Tell us about this year's Coke Studio...
Coke studio @ MTV is in its third season in India and it’s the second time for me personally. The artistes and producers involved this year are top notch, it looks promising and I’m proud to be sharing the stage with them.
Does this event really help the music (industry)?
It is a platform where talent from all over the country -- be it rural, urban, folk or modern -- get to come together and create beautiful music. It provides an opportunity for non-film music to reach a wider audience, so yes, I definitely think it helps.
Every year we hear how Pakistan's Coke studio is so much superior to India's. What do you think?
What you like is your personal preference and it depends on your perception. Coke Studio in Pakistan has given us some great music but at the same time, I’ve got messages from people in Pakistan saying how much they love the songs from my episode. So, it’s a matter of choice really.
Much is said about today's generation's choice of music. Comment.
Today’s generation is exposed to varied genres of music. The Internet has brought the world into our homes. The term 'pop music' denotes what is currently the most popular form and it is ever changing. Young Indians today listen to everything from rock, pop, electronica to Indian classical, folk, ghazals etc which would also explain why Coke Studio India has an ever expanding audience.
Do you agree that today's music has a very small shelf life?
The sheer quantity of music available to people these days is just mind-boggling. Every week you come across something new and interesting. This also has given rise to a lot of competition in the music industry. Earlier, we would have to eagerly wait for our favourite artist to release his or her next album and each artist had a distinctive sound. Today, with the new tools and devices that aid the recording process, most artists tend to sound generic. These days an artist is as popular as his/her last release.Also, the concept of an album itself is fast disappearing. Listening to an album used to be an experience, like reading a book or watching a movie... Every song was part of the story told by the artist. However, these days, there is more focus on singles rather than on a whole album. Albums have become a collection of singles with fillers thrown in for good measure.
Do you think we are in a fusion age now?
Making music is a creative process and musicians are always looking to push their boundaries and experiment. Fusion is a by-product of this hunger and desire to create new sounds. Music has always been a mirror to society and today’s music is a reflection of the globalized culture we live in.
None of your family members are related to the music industry. How did you get attracted to it?
I come from a regular middle class family. Although I got into making music seriously much later in life, I feel I was always musically inclined. I was in the church choir growing up and jammed with friends during my college days. It was only much later, after some serious persuasion from my close friends that I decided to take up music professionally.
How have Vishal Bhardwaj and AR Rahman influenced you?
Working with Vishalji and AR Rahman has been a learning experience. The most important lesson I learnt is how to infuse western harmonies in Indian melodies seamlessly. It is very important to bring these diverse elements together in such a way that it doesn’t sound jarring and the harmonies and the melody compliment each other. Vishalji as a composer taught me that there is an ethos behind every composition and as a producer it is my responsibility to ensure that the orchestration carries that forward to the listener.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
That’s a very difficult question to answer, as I look up to a lot of artistes, national and international, for their talent and for what they have achieved. People like Ennio Morricone, Thomas Newman, Vishal Bhardwaj, Vince Mendoza, Sting, Stevie Wonder, AR Rahman and the list goes on…
How different is your music from your peers? Where will you place yourself in today's industry?
The kind of music you make depends on a lot of factors, like your influences, the music you grew up listening to and also on your personality, perception and understanding. My music has always been about pushing boundaries and stretching limits. When I compose, the overall sonic quality of the music is as important as the melody. I’m a bit of a control freak, I like to stay involved in every aspect of the music making process. I have been a part of this industry in various capacities for close to 18 years now. I believe I’m still learning, still growing and still evolving as a musician, as a producer and as a singer.
Which is your most comfortable zone? Singer, composer arranger...
Since these are completely different roles and I’ve been playing all three for quite some time now, I try my best not to blur the lines between them. For example, if I’m called as a playback singer, I concentrate on the singing, my composer-arranger avatar doesn’t enter the room. I try and deliver my best as a singer. Similarly, when I’m arranging or producing a song, I try and add something relevant to the composition that I’ve been handed to work on. But I have to admit that I am partial to composing.
What are your future plans?
I have a lot of stuff happening this year, August end sees the broadcast of my episode for Coke Studio @ MTV this year and I’ll be touring with my band for live gigs. Right after that I’ll start work on the background score of Vishal Bhardwaj’s next production, Dedh Ishqiya. Also, watch out for my new band with Vijay Prakash, Sonu Kakkar and Bianca Gomes. We will be getting into the studio and writing songs for an album. I hope to roll it out later this year and go on the road.
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