Life and times of Lezz

Life and times of Lezz

Nafeesah Ahmed & puneet kaura look at the past, present and future of celebrated musician Lesle Lewis, best known for being a part of the successful musical duo — Colonial Cousins.

Singing for a cause (From left to right) Mathangi, Monali, Lesle and Shaan.

“Doodh doodh doodh doodh, doodh hai wonderful, pee sakte hain roz glassful, doodh doodh doodh doodh… piyo glassful doodh!” sings the voice over the phone, as the man on the other end remembers one of his most popular jingles, composed for television, years ago.

Beaming over the phone line is the man — the musician responsible for creating enormous recall value for some of the best brands in the country.

For the benefit of those of us who grew up humming along with jingles like this one or other memorable commercial tunes, topped with catchy taglines, such as ‘Mango Frooty — Fresh & Juicy’, ‘Thumbs Up — Taste The Thunder’, or for that matter, the quintessential ‘Washing Powder Nirma’; we decided to catch up with the man behind these indelible tunes — Lesle Lewis.

Popularly known as Lezz to the industry, he is better known for being one half of the fusion band Colonial Cousins, and most recently for his stint as the music director for Coke Studio @ MTV— Season One, where he recorded a marathon of 51 songs in 40 days. Today, with a career spanning over 30 years and with thousands of jingles and popular songs to his credit, Lesle Lewis has always delivered what people have wanted of him, be it film projects, music albums or ads and commercials.

Interestingly, he was never “just a guitar player” unlike how he states. Though, with his father being a musician and a noted choreographer from the Hindi film industry, Lewis discovered his fascination for the guitar early as a child. This, despite the heavy influence of Indian classical music through his contact with big names like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, Sitara Devi, etc all around him.

We begin to see how gifted he is, as far as his music goes. With not much formal training in music, he likes to attribute his success to the formative years at the boarding school in Mount Abu, where he was exposed to music records . It wouldn’t entirely be wrong to state that the likes of Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and the British rock super group — Cream — as well as Eric Clapton, further cemented his passion for music.

We discover that life, for Lezz, has to be constantly moving forward, as he shares, “I’m the kind of person who needs to constantly better himself and get to the next level. That’s how it has always been.” Evident from the natural progressions of his career, we can’t help but agree.

He adds, “After having brought back live music to Indian television with Coke Studio, what I want to do is simply pick up my guitar and sing my songs, do what I was doing when I was 18 or 19!” And that is exactly what he has done in his new album Tanha Sa Hoon, released earlier this year.

The music video shows a carefree Lewis sitting in the backseat of a Classic, strumming his guitar and singing his song. “With Tanha Sa Hoon, I can see myself going on a new journey. It’s a very Lesle Lewis album, and an introspective one at that. I like to call it my visiting card. If you probably like these songs, you’ll probably like Lesle Lewis!” he exclaims.

Crooning for conservation

He goes on to add, “I don’t work with preprocessed music, I create everything from scratch.” This is all so evident from his latest composition for Animal Planet, which is a three-minute multi-lingual anthem Yeh Mera India. The month-long programme and its anthem commemorates the 66th year of India’s Independence and celebrates the country’s incredible wildlife and natural diversity.

Speaking on the choice of singers for the anthem which has been beautifully cut with wildlife and landscape shots interspersed with visuals of the artists, he adds, “Through the anthem, I wanted to address the country and Shaan seemed to be the natural choice for it. Then we have Monali singing in Bengali and Mathangi from Tamil Nadu; all of them add to the anthem beautifully in three different languages. It is exactly how India is — so diverse and yet it all comes together so beautifully.”

For all those Lesle Lewis fans who have come to love and appreciate his music, a new album by the Colonial Cousins is in the making.

When asked about Divya, Lewis’s daughter, who was seen on the Coke Studio platform last, he says, “I feel that she’s a tad bit too young to be on the music scene professionally. I believe she should get better at her craft.” Then, perhaps, we could nurture the hope to see the father-daughter duo collaborate, to give us something new to rave about. That’s just a solemn hope, but what we will soon see for certain are another set of videos, and Lesle promoting conservation efforts through his association with Animal Planet.

True to his claims, Lezz seems to be defying his age of 50-plus, and re-embracing the life of an 18-year-old rock star. We most certainly believe he doesn’t have to try too hard.

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