Joining the Grammy club

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Interview India-born Arun Shenoy is upbeat about his Grammy nomination this year


India has one more reason to wait up and watch the Grammies this year. India-born Singaporean music producer and composer Arun Shenoy, has been nominated in the Best Pop Instrumental Album. Clearly he is the underdog as all others nominated in the category have either previously won the Grammy or had multiple nominations; yet Arun says he is simply happy that his work was recognised by the music community.

Rumbadoodle is Arun’s solo production that brought together musicians from all around the world and was completed mostly with jam sessions and ideas that were exchanged through emails and Skype. In fact, most of the artistes who collaborated on the project will meet each other for the first time as they grace the red carpet to the hallowed music award ceremony.

What are the chances of Rumbadoodle winning the Grammy?

The other four artistes in my category have 35 prior Grammy nominations between them and many wins too. So it will be tough. For me it is an honour to just be a part of this exclusive club and to have made it to the top five. But I believe I have a very strong record that I am very proud of.

How did Rumbadoodle come about and what are the inspirations behind it?

Spanish Rumba Flamenco is the inspiration and theme that runs through the music in the album. I have also incorporated influences from popular music sensibilities across pop, rock, jazz and funk to create my own signature sound.

This was not easy, and my bass player, Duke, who would at times struggle when trying to comprehend the complexity of this fusion commented that I was doodling across so many genres and came up with the name ‘Rumbadoodle’.

Why did you choose to publish your own music?

I had just decided to self-fund my entire production and to also manage every aspect of the production and post-production process. So I did not find the need to look for a publisher or a label. Although the experience has been good, it has not been easy. You need to manage the business of music right from copyright, royalties, licensing, lots of music-legal stuff and other aspects like distribution, marketing and PR. Often, this takes up a lot more time than the music itself. I am also currently working to promote other artistes. Watch out for this young and very talented songwriter and guitarist from Jamshedpur called Surjo. He was also very sweet to record a short video and post it on youtube a few minutes after my Grammy nomination was announced.

Which are your favourite Indian artists or bands?

The Raghu Dixit Project and Swarathma for sure. Slain and Pentagram do come to mind too. And of course Thermal and a Quarter.

How mature or immature is the current Indian music scene?

The Indian scene is very vibrant at this time. When I was growing up, it was all about doing covers and the top bands in India were all cover bands. Now, I think there has been a major shift in the thinking where the importance is on content creation and the sheer volume of incredible music being created by India's independent scene never ceases to amaze me.

What music influenced you as you grew up?

Some of my earliest memories would be that of the Eagles, Boney M. and The Beatles. Lots of ABBA too; I really loved their song writing and catchy hooks. At a later stage, I found myself enthralled by the music of Enigma and Yanni, the latter being a major influence on my work, though I don’t sound anything like him.

I have also been inspired by Michael Jackson. The single most important lesson from him is the importance of the groove. You can add all the layers and make music as complex as you want it to be, but unless you have a solid and hooking drum and bass groove, it is not going to connect with your listeners. Best example of this is the intro to ‘Billie Jean’.


The pianist

“Iwill cry if Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ doesn’t win the Grammy,” says Bangalore-based keyboard artiste and composer, Jonathan Anand Wesley. Jonathan, who in addition to playing on many of the tracks in Rumbadoodle , ended up with co-writing credits for a few tracks too, including the title track, is also attending the Grammy ceremony this Saturday.

“I once chanced upon a video of Jonathan playing a solo piano piece accompanied by Bryden, the guitarist of Slain and was really impressed and invited him to join me. The lovely piano you hear backing the violins in the Afro-Cuban inspired Rumbadoodle is played by him. Even the Middle Eastern vibe on Fireflies which was one of the last songs we did was created by him. I was so amazed when he sent it to me,” says Arun Shenoy about the 23-year-old who is super excited to meet the likes of Coldplay, Katy Perry, Iron Maiden, Skrillex, Rihanna at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Jonathan’s tryst with music started when he was as young as four on a keyboard. He says he always had a ear for music and taught himself to play the guitar, drums, all bass instruments and a little bit of violin. It shouldn’t then be a surprise that he was awarded ‘Keyboardist of the Year 2010’ at the Jack Daniels Rock Awards, ‘Best Metal Keyboardist 2011’ at the Rolling Stone Metal awards and has been nominated consecutively for three years at the all India ‘Jack Daniels Rock Awards’. He is known for his metal act with Slain, with whom he has opened for Iron Maiden, Mr.Big and Messuggah and also released two E.P.’s.

This being Jonathan’s first global collaboration on a project, he thought it quite weird that one had to type out musical ideas. “You need to know a person for it to work out musically. It’s easier when you get to see reactions and can throw in ideas. Here, we were all working on different time zones,” he says, adding that what made it easier was that Arun knew exactly what he wanted as a producer.

Has his age ever proved to be a hindrance while working? “I have always been the youngest musician playing, whether it’s a band or choir. It’s nice to work with people who are more experienced as you get to learn a lot more. And everyone I have worked with has always been very supportive and their criticism has always helped,” he says.

Dreaming to work with artistes such as Israel Houghton, Dave Matthews and Steven Curtis Chapman, Jonathan currently wants to study more music and also teach, produce, compose and perform.

What is he going to do in the 20-day ‘Grammy vacation’ he is taking? “Before the Grammy are the pre-Grammy parties, then the Grammy, and after the Grammy there are more Grammy parties lined up,” he chuckles as he goes back to packing for the trip.





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