String of achievements

Manoj George, violinist Photo: K. K. Mustafah   | Photo Credit: K.K. Mustafah

The Grammy recognition has not really excited Manoj George. The violinist of exceptional distinction was awarded a certificate of recognition for his role as choral arranger in the Grammy award-winning ‘Winds of Samsara’. However, he feels that nothing much has changed for a musician like him who thrives on non-film music. And Manoj’s frustration manifests every time he is reminded of the Grammy.

“I understand that film music is big in our country. We have a situation where it is good for musicians and singers only if they find success here. Non-film music is slowing veering towards extinction with the platforms to showcase talent shrinking and with hardly any encouragement. Musicians use films as a springboard to popularity so that they can pitch their own brand of music. I feel it’s time we in this country have a solid platform for parallel music,” says Manoj.

Manoj is the first violinist from the country to be recognised at the Grammy and the first musician from Kerala. More specifically, this honour came for arranging the string section for a track in the album titled ‘Mountain Solitude’ and coordinating the choral harmony for a song titled ‘Mahatma’. He also conducted and played the violin and the viola for the various tracks.

The government woke up to Manoj’s achievement rather late. The decision to felicitate him at the Onam celebrations in Thiruvananthapuram was taken after a brief meeting he had with the Chief Minister at Aluva.

“After the very warm meeting, I wrote a detailed letter to the Chief Minister wherein I pointed out that the music industry needed a boost. This can be in the form of awards for non-film music, which would be a game-changer. Cinema is the pivot around which majority of musicians revolve. But the fact is that hardly 20 per cent of the musicians, singers included, manage to break into films. The rest of them simply survive without recognition for their talent and hard work.”

What Manoj wants to change is this imbalance, albeit gradually. Internationally the scene is so different. “Michael Jackson, Brian Adams and Shakira became stars through parallel music and not by singing in films. There are so many iconic albums that come to mind that are not film based. Even in India, there was a time when independent musicians such as Daler Mehndi, Alisha Chinai and Lucky Ali, and their albums were so popular. Even Kerala had some great light music albums and memorable songs. Unfortunately this genre of music is becoming extinct.”

With the digital space, things are getting better, but Manoj feels that it will be great if parallel music reaches a wider audience.

Manoj is working on his album, which will feature his violin solo, his band ManojGeorge4Strings, and another musician, Pauly Varghese. “The album ‘Winds of Samsara’ was released in the United States (U.S.). I hope to complete work on my album and release it later this year. One thing is for sure it will be released in the U.S. and not here. The reason is simple – there is no market for it here nor are there people to promote it.”

A unique jugalbandhi featuring Manoj’s violin and Asha Sharreth’s dance is also ready. “This has come out well. It’s a kind of fusion between dance, vocals and violin. It is newly created music with echoes of film music.”

Manoj, who hails from Olarikkara, Thrissur, began playing the violin when he was 13, a bit late as he says. He went on to study under Leslie Peter, the famous Thrissur-based tutor, and later at Chetana Music Academy. He completed Trinity College of London Grades and received his Licentiate certification (LTCL). His big break came when he joined Raghu Dixit and formed a world-fusion band, Antaragni. He left the band to pursue an independent career; a freelancer.

In the course of these years Manoj and his band has shared the stage with renowned musicians and singers such as Dr. L. Subramaniam at the 2001 Miss World competition, the opening act for the Bryan Adams show in Bangalore (2001), represented India at the World Military Games, singers like Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Sivamani, Lucky Ali, K.J. Yesudas, Mattannur Sankarankutty among others.

“Looking back it sometimes feels good. Perhaps I was lucky to have shared the stage with so many legends and taught by luminaries like Philomena Thambu Chetty, Yehudi Menuhin’s classmate and once member of the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra, and Arvind Santwan. But is this enough?”

Manoj has scored music for numerous documentaries, a couple of feature films like the National Award-winning Malayalam children’s film Kharaksharangal, Vaadhyaar, the Kannada film Aathmeeya, and many popular jingles like the one for Happy Jam. He also teaches at his music academy, New Wave Music Centre, in Bangalore.

“You need to do all this to keep floating and sometimes one of these efforts turn very inspiring too. I do a lot of corporate music sessions. Here I play Beethoven or Mozart only to find the audience staring at me blankly. I then slip into a couple of film tunes and they become so animated. They then enquire about me and when someone mentions the Grammy connection they are ready to applaud.”

The Grammy recognises excellence in music in so many categories. Manoj feels it is high time someone thinks on these lines in our country too. “I have requested the Kerala government to institute awards for musicians working in non-film, independent music. Why can’t we have awards in different categories such as best musical album for rock, pop, folk, devotional, classical, ghazal, instrumental and fusion music along with individual categories like best musician, singer, etc?”

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 4:52:11 PM |

Next Story