Arun Shenoy bags nomination in Pop Instrumentals category

Like many parents, Purnima Shenoy and her husband were a tad concerned when their son spent a lot of time and money on music and expensive guitars. And like many teenagers, back then, Arun Shenoy was into hard rock and heavy metal, and played in his school and college bands.

It wasn’t until he went to Singapore to do his Master’s in Computer Science engineering that “Arun grew up, sobered down a bit and got into World Music”, as his sister, Preethi Shenoy, puts it. The “extremely proud” family is over the moon since Thursday when he rang them up to tell them that ‘Rumbadoodle’, his debut world fusion record, was nominated for the prestigious Grammy Music Award in the Best Pop Instrumentals category. The 34-year-old, Singapore-based music producer and song writer, who grew up in Bangalore, will compete against music artistes Chris Botti, Larry Carlton and Norman Brown, among others.

Though reluctant to tie his work down to any one genre, Mr. Shenoy says it is world fusion music, with Spanish rumba flamenco as the underlying theme. The album’s obviously very rock ’n’ roll-inspired, the drum-and-bass section in particular. A guitarist himself, he’s recorded some tracks though he’s primarily written the music, produced and recorded it collaboratively with musicians from many countries.

His proud and excited mother told The Hindu that he’s been playing the guitar since he was nine, and they encouraged him “wholeheartedly, because he was always also a good student”. Very hardworking, she says, pointing to the fact that to this day he works a day job as an engineer, and records through the night. “It’s inspiring to have a brother who is so passionate about something,” says his sister. His family is already planning their visit to Los Angeles, where the Grammys will be announced on February 10.

Speaking to The Hindu over the phone from Singapore, he says it was a “pleasant shock”. “We are talking about what’s the Mecca of recording music. So, of course, I’m proud and happy.”

Though he’s produced and written music for others artistes, including the American rock band Tanadra, the idea of going out and doing a solo production came to him when he got inspired by the Spanish flamenco. “It took me a few months to find an aesthetic, to decide what I wanted to sound like, and then it was about sitting down and bringing in all my musical influences, then a year-long hunt to find the right people, and this August, we were ready with something I was happy with,” he says.

About his inspirations, he says he was most moved by Greek musician Yanni, who made sure he sounded just like himself. He explains how originally the title-track, ‘Rumbadoodle’, was an electric and acoustic guitar duet that he’d played. “And then people told me I sound like Santana. While I like Santana, I knew I wanted to sound like myself. So we quickly made it into a violin-inspired track. And it worked out well, he says.