Remember Fusion Wave? When every song seemed like a mix of genres, like his rash and frantic Tinder dates?
Thankfully, Indian music has moved on to a more stable relationship. In fact, Indian fusion (sort of) recently had a showcase at the Tiny Desk Concert. Produced by American media organization NPR, this intimate series is arguably one of the internet’s most popular music events. It was recorded in a small room, which is no easy task. Dua Lipa has performed live as well as the Wu-Tang Clan and his BTS. Chennai-born musician Sid Sriram, 33, joined the elite set in May.
Now based in Minneapolis, Sriram performed an original set including unreleased tracks from their upcoming album Sidarth. A blend of R&B, Soul, Americana and Carnatic music. This concert earned him just under 300,000 views on YouTube. Among the more than 700 comments was one from singer Monica Dogra: “You are amazing.” Another listener wrote: The way he mixed the principles of different musical genres was just mesmerizing. ‘ Indian indie musicians such as Kamakshi Khanna shared on Instagram.
“I have been in music for over ten years,” says Sriram. “My only pursuit is honest representation. That performance was a celebration of that. I wear it as a badge of honor that I might be able to jump down the rabbit hole.”
Sriram’s family moved to the United States in 1991 when Sriram was just one year old. His mother, Latha Sriram, was a Carnatic musician and she started music school in 1992 in the San Francisco Bay Area. He practically grew up with music. “It’s always been there, the framework I came to understand music and the world.”
Of course, there are other influences as well. Stevie Wonder, Lauren Hill, hip-hop, Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros, British and Irish electronica DJs Aphex Twin, among others. He recalls discovering new sounds by downloading music from file-sharing sites such as Limewire. There was also Indian film music. One of Sriram’s earliest memories of him is singing when his mother had guests over. One of them burst into tears. It made him realize that music can do more than just entertain, he says.
Like all Indian-American parents, Sriram’s home was also strict. Also about music. “They knew I had this talent, so they were adamant about things like practicing regularly,” recalls Sriram. Maybe he didn’t like the 15-year-old. But that discipline is its advantage, and it will not change. ” Thanks to that, he graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in his 2012 with a BA in Music Production and Engineering. And it shaped his music.
“My parents, like many people who come to the United States from India, really bring a piece of home home,” he says. “It gave me a sense of grounding in music and everyday life.”
In 2010, when Sriram was out of college for a semester, he sent one of his cover songs to AR Rahman. Rahman responded by asking Sriram if he could sing in Tamil, and Sriram’s industry debut song “Adye” was recorded in 2011-2012. He also composes music for directors such as Mani Ratnam (Vanam Kottatam – 2020).
His breakthrough came in 2016 when he sang the song “Tali Pogaty (Don’t Go Away)” from the Tamil film Atcham Yenbadu Madamayada (Fear is Stupidity) with AR Rahman. He began spending more time in Chennai and developed an independent relationship with his homeland and the center of Carnatic music.
Sriram’s work at NPR concerts sounds fresh and modern, in large part because of his solid footing in music, but there’s room for a little double-stepping. “In Carnatic music there are gamaks that embellish the melody or add vocal embellishments, which add turns and twists. He found it in R&B. “It was very interesting,” he says. “Despite the technical differences, there are fundamental similarities. Carnatic music sings from the heart, while blues uses the full throat.”
He finally experimented with R&B chords with an arap. It felt unnatural at first. By 2021, he had started working on an album with a few other musicians in Minneapolis, finally finding a way to smooth out the rough edges. “The lyrics have a tinge of carnatic embellishment, one moment they melt into a soul riff”.
He was overjoyed when he got a call from Tiny Desk Concerts. “My favorite music was playing there.” Leading up to the gig, he says, the only focus was on quietness. “Because it was literally recorded in the office with no amps or monitors. I just wanted it to be super fire,” he says. It was.
From HT branch, June 24, 2023
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