METRO PLUS

Mo' music from Mani

FINDING HIS SPACE Pravin Mani   | Photo Credit: PHOTOS : R. RAVINDRAN

SUDHISH KAMATH

Music producer, composer and sound engineer, Pravin Mani tells SUDHISH KAMATH he wants to make Chennai a hub for concerts and promote performing artistes

“T his is the new spiritual me,” announces the man who has lost over 12 kilos last year. “Moving by the beach has helped me become more spiritual,” he adds and bursts into a laugh as I point to the cigarette in his hand and ask: “Really?”

Before we begin the interview, I ask him why he does things he does not like, especially film music that's not his type. “Doesn't my label — Mo' Mani Music — tell you? Show me the money,” he laughs, “I would like to keep my house by the beach.”

Now, that's more like the candid Pravin Mani I know. He has absolutely no problems cracking a joke at his own expense and with blatant disregard for political correctness.

Music producer, composer and sound engineer, Pravin has finally decided to settle down in a house by the beach in Palavakkam, after shuttling between India and Canada every six months for the last decade.

“My wife Zarine and kids Jaz and Zane live in Canada but my workload and commitments here have increased. So it's been a difficult decision and I try my best to visit them when I can.”

Zap, his cocker spaniel and best friend, obliges him for a photo-shoot before we settle down for a chat in his studio.

“It's like coming back a full circle. I left Chennai in 1989 to study audio engineering and post-production in Australia. I was doing only English stuff back then, largely rock, playing and touring with a band called Party Pigs for five years. Life got boring on the road. That time, we didn't have the technology and our exposure was limited to hotel rooms and guitars. One fine day, I decided to join a recording studio as an in-house engineer and got involved with R&B, hip-hop and jazz working for Sony, EMI and Virgin before I was signed on by Warner Chappell Publishing. They moved me to Canada.”

Before Pravin shifted to Canada in 1998, he was in India for three months when he decided to reconnect with his old friend A.R. Rahman. “I met Rahman in 1995 when he had come to Australia while composing for ‘Indian.' He had asked me to play for him back then. So I contacted him when I was in India and did a song called ‘Jumbalakka' and then a couple of more songs.”

But his brief stint in India helped him to collaborate and work with many artistes including Vasundara Das, Srinivas and Suresh Peters and he signed a five album deal with Magnasound. “Basically, I kept getting more and more work here that inevitably I had to set up a studio here as well. I was happy to be associated with Rahman and felt at home.”

“But I kept travelling back and forth like a madman,” he recalls. “There I worked with VIP and a couple of other artistes, background scores for some English films including ‘Bollywood Hollywood' with Deepa Mehta… But it came to a point where the workload here was much more than there. Sound here was changing, the attitude was changing, Rahman had brought a big change that was conducive to what I was doing. Non-film music.”

Pravin Mani then brought out an R&B album with Vasundara, a fusion album with Srinivas, an electronic album by himself and then teamed up with Manikka Vinayagam to do a funky folk album called ‘Ay Ma Ma'. “I believe in non-film music because we are not controlled by situations. We are able to talk about things that movies will never portray.”

After working with eight-10 artistes in his pop phase right till S5 (the band he launched in association with Southern Spice Music), Pravin is now trying to find Indian artistes who can sing in English.



Beyond the studio

“I am interested in performing artistes… singers who are able to perform and create an identity for themselves on stage. Not singers content with playback singing. Artistes must have attitude and sex appeal; they must be presentable because the schematics of marketing music has changed. It's not about cutting an album and putting a video out on MTV. Who watches MTV?”

MySpace and YouTube have changed the way music is marketed, he adds. “We Indians have a distinct sound and we are an English speaking country. South America, Africa, Europe and Australia have produced so many artistes. How many have we produced?”

Not that he minds doing what he did with “Perarasu”, “Ottran” and “Little John”, but Pravin now wants to create a platform to promote performing artistes by producing stage shows and live concerts and take music beyond the studio.

After a stupendous response for his Michael Jackson tribute concert and the A.R. Rahman special, Pravin is now putting together The Pink Floyd Experience by the beach, teaming up with friends this summer. “We do these shows purely for satisfaction and to help underprivileged children,” he says with great earnestness.

“I want to make Chennai a hub for concerts and that will happen only if we promote our artistes,” he adds.

Pravin Mani is currently doing an album for Benny Dayal and Suvi Suresh and is all set to release his album Earthspeak, his first under his Mo Mani Music label here. “Earthspeak is a world music fusion album. Haricharan, Karthik, Naresh Iyer, Suvi, Kalyani and Benny Dayal have sung for it. I want to pave the way for the eclectic stuff. I am working with Vivian, the French rapper. I am also getting into Tamil hip-hop and rock, setting up a place for artistes to jam…”

Well, the spiritual him is taking on quite a lot.