Soul of the song

Soul of the song

Music master

Rachna bisht-rawat speaks to Vishal Dadlani on music and technology, the evolution of Bollywood music, and the global potential of Indian music.

“No singer can get anywhere without soul.” It is a dangling conversation with Vishal Dadlani, rock and roller, lyricist, music director and one half of the talented duo Vishal and Shekhar, whose Chammak challo and Dirty Picture ditties are still being played on loop. Towards the end, he is starting to get just a little irritated with the constant questions about technology helping new-age singers tweak their voices. Finally, he gives a shut-up call. “We still haven’t developed the technology to put soul in a singer’s voice.”

Technology has affected the making of music, agrees Vishal. Collaborations are very easy to do. He has himself been part of a track that brought more than 15 of India’s best musicians together over the net over a few days, something that would have been very hard to pull off without internet and technology. “But no amount of technology can replace talent,” he insists. “At the end of the day, music is something you create out of your head, out of your heart.”

“A lot of people don’t realise that music is intrinsically very simple. At the end of the day, the core of music is a beautiful song that speaks to the people.” For him, “Allah ke bande hasde jo bhi ho kal phir aayega” is a perfect example of a song that did not need any technology. “It just had an acoustic guitar and vocals. Kailash Kher’s voice had soul; the song had meaning and people connected to it. There was no technology in that song,” he says.

If at all technology has affected music, it has been in a positive way, he feels. Here, he is talking about Facebook and micro-blogging portals like Twitter. These, he says, help musicians connect with people because “you get instant feedback.” He is fairly active on social networking sites, so is his group Pentagram, so are Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan, who he calls the “Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle of today”. Even Lata Mangeshkar is on Twitter and if Mohammad Rafi were around, he would have had to be more interactive too, he says.

Going global

Meeting other musicians and hearing them talk about what they do and how music is made is, for him, a great learning experience. That was his reason to participate in the Red Bull Music Academy — New Sound of Bollywood talk show and performance last month. Held for the second time in India, this satellite event was presented by MTV and held at Mehboob Studio. It brought under one roof about 400 musicians as well as music enthusiasts. “What we are witnessing right now in the global music industry is a keen interest of collaborating with foreign artistes. At forums like these, we are trying to strengthen this trend so that young upcoming musicians get an opportunity to learn and play alongside their counterparts from across the globe.” A unique venture, the Academy was set up as a world-travelling series of music workshops and festivals which aims to provide a platform for prospective talented musicians. 

Vishal agrees that Hindi film music has changed substantially. After the post-RD Burman lull of the 80s and 90s when “there was some very puerile music,” things changed. “The primary instrument of that change would be the advent of A R Rehman,” he says, acknowledging that Rehman was the single most important reason why a rock-and-roller like himself was attracted to the Indian film industry. “Before that, I hadn’t even considered it. His music made it respectable for me to be a part of film music.” With new people came new sounds and new ideas. They brought freshness to film music, a new flavour. And the beauty of it was that at no point did we lose the rootedness of it,” he says a little emotionally, calling it a “magical change”.

The other change he would like to point out is that the industry’s music, rather than being influenced by global sounds, has become an influence on global sounds. The desire to make Indian music global is what made him and Shekhar do a musical collaboration like Chammak challo with international pop star Akon, he says. “It is our goal to take our music and make it as assimilated into global music as say, Latin music. When you hear a percussion ensemble, you have Congos, but you don’t even think of it as Latin music.

You think of it as global music. Indian music has that potential,” says Vishal. He ends with a futuristic quote about the greatness of India’s musical past and its bright shining future by saying: “A tree has to have roots but it should also reach for the skies.”

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