Mastering music

On track

Clinton Cerejo works behind the music curtain. He makes magic through his vocal arrangements, compositions, programming and sometimes, his singing. Bindu Gopal Rao speaks to the talented artiste.

Achiever : Clinton Cerejo

Music programmer. Playback singer. Music producer.

Vocal arranger. Composer. Background scorer. Ad jingle singer. If that sounds like a lot of work, well, you can bet it is! But, would you be surprised if I told you that these were not the jobs of multiple people, but just one?

Meet Clinton Cerejo, known for his contribution to various facets of the Indian film music industry. He is also the voice behind hit numbers like Kya Karoon from Wake Up Sid and I Love You from Bodyguard. With all these achievements, he stands out all the more for his charming, down-to-earth demeanor, as he explains, “I have never actively gone out and promoted myself and I don’t wish to be in the limelight.”

There is hardly any awareness on what music arrangement is all about. Cerejo explains, “As an arranger, a music director comes to me with just the melody composed on, say, a harmonium. I sit with the director to understand how it fits within the script and the feel of the song. Then, we decide on the orchestration. After this, we programme the track. What’s great is that there are so many ways to treat a song — you can make it happy or sad.”

Born into an academically inclined family of no musical background, Cerejo was all set to pursue his MBA after completing his graduation in Commerce from Poddar College in Mumbai. Egged on by his friends, as well as being unable to imagine himself in a desk job for the rest of his life, he decided to pursue a career in the music industry.

“Not that I have anything against such a job, but I felt it was not for me. I knew I was on the right track as I was working on jingles and was part of the Louis Banks band as well.” In fact, he has lent his voice to over 1,500 jingles to date and has worked with the likes of A R Rahman, Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, Lezz Lewis, Ranjit Barot, Vishal Bharadwaj, and Louis Banks among others. In fact, it was A R Rahman who offered Cerejo an opportunity to work with him. He has also sung several songs in Tamil for films such as Alaipayuthey and Kandukondain Kandukondain.

So, is singing in other languages hard? “I actually do it phonetically. I write it all in English and learn the syllables. I also understand the feel of the song from the director and emote it comfortably. Music is not bound by language,” he explains.

Being adept at managing music’s myriad gamuts, is it easy choosing a favourite? “Actually, I like all roles. If I am singing, I just focus on doing that without commenting on anything else. However, I love composing and am hoping to work on an interesting project soon, although I can’t talk much about it now,” reveals Cerejo.

Music matters
He added another feather to his overcrowded cap by being a part of music legend Michael Bolton’s recently released album Gems. One of the tracks on the album is A R Rahman’s Sajna, which was composed for the Hollywood film Couples Retreat.

The vocal arrangements of this song have been done by Clinton. “I had done this song about two years back and was surprised to receive a call from Aditya, the sound engineer, asking me to come back to the studio. I was told that Michael loved the original vocals and being a huge fan, my wife and I sang the song on his key,” he says.

Doing something different and working with the best of the musicians may seem enviable from the outside, but it is a lot of hard work. Clinton explains, “It comes with a lot of responsibility and the trust that the director has in you must not be shaken. When I go to Chennai and listen to Rahman sir’s song, he is usually in London or Los Angeles.

I have no way of knowing what he wants me to do. I just listen to the song and do the programming based on my own instincts of what he would like it to sound like. Of course, it builds a lot of self confidence and sets my own parameters of what I can do.”

With the sound of Bollywood music changing and contemporary music fast being accepted within the Bollywood fold, Clinton knows that it’s a great time to be part of the industry. However, he cautions that “one must focus on honing one’s skills to be a long term player rather than just a bright spark.”

Looking ahead, he hopes to come out with his long planned album, one that will also feature his wife, this year. “It may not necessarily be a gospel album, but I can tell you that it will be something meaningful and will give a positive message.”

Aside from working on the album, he has lent his voice to a song from Salim Sulaiman’s Jodi Breakers and Amit Trivedi’s English Vinglish. He has also worked on the background score for Ek Main Aur Ek Tu and Kahaani. In addition, he is producing a song for Vishal Bradwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola.

His hands seem full at the moment. But ultimately, he is doing what he loves.

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