The Piano Man Music

Internet calls the tune

Agam band's lead vocalist Harish Sivaramakrishnan   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

On a flight from the United Kingdom, I am sitting next to two young people, who are constantly on their devices. They are listening to a wide selection of music. I am curious, and I start a conversation with them and we are soon discussing trends in music, artistes to watch out for and of course, the ever-curious world of the Internet. And this gets us started on the difficult question of artistes’ survival in the digital age. And this is an important topic. Nobody ‘buys’ music these days. Youngsters (18-35) are more intent on ‘streaming’, while slightly older once download music selectively. Gone are the days of ‘whole album’ downloads. So much nicer to have a playlist of just the tracks one likes. Of course, I am talking about independent music (which is everything other than commercial pop and in our case, cinema).

More interesting was the discussion of how this generation (Gen Y and increasingly, Gen Z) go about their artiste/music choices. Social media and the Internet seem to be the biggest influencers, and a greater number of these people are actively looking at the edginess/different-ness of the artiste concerned (thumbs up for a Bjork), ability for the music/artiste to reflect current trends (think David Guetta or Nucleya) and most interestingly — the sound.

As an artiste, it has made me reflect deeply on what the future is going to be for musicians of my generation. Like in everything else in life, there is a choice. We can stick to what we love doing, and not look for popularity or commercial viability. Or we can ‘crossover’, but I find a number of musicians of my generation and older being uncomfortable with this choice. Or attempt experiments that either come across as superficial or incongruous.

The conundrum worsens when industry insiders tell us to “look for more live opportunities”, as that is where we can thrive. This is a bit of a miscalculation as it is the same professionals who also programme or feature act musicians based on their followers, which in turn seems to be driven mostly by the Internet and how effective one has been in that medium. Catch-22?

Home-grown talent

And that brings me to the list of some incredibly talented musicians, home-grown, who have somehow managed to find that delicate balance between what they love doing and what they know will work, the old and the new, the past and the ever-confusing future. And have managed to carve sounds that are unique, full and refreshing. Given the thrust on ‘inclusiveness’ ( more on that puzzle in my next missive), my suggestion is for you to go listen to these musicians.

Better still, here is a small track list, collated with the help of many younger friends, on what’s working today. I have personally listened to all of these pieces, and can vouch for how interesting and unique each of them are.

I leave the liking/disliking to you, dear reader. Each of us have our own tastes and variations. But all those listed here are independent musicians who have had such varied journeys.

Track 1: On a gloomy monsoon day, listen to Harish Sivaramakrishnan singing ‘Rangapuravihara’ to the accompaniment of a keyboard and guitar on the Internet. Do not evaluate, but just listen. And you will understand what I mean by the sheer ‘fullness’ of that sound, and the ‘different-ness’ and ‘other-ness’ of it. And if you are like me, prepared to be blown away.

Track 2: The soundtrack of the film ‘Aruvi’, composed by Vedanth Bharadwaj and Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy, which makes you realise that not all film music is, well, filmy. Instead, it is refreshing in its startling simplicity and use of various musical idioms.

Track 3: The incredible vocal stylings of the artiste who calls herself Aditi Dot. Self-taught and highly individualistic, bringing an entirely new story to independent music.

Track 4: An independent musician’s take on ‘Isharo isharo mein’ (the original from the film Sharmilee), done by a young and talented band called Indie Routes. Fronted by singers Abhas and Shreyas, they are slowly making the rounds of independent festivals and shows.

Track 5: ‘Can't Stop The Feeling’ by the band Rijk (which somehow has managed to combine Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and Timberlake’s ‘Can't Stop This Feeling’) featuring Arjun Chandy. The band consists of Chennai-based Rodney Jayaraj, Isaac Dharmakumar, John Praveen and the incredible Keba Jeremiah.

The writer is a well-known pianist and music educator based in Chennai


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 7:38:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/what-sells-and-what-doesnt-in-music/article21213584.ece

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