duo was supposed to perform “Human” at Niralji’s sister’s wedding, but a misplaced power adapter for Nirajli’s keyboard derailed that plan. This missed opportunity was a blessing in disguise, as it led them to fully realise the song’s potential in reaching out to a wider audience. The timing was perfect, as the world entered lockdown last year. Niralji was determined to release “Human”, which was inspired by photo of two female louvers being intimate with each other, depicting the nature of unconditional love. This same sex love transcends physical expression, but is often obscured by social prejudice, racism, a negative portrayal by the media and the idea of perfection.

“Human” Music Video (Source: Monoriff YouTube Channel)

With the emphasis on using “I” and “we” in the lyrics, Monoriff’s “Human” appears designed for listeners to channel their thoughts and feelings about what they are going through. The lyrics depict the trials and imperfections of being human and in seeking a purpose in life. The lines “I don’t know what it takes to be a perfect man…to be a godlike woman” subtly relate to the expected societal roles of these two genders, such as being a breadwinner, a parent and a spouse. They are expected to fully commit to these roles but, at times, their efforts cause disappointment,and problems occur when they don’t receive support. The chorus line “We’ll never be perfect cause we’re only human” hits me as a powerful reminder that it’s okay to not be okay, even as I strive for perfection in life. Also, I can’t help but sing the cheery “Na na na'' refrain that comforts my heart and soul.

The transition in its easy listening melody is arranged smoothly, with each instrument fully revealed in each verse. “Human” kicks off with Niralji’s vocals backed by the keyboard. Rakesh’s drums and the harmonious background vocals provide concrete support to the song. The slow guitar riffs give a distinctive character to the melody. Niralji’s falsetto and ad-libs, such as the smooth "woah" after the second verse, express his heartfelt emotions. The song’s composition feels like individuals from different walks of life coming together, one by one, to sing their hearts out in unity.

An inspiring quote by Marilyn Monroe (Source: Monoriff YouTube Channel)

To create that message of unity, Monoriff reached out to people across the world via social media, inviting them to lip-sync a couple of lines for the “Human” music video. At first, they wanted to invite established artists only but decided to include people from different backgrounds and nationalities to highlight the idea of oneness as a species. It took them about a year to gather 67 people from 29 countries to be part of this project. Having them record in the comfort of their homes creates a welcoming feeling of warmth and intimacy. At the end of the music video, we see both younger and older couples lip-syncing and dancing with each other lovingly. I teared up when old married couples Susana & Sander and Thomas & Petra sang a few lines, followed by a kiss - a tender display of affectionate and genuine love. However, I was also hoping for some LGBTQ representation. In my earlier conversation with Rakesh, he said they initially wanted to include a gay couple from India, but the couple backed out due to personal reasons. This demonstrates how challenging it can be for same-sex couples, showing that we still have a long way to go on the road to acceptance and equality.

Part One of Monoriff Podcast with Sophia Jamal (Source: Monoriff YouTube Channel)

The duo goes beyond music. Monoriff dives deeper into the topic of humanity through their podcast series, recorded in their studio, which they uploaded short snippets of onto their YouTube channel before the release of “Human”. They invited Rakesh’s friend, Sophia Jamal, co-founder of an ethical employment agency for domestic helpers, Pinkcollar, as their guest on their 90-minute episode. Their casual and deep conversation discussed inclusive problem-solving, beginning with loving our own neighbourhoods as the first small step in supporting the community, and having empathy. I was particularly struck by their use of “a cog in the wheel” as an analogy of being a vehicle for change in the system, and the heartbreaking stories about domestic helpers and migrants in Malaysia. The more they discussed the various topics, the more it became apparent that there are no definite answers to our questions. Here’s looking forward to more of their upcoming podcast episodes, featuring Sophia and new guests.

Monoriff delivers a thoughtful package to the people across the world spirits and remind us that we are only humans in the progress of creating a meaningful life. Through the use of multiple mediums, they highlight the beauty and complexity of humanity, encouraging us to be more aware of our surroundings and to look beyond our comfort bubbles to discover how we can treat others with more compassion and empathy. These are artists who deeply care about humanity, and it shows in their slow but steady creative process. Judging by their latest efforts, it seems that they are on the right track in keeping this important conversation going.

Listen to Monoriff’s latest single, “Human” on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube Music. Watch the podcast on their YouTube channel.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Wai Lu Yin is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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