Hearing it anew

Hearing it anew
He swirls, shakes and mixes, and brings forth the new avatar! Those in their 50s will swear by Rafi’s Khoya Khoya Chand, Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho or Geeta Dutt’s Jaata Kahan Hai Diwane.

However, those under 30 years are likely to vociferously disagree and stress that they are sung by Suman Sridhar and Shalmali Kholgade. Welcome to the world of remix songs. Or ‘revamp’ songs, as Mikey McCleary would like to say. Smiling at what he takes as a compliment, the man who is famous for revamping of old filmy songs says, “I don’t remix or rejig them. Keeping the melody intact, I completely redo them. These songs are sacred to old timers. Even I love and respect the melody. I just want to popularise them with the new generation.”

Youthful appeal

That is Mikey McCleary with his ‘old wine in new bottle’ style, the musician behind many such revamped old classics that are adding to his popularity with the youth! And hence, ‘The Bartender’ is the name of his band. Every item in the song, except the tune, is changed. And he has a plethora of new voices like those of Suman Sridhar, Anushka Manchanda, Shalmali Kholgade, Monica Dogra and Mauli Dave, which he loves to use.
According to the artiste, these new, powerful voices interpret the songs in a fresh way, which adds a zing to old melodies, making them popular among those who consume music through headphones.

Then there are ad jingles for big brands like Levi’s, Coca-Cola, Vodafone, Audi, Titan, Lakme, Reliance and several others. In fact, Mikey is perhaps the first singer, composer, director, producer and instrumentalist who has converted 45-second ad jingles to full-length songs by rewriting lyrics, recomposing and having singers sing the whole songs in his album, ‘TV Dinners’.

He recently added another feather to his collection of accolades when he won the Best Composer award at the 9th Asian Film Award ceremony for Margarita With A Straw (MWAS). “That award is really a huge bonus,” admits the blue-eyed man. “The film has been nominated and has won in quite a few film festivals. Getting nominated for the award certainly made me happy, but winning the best composer was really great.”

MWAS isn’t his first film. He has contributed and composed music for films like Shaitan, Shanghai, Love Sex aur Dhokha, David, Nautanki Saala! Shaadi Ke Side Effects etc. His next, Bombay Velvet, releases this month. But he is already composing music for an upcoming film called Waiting, which stars Kalki Koechlin and Naseeruddin Shah. It’s sheer coincidence that he has worked for four of Kalki’s films, and he says, “I love working for different genres of films. Even Kalki selects such films. So, somehow we have worked together for many films.”

About his contribution to the film Bombay Velvet, Mikey says, “One of the songs, Jaata Kahan Hai Diwane, is a revamped song from a 60s film called CID, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman. And I have composed a new song called Mohabbat Hai Beemari. I enjoyed working on them as I had to give them a touch of jazz. I love the freedom to create music according to the mood of the film.”

Born in Chennai, Mikey spent the first five years in India, but is certainly a Kiwi for he spent his growing-up years in New Zealand, with his family. Though he is the first in his family to take up music professionally, he belongs to a music-loving family. His sister plays piano. After completing a course at Wellington Conservatorium of Music and Victoria University of Wellington, Mikey moved to London to work as a music producer at the Trident Studios.

‘Lucky’ connection

“While in London, one fine morning, singer, songwriter, composer and actor Lucky Ali rang my door bell and announced he is my new brother-in-law! I didn’t even know that he had married my sister in India!” recalls the award-winning  composer. It was by chance that Mickey offered to assist Lucky Ali when he encountered problems while recording his maiden album ‘Sunoh’ (1996).

This led to his entry into the world of Hindi film music. As Lucky scaled popularity with the album, Mikey got recognition, and both collaborated on Lucky’s next two albums.
Though Mikey loves freedom while composing music, he admits that it is sometimes daunting. For example, while he worked with music maestro A R Rahman for two years, he enjoyed the liberty he got in mixing and mastering of the song Pray For Me Brother. But it was daunting. “Rahman speaks in a very soft voice, but you know you are working for a genius. That experience itself is quite overwhelming,” recalls Mikey, who brought out a special album of revamped Amitabh Bachchan songs to present him on his 70th birthday celebrations.

Recently married to writer Diksha Basu, his next agenda is to direct a full-length Hindi musical. After directing and acting in the music videos of ‘TV Dinners’, he is confident of his directorial prowess. “I am  writing the story. I hope to start the venture soon,” he says.

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