Mumbai singer Mali’s quarantine-inspired music video features empty streets from South Bombay to Sao Paulo

Empty streets from around the world. That’s what you will see in Maalavika Manoj’s quarantine-inspired video, Age of Limbo, which drops on YouTube on May 1. Featuring drone and mobile footage from 12 countries and 15 cities, the singer-songwriter based in Mumbai requested friends and fans to partake in the making of her latest single by sending her footage from wherever they lived. After announcing it on her Instagram stories last month, she tells us that the response was well beyond what she anticipated. “I received over a hundred video clips of empty streets from their own neighbourhoods,” she says.

Edited by the talented Jishnu Guha, the visuals transport us into what she calls a “suspended reality” from Mumbai, Bengaluru and Guwahati, and hops across continents to Sao Paulo, San Francisco, Austria, Sweden, Italy and London. It’s a lyric video, which although doesn’t have Mali herself in it, draws you in and keeps you hooked to the very end, resonating a feeling that many have struggled with during this lockdown — uncertainty. And the 26-year-old, better known by her stage name Mali, manages this beautifully, minus any fear-provoking imagery of panic or chaos making an appearance.

Instead, expect to see blue skies, perfect sunsets and beautiful aerial views of houses, skyscrapers and clock towers. Except, she points out, “There’s an underlying dystopian feeling around it, with no people in sight.” She isn’t kidding — there are more crows than people in this video.
While the video is reflective of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lyrics were actually written over a year ago, well before the war against the virus began. They were inspired by a different war altogether. “I was watching an episode of Without Borders where host Conan O’Brien was visiting the Syrian border,” she recalls. With the sound of machine guns firing in the distance, it struck a chord that would stay with her for a long time to come. “It made me think about what it must feel like to wake up every morning to the sound of machine guns and bombs…” This single was written drawing from experiences we’ve had living through some of the most disruptive periods of history — the protests, riots, and now the lockdown, but “somehow always being hopeful that it will come to an end.”
However, after one listen, you will discover that these lyrics are relatable — no matter where you live or which side of history you’re on. And the music in turn, delivers a steady, gripping build, woven through bass and synth. As we sit in the discomfort of the unfamiliar and the unknown ahead, Age of Limbo serves up hints of hope and resilience. But for the most part, it holds up a mirror of our present times, as Mali sings:

“Welcome to the age of limbo,
Welcome to no man’s paradise,
Are you watching from the sidelines?”

Age of Limbo releases today on all digital platforms.
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