Kochi artiste VIV3K’s music blends Indian folk with mainstream electronica

The opening track of DJ VIV3K’s latest album, Gateway, instantly reveals the artiste’s trademark sensibility of blending Indian folk styles with mainstream electronica. ‘NaGuMo’ breaks on you with a sound glitch-hop beat which gives way to Sanjeev Thomas’s electric guitar, blends the two strains seamlessly and then surprises you with a Carnatic kriti woven in. Gateway, which is 22-year-old VIV3K’s second album, was recently launched by Springr Studios in the city and is VIV3K’s way of saying his amalgamated sound is here to stay.

VIV3K is the stage name of Vivek Radhakrishnan, and Gateway is a natural progression from his first album Psycle Edukk released in 2012. Psycle announced itself on the scene with a powerful track named ‘Kettille’ that featured VIV3K’s electronica with acclaimed folk singer C.J. Kuttappan’s vocals singing about farmer suicide, fallen ginger prices and the helplessness of bonded labour. The track defined Malayalam electronica without the expected dissonance in the term.

Born and educated in Doha, with a degree in audio engineering from Chennai, VIV3K says music has been in his blood from childhood. “I learnt Carnatic music when I was six years old and I was a dancer all through school. So I began working with music programming software from Class IX onward to edit soundtracks for my dances,” he says. VIV3K veered toward electronica when he first heard psychedelic trance music. “This was something completely different from everything I had been listening to all along. I immediately knew I wanted to learn how to make it for myself.”

With three years of DJing behind him, VIV3K decided to make Psycle in 2011. It took a year before the album’s eight tracks could fall in place and VIV3K says the journey, like for all independent artistes in India, wasn’t easy. When the album came out, electronica as a genre itself was a niche passion in Kerala, and Malayalam electronica, even more so. “While Kuttappan sir really understood what we were trying to do, there was no label to support us monetarily. So a group of young directors, dancers, cameramen got together under the name Glitch Studios and we began working on each other’s projects. The music videos of Psycle were filmed this way.”

Glitch Studios has also been instrumental on Gateway, which VIV3K says are his five best compositions of 2013. Besides ‘NaGuMo’, the album features another collaboration in ‘Angot Onnai’, which VIV3K created with Street Academics, a troupe of Malayalam hip-hop artistes. “The track talks about a revolution which we should move toward,” he says. The third song is ‘Oh My Kuppi’ an instrumental glitch-hop piece that incorporates traditional dappankuthu sounds. “We’re making a video for this with Rise, a group of students from Amity College. The video will talk about the empowerment of society, the drinking problem in Kerala and creative methods of protest.” The album closes with ‘Skank Master’, an instrumental dubstep track, and ‘Love And All’ a progressive house piece with Indian influences.

VIV3K says his music comes from various influences, everything from psychedelic rock to reggae and world music. “I’m making new music every day. When something develops into a promising track which meets my personal standards, and when I have enough of those together, I’ll bring out another album,” he says. Now settled in Kochi, VIV3K says, as an artiste, he’s young enough to constantly be learning. “I’ve been doing this for six years now, but every day I feel like I’ve experienced something new. The album itself is named Gateway, because for me it’s like a gateway into new doors. The best is yet to come.”