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On a rock and raga roll

A still from the Indian version of the FRIENDS theme song

A still from the Indian version of the FRIENDS theme song  

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Is that the GoT theme song being played on the sitar? Or, the Indian classical version of ‘I’ll be there for you’? NAVEENA VIJAYAN traces the trend of lending Indian flavour to popular Western music

Last week, a video of the Indian version of the Friends theme song did the rounds on social media. The cover photo had the 90s sitcom characters Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe in Indian clothes, and the audio was a soulful Indian classical version of The Rembrandts’ ‘I’ll be there for you’.

Mahesh Raghvan, the creator of the piece, which got over three lakh hits, says that he made it after he received a lot of requests from listeners who had earlier heard his Indian adaptations of Adele’s ‘Hello’ called ‘Adeleshwari’, Rihanna’s ‘Work’ popular as ‘Rihannasundari’, and the Indian classical remix of ‘The Imperial March’, among others, on his YouTube channel.

These pieces are part of Flair — an experimental project started by him to create Carnatic compositions in a modern style.

“I don’t think the original creators have heard my work yet, but I’m sure they’ll have a good laugh when they do!” says Mahesh, over a call from Dubai.

“Over the past few months, I have received of requests to Indianise popular movie and TV theme songs — James Bond, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean — besides fusion versions of popular Carnatic music pieces,” says Mahesh, who has a Masters degree in Digital Composition and Performance from the University of Edinburgh. He uses an iPad to create the sounds of Indian instruments, but has more recently moved to Roli’s Seaboard.

“People are very curious about the instruments I use and how I make everything sound Indian. A lot of people have also told me that they have begun listening to Carnatic music again after going through my fusion music, and that makes me happy,” he adds.

Mahesh is not the only one giving a classical twist to popular Western music — and, in the process, becoming a YouTube sensation. Have you watched the adaptations of Sia’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ by Canada-based veena player-duo Aranya and Athiya, or N.S. Wageshan’s veena cover of Ellie Goulding’s ‘Love me Like you Do’?

In recent times, an increasing number of artistes seem to be taking to fusion music. American clarinetist and music composer Shankar Tucker probably spearheaded the movement in 2011 with his project — The ShrutiBox, where he collaborated with several vocalists, including Chennai-born Vidya Iyer, now popular for her YouTube channel Vidya Vox.

The latter has received over three million hits for her mashup of A.R. Rahman’s ‘Kandukondain’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, and around four million for Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’ and Rahman’s ‘Mental Manadhil’.

Previously, city-based artiste Krish Ashok’s ‘Game of Thrones Theme Kuthu Remix’ (with over 50,000 views), ‘Skyfall Keeravani’ (over 30,000 views), and ‘Riders on the Auto’, had the millennials enjoying the best of both worlds.

More recently, on August 29, The Indian Jam Project released ‘Coldplay Indian Tribute’ — where an Indian adaptation of the popular song ‘Fix You’ is played using Indian classical instruments such as the flute, sarangi, sitar and tabla.

Mumbai-based Tushar Lall, who has a diploma in Music Production from SAE and Dubspot (NY) and has trained and worked under Grammy award-winning engineers in New York, founded The Indian Jam Project, as an attempt “to knit classical Indian tones into the script of Western music to showcase the beauty of Indian Music”.

His first project was a cover of the Game of Thrones theme song, recorded using the tabla, flute and the keys, which got over eight lakh hits. He has also done Indian versions of BBC’s Sherlock theme, ‘The Rains of Castamere’, ‘Interstellar tribute’, ‘Harry Potter Music tribute’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Inception tribute’, and more.

Tushar’s work involves composing Indianised parts for instruments and blending them with the Western pieces of music and putting them together as a single arrangement for the musicians to replicate.

“People mostly listen to the pieces because of their established popularity. And, while they do, they are intrigued by the instruments that are used, and probably go back and learn about the sitar, which they wouldn’t have heard of until then,” says the musician, whose arrangements have been appreciated by Emmy award winner Michael Price and BBC Producer/Actor of Sherlock Mark Gatiss.

“My dream is to expand my territory of music beyond Hollywood, do more tours, and create awareness about Indian instruments,” he says.

Incidentally, the next piece by Tushar is a cover of Requiem for a Dream.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 6:07:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/On-a-rock-and-raga-roll/article14628508.ece

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