A twist to the original

A twist to the original

Collaborative platform

A twist to the original

The liberating, bone-chilling feeling while listening to the background score of ‘Interstellar’ is familiar to many but little do they know what the same tune translates to if a piercing Indian classical flute is played against its backdrop.

In an attempt to knit Indian classical tones with Hollywood scores, the artistes of ‘Indian Jam Project’ have created a new syntax for music by transcending barriers and going beyond the impossible.

The project was founded by musician Tushar Lall in 2014, who has been working with different artistes for an Indian output of background scores from ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Rich in compositions, nuanced in their arrangements and light on the eye in terms of presentation, ‘Indian Jam Project’ has acquired a global presence, including praise from legendary percussionist Karsh Kale and actor Mark Gatiss. In a chat with Anushka Sivakumar, Tushar talks about how he deconstructs the score and merges it with Indian tunes so that the music takes flight.

Tell us how ‘Indian Jam Project’ started.

From ‘Game Of Thrones’. I loved its background score. I also have a strong background in Western music and a good command over Indian music as I am always surrounded by people from an Indian classical background which includes friends and family. So I just decided to put two and two together and add Indian classical elements to the background score of ‘Game Of Thrones’. I hired a few musicians, who happened to be my friends, and we worked on jamming to the score with the tabla and a flute. I put up the video on YouTube and received an overwhelming response. From then, I decided to ‘Indianise’ other Hollywood scores as well.

So this is not a band in the conventional sense?

No. It’s a collaborative platform where different musicians come together and work on a score. I hire instrumentalists depending on what sound and instrument will suit the score best. These musicians are friends of mine or people I have worked and recorded songs with in college. They are all different for each project.

Why only Hollywood scores?

I like listening to scores. There is vast scope and potential to improvise on them. It works wonders when you know how to play around with it. It’s also the closest thing one can hear to Western classical music.  

How do you work on these compositions and arrangements and visualise which instrument to use?

I fully listen to the score first. That is important. It’s like deep, meditative listening. I paint a picture in my head and have a vision of how I want the final product to be. I then call my musicians, depending on whether the score needs a ‘sitar’ or a ‘saarangi’ and we all work together. It takes about 2 weeks to record and get everything in place for one score.

Any challenges you face while merging and re-arranging harmonies?

It is a task to get the Indian arrangement and compositions across. I also work with many scores for one video so the transitions between each score and getting them all into one piece is a challenge.  

Do you find any common ground between Indian and Western classical music?

Indian classical music has a central fulcrum or a ‘raga’ and songs revolve around it. In Western classical music, it’s more about branching out to different harmonies and adding colour to them. Something magical and emotionally evocative comes out when we bring both together.  

What do you do when you aren’t working on ‘Indianising’ scores for ‘Indian Jam Project’?
I am working on my YouTube channel and also hope to move away from the space of scores. I think people would love it if they heard a ‘saarangi’ version of ‘Stairway To Heaven’.

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