Rock guitarist-composer Rex Vijayan talks about turning playback singer with ‘Enthanu Bhai?’ in Aashiq Abu’s film Da Thadiya
Rex Vijayan is used to rocking the stage and the alternative music scene with Avial’s brand of home-grown Malayalam rock. Now Rex is rocking the Mollywood charts with his debut song – ‘Enthanu Bhai?’ from Aashiq Abu’s latest flick Da Thadiya. This uber-cool number is currently big on the charts, as much for its funky, bluesy groove as it is for the chilled out attitude to life that it conveys. That’s why we don’t get it when Rex, groans: “I hate the sound of my voice!”
The rocker explains: “I am not a singer; I have never been a singer. I’m a musician, a guitarist to be specific, more at home with my instruments than with my voice. I’m still rather flabbergasted as to why Aashiq and Da Thadiya’s music director, Bijibal, chose me to sing the song. Playback singing is far out of my comfort zone. Perhaps they chose me because we all operate on the same wavelength.”
Rex has sung the opening two stanzas of ‘Enthanu Bhai?’ with Bijibal and singer Jayaram Renjith finishing up with the rest of the vocals. “I didn’t have to go through the process of going to the recording studio for ‘Enthanu Bhai?’ Instead I made a scratch (demo tape) of the song in my home studio in the city and sent it to him – in part, hoping to dissuade him!” says Rex, with a laugh. Hitherto Rex’s only experience at playback singing was crooning the chorus for director Sameer Thahir’s Chappa Kurishu. “In retrospect, though, I quite enjoyed, leading ‘Enthanu Bhai?’, though I can’t say I’ll be doing it again anytime soon.”
Instead, Rex prefers to compose music, when he is not travelling across the country and the world performing with Avial Rex debuted as a composer in Mollywood with director Anwar Rasheed’s Bridge, a segment of the portmanteau film Kerala Café, followed by Chappa Kurishu, and more recently Second Show (credited as Avial). He’s helped Bijibal with the background score for Aashiq’s 22 Female Kottayam and is now composing music for Shyamaprasad’s upcoming film English. “I’ve been composing music since I was a kid. I composed, programmed and mixed my first album of English songs titled Road to Eternity, when I was in class 10,” recalls Rex, who grew up in Kollam. He lived in Kochi for 15 years before settling in the city.
Rex’s “passion for music” was fostered by his musician father, Albert Vijayan, who was an assistant to the likes of composers Johnson and M.G. Radhakrishnan. “Music has always been a part of me. I was never any good in school – the number of schools I studied in is proof enough of that! I was more interested in accompanying my father to recordings. So my parents wisely encouraged me to follow my dreams. I have never thought about doing anything else with my life than music. Actually, music is not just a profession to me it is life itself,” muses Rex, who taught himself to play all the instruments that he is now so adept at, including the guitar. No mean feat, considering Rex is one of the first Indian musicians to have been sponsored by Gibson guitars of the United States. “I learnt to play the keyboard, the piano, the guitar and so on at an early age – all by ear, by instinct, by trial and error and inquisitiveness. I go by this instinct when I compose too. I’m theoretically very poor in music and because of that my music is simplistic. Actually, I think ignorance is why my music is as raw and edgy as it is! My only criterion is that a piece of music that I compose should surprise and excite me. In that sense, I suppose I am technically more of a music producer than a composer.”
So can we look forward to yet another surprise with English? “It’s a film with plenty of black humour – a genre that’s right up my alley as a composer. I’ve already composed three songs including the title song, the shooting of which will begin once the crew gets back from London.”
That’s the attitude
‘Enthanu Bhai?’ the promo song for Da Thadiya, featuring the film’s hero, the portly Shekhar Menon, has gone viral online since it was released on November 17 (it’s got 2, 11, 854 hits on its official YouTube channel on the last count!). Says director Aashiq Abu: “It’s all about the chilled out attitude towards life that Shekhar’s character in the film, Luke, wants to convey – this is me as God created me; take it or leave it. The genre is a mix of new age electronic, electro jazz and rock. The charm is also in the simplicity of the lyrics by ad guy R. Venugopal. We have also introduced dub-stepping (a trendy genre of electronic dance music) in the song.” Da Thadiya is set to release on December 21.