Time to sit up
Sandalwood music has arrived. When it comes to quality and mass appeal, many composers in the industry are right up there on the same level as nationally popular composers. What needs attention is the promotion of films and subsequently, the songs. We need a few visionary film-makers, who can transcend boundaries and make films that will see success across India and universally — films appreciated not just by Kannadigas across the world, but film lovers in general. Also, we need to experiment more. Cross pollination between various technicians, studios, musicians, singers must be encouraged and lauded. Collaborations must increase and people from other states attempting to contribute to Sandalwood must never be discouraged. The popular perception is that this move will reduce jobs for local musicians and singers, but in fact, it will help create more varied local talent.
I feel a non-film Kannada music market is vital. All the fantastic musicians, poets and composers are forced to make a livelihood only through film music. Non-Sandalwood music has not reached the critical mass yet. I had created a non-film album in 2009, Nee Badalaadare, a nationally patriotic song based on the words of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Be the change you want to see’. The song saw tremendous success on the charts and on sales, but did not go as far as Sandalwood blockbusters go because there weren’t enough means to spread the music. A year later, I created another patriotic song, Jaya Hain Kannada Thaye, which was performed by 16 of the most popular singers/musicians from the state. Sadly, this too saw limited success. A vibrant non-film market will encourage musicians and singers to create better music which, in turn, can be used in films. This is how Bollywood music grew. I will continue striving to create a market for non-Sandalwood Kannada music.
My musical journey
It’s been 12 years of professional music for me — I started at the age of 19 and by 2007, I had completed 3,000 jingles and radio spots, becoming one of the leading ‘jingle producers’ in the advertising industry. It was during this time that I was introduced to various international record labels specialising in New Age music. Film music happened to me by accident, literally. In 2007, while working on a jingle, my clients informed me that the brand ambassador Ramesh Aravind would need to record at my studio. He took a liking to my music and offered me Accident. For my debut Kannada film, I recollect there was a situation where the protagonist (Ramesh Aravind) mourns his dead wife. Ramesh Sir and I had numerous discussions on an apt song and one day, he shared with me one of his favourite poems — Baa Maleye Baa. This song already had a famous composition by the legendary Mysore Ananthaswamy. Everyone around wanted me to remake this composition, keeping the melody intact. In spite of my admiration for the existing composition, I felt it would not work for the situation in the film and Ramesh Sir was very supportive of my decision — the song needed to be melancholic, yet romantic. My greatest compliment came when the legendary BR Laxman Rao himself profusely congratulated me on the song. Apart from topping charts, the number still plays regularly on radio!
One for the masters
Nothing creative happens without inspiration. I have had my share as well. Peter Gabriel will always be my greatest inspiration. He single-handedly revolutionised the way collaborative music is recorded, created, perceived and marketed across the globe. His productions are path-breaking as he creates fresh genres of music without any boundaries.
Michael Cretu created music that was not hummable, not danceable, not suited for live performances — a sure shot recipe for disaster. But in spite of all this, his music transports one to another world. Its controlled chaos and calculated musicality appealed to the mass and class. Finally, every single music composer in India, without exception is inspired or is a clone of the musical genius called AR Rahman. I am no different. Music needs to sound positively different. For instance, Mungaru Male was path-breaking in every way.
Mano Murthy’s music sounded like no other movie soundtrack. It’s ironical that every film-maker thought cloning this film’s music would get them similar success, when cloning music was everything that this film was not. Personally, I am a huge fan of Hari Krishna. He gets it right every time and the fact that he works on numerous films simultaneously does not distract him from getting things perfect.
Jackie is one such example. Even though it was an experimental soundtrack, the music managed to touch movie-goers with controlled experimentation and remained on the charts for numerous weeks, practically winning every award devised for music in Sandalwood. There has to be a mention of Roja, which came in an era where all film music sounded the same — the same dholak infused instrumentation and flute/santoor interludes. Roja revolutionised music in India and created a whole new importance of crafting sound. All of a sudden, lazy music directors felt the need to brush up their musical skills and collaborate with other musicians in order to stay in the game. Moreover, people across India imbibed a newfound respect for south Indian musicians.
As told to Dipannita Ghosh Biswas