The Cousins come calling

Hariharan's free-flowing voice meets Lesle Lewis' innovative musical arrangements in ‘Colonial Cousins'. This musical duo looks at raga and rhythm not just as musical components but as a way to reach out to people

November 11, 2010 07:04 pm | Updated October 21, 2016 04:36 pm IST

The effect of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Beatles George Harrison stringing the celestial swaras of the sitar with the psychedelic tunes of the guitar is legendary. The East-West musical bridge they built led to a world that is hard to map as its denizens thrive on cultural crossovers, linking of genres and new sounds.

Hariharan and Lesle Lewis belong to this world. This musical duo looks at raga and rhythm not just as musical components but as a way to reach out to people. And, not just to those who listen intently to every note and analyse them but also to the on-the-move iPod generation that tracks tunes for pure joy. The approach reflects in the name itself — “Colonial Cousins”.

At their performances, you can see fans of different genres headbanging as Indian classical and folk tunes meld magnificently with jazz, rock and pop. This two-member band is often cited as an example of fusion done right — where Hariharan's deep and free-flowing vocals and Lesle's innovative jazz arrangements create varied emotions in listeners' hearts.

Since the early 1990s when the two came together, they have done jingles, albums, live shows and playback singing and are now into film music composing. They won the MTV Asia Viewer's Choice Award and then the U.S. Billboard Viewer's Choice Award for ‘Colonial Cousins', their debut album. They gave the traditional Carnatic composition “Krishna nee begane baro” a contemporary twist and the world hummed along. They followed this success with two more albums “The Way We Do It” and “Aatma”.

The awesome twosome has an enviable track record individually too.

Hariharan croons soulful numbers in films and performs ghazal concerts worldwide while Lesle, the composer behind many superhit desi-pop and remix albums, performs pop shows with his own band of musicians.

Date: November 19

Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall

Time: 7.15 p.m.


With so many fusion bands around, how have you been able to sustain for such a long time?

You need to get your basics right. Fusion is not a mish-mash of sounds. One should understand the nuances of each genre. The compositions should be worked out in detail with each tune in place.

Is the East-West combination of music a sure recipe for success?

Musicians today include different elements in order to appeal to a larger audience. In our music, there is a perceptible Western influence, but it is rooted in native sounds. The ingredients are diverse, but the flavouring is definitely Indian.

How difficult it is to have the same wavelength during the creative process? Are there never any differences of opinion?

Without differences, there can be no creative work. The challenge is to bring out the best in each other. We love the process of working together, and when a new composition comes alive, we feel like parents of a newborn.

What is the line-up for your November Fest show?

There will songs from our albums, may be some fresh compositions and, of course, on-demand film numbers!

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