Musical Mélange – When Indian Carnatic Music Got Western Makeover

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Our constant search to find novel talents has often led us to rummage through the deepest recesses of the internet world in a rather obsessive manner, and the search has not been for vain. From body painter, comic illustrators to glass artist, we have documented some pretty inspiring artwork. One such artist, who captured our interest recently, is – Mahesh Raghvan. His penchant lies in the way he mixes Traditional Carnatic Music with electronic beats without disturbing the essence of the original tunes. Rather than using traditional instruments, Mahesh makes use of latest applications and software on iPad to create unique sounds and musical gestures. ACTFAQs connect with the dynamic Mahesh Raghvan to know more about his unique spinning style. After all, it’s not every day that an artist comes along who can make an Indian classical cover on Adele’s Hello. Excerpts.

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What is ’Carnatic 2.0 series’ all about, and how did the idea strike you?

Carnatic Music 2.0 is a project that aims at presenting Traditional Carnatic Music in a contemporary fashion by mixing it with Electronic Music, in order to make it appeal to modern audiences. The idea first struck me when I was studying in Scotland, where I was exposed to a lot of underground electronic music. I had noticed a lot of folk tunes and hooks being remixed into commercial electronic tracks. Hence I decided to try out something similar with Carnatic Music, and it seemed to work very well.

Your compositions are known for its fusion element, the way you meld authentic Carnatic music with western beats? How do you manage to make the blend seem so seamless and what inspires you?

I always try and maintain the true essence, spirituality and musical rules of authentic Carnatic music, while working on the fusion. I look at Western/Electronic Music from the perspective of an Indian Classical Musician. Since the musical rules, restrictions and principles of Carnatic Music are very rigid as compared to Western Music forms, this approach allows me to work out similar restrictions that can be applied to the Western Music parts/beats. That way, I am able to mould both forms of music so that the fusion works well.

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While researching on you, we found out, you use quite unusual sound sources and contemporary technology in creating music, tell us about it.

I use electronic instruments and computer software in order to replicate the musical expressions and gestures present in Carnatic Music. I use an iPad application called GeoSynthesizer to control my sound, along with some other controllers. Using such technology gives me the flexibility and the power to come up with unique ideas and sounds that may not be possible with traditional acoustic instruments.

How is the new age audio techniques and sound engineering set to change the game plan for the current Indian music scene?

Through new age audio techniques, there is a lot of potential to take Indian Classical Music to the next level. High quality recording technology is now very easily accessible and this makes collaborations a lot easier than before. Since computers now give musicians easy access to a lot of tools which they can use to change their sound, there is a lot of scope for new and creative ideas.

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Your recent project ’Star Wars – Imperial March’ and ’Hello (Adele) – Indian Classical Version’ received some rave reviews for its innovative concept, not to mention, unusual sounds. Take us through the concept.

The main goal of my music released under the FLAIR – Carnatic Music 2.0 series is to draw people into the world of Carnatic Music. In order to reach a larger audience, I decided to do ’Indianized’ covers of popular Western tunes (such as the Star Wars Imperial March and Adele’s Hello) in the same style of my other Carnatic fusion music pieces. Since I used an iPad to achieve this, I guessed it attracted a lot of attention and fortunately, almost all of the feedback/response has been positive.

Image Courtesy: www.facebook.com/followingmahesh

Today, aspiring musicians’ compositional interests lies more towards fusing old world music with modern beats, rather than constructing a sound piece from scratch. Do you think it will somewhere dilute the quality of old melodies?

Personally, I think that old melodies shall always remain gold melodies. In today’s world, when the shelf life of most of the current commercial music is just about a few months, it is always a delight for me to see any artist recreate old-school music and present it in a contemporary fashion. Of course, it is extremely difficult to do complete justice to the old tunes, but the fusion is still a great way to bring back the music and introduce young audiences to the old melodies they might not have heard of.

From Anant Nath Jha (Artist/Painter) to singer Leela Salivati, you have collaborated with quite a few noteworthy artists till date, what was the experience like?

I have been extremely fortunate to have made many talented friends through my music, who are a delight to work with. For me, it was a great learning experience to have worked with such talented artists, who added in their fresh perspectives through their art forms. The collaborations helped all of us learn a lot from each other, and helped us grow as artists. I believe that while working with other artists, it is important to have absolute confidence in their talents and give them complete freedom of expression, so that they can contribute in the best way possible without any hindrances.

Image Courtesy: www.facebook.com/followingmahesh

Whom do you wish to collaborate next and why?

I have always wished to collaborate with fusion/Indian classical instrumentalists like Niladri Kumar, Rajesh Vaidhya, Talvin Singh and Karsh Kale. The music these artists create have been inspirational to me. I believe that working with them would be a wonderful learning experience, plus it would be an opportunity for me to work on something with a longer form, that such artists are very familiar with.

Any advice to budding talents, looking to find the right career trajectory?

The main piece of advice I would give to budding talents is to never stop learning and practicing your art. There is a lot you can discover, and each piece of knowledge gained can be used to create something beautiful. Of course, not everybody is fortunate enough to pursue an artistic career, but that should never stop people from creating and sharing fantastic art works. Nobody knows from where or how the big break might come anyway.

Image Courtesy: www.facebook.com/followingmahesh

What can listeners look forward from you next?

I am currently working on the next series of Carnatic fusion projects, a lot of which are collaborations with amazing artists. I also plan to use new innovative technology (controllers, applications and instruments) into my music that I haven’t used before. My work can be followed on facebook.com/followingmahesh.