In this digital age, the music fraternity finds it easier than ever before to bypass physical boundaries and collaborate with multiple artists across genres
The world of entertainment as we know it has changed. Gone is the era of largescale album launches, grand live concerts, and artists clinging to well-defined genres. We are now firmly entrenched in a digital age with exciting opportunities for creativity and growth. As noted by Roman Poet and Philosopher, Horace, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.”
The tremendous popularity of musical collaborations across the globe certainly proves this.
A Synthesis of Creativity
Synthesis – The Indian Muse, set to release on all streaming platforms on August 15 at 11 am, brings together 16 talented singers and musicians for a song that represents India’s cultural unity amidst diversity. Nanni Singh, CEO of ShowCase Events, who conceptualised the song, says,
“It arose from the desire to represent what our country stands for, through music. At ShowCase Events, we believe that music is beyond all barriers, and this song is an amalgamation of the collective sounds and moves of our country.”
The song has been Composed by Ravi Iyer, with Lyrics by K. C. Loy. Vocals have been performed by Dhanashree Pandit Rai, Sonam Kalra, Kutle Khan, Anushree Gupta, and Sunita Bhuyan.
Instrumentalists include Ustaad Hidayat Hussain Khan on the Sitar, Ambi Subramaniam on the Violin, Pt. Ajay Shankar Prasanna on the Flute, Nazir Ganaie on the Kashmiri Rabab, Naviin Gandharv on his unique instrument Belabaharr and Sunita Bhuyan on the folk Violin. The Percussionists are Ustaad Fazal Qureshi on Tabla, Sridar Parthasarathy on Mridangam, Kanjira, and Morsing, Vijay Chavan on Marathi Dholki, Nathulal Solanki on the Nagara, and Kutle Khan on the Khartaal.
It has been Mixed and Mastered by Aslam Khan and the video has performances by Kathak dancer Aditi Bhagwat and Bharatnatyam dancer Sohini Roychowdhry.
Another track that brings together heavyweight Indian artists, on the occasion of Independence Day, is Tatva, from the album Headroom Sessions – an initiative by Headroom Studio. This instrumental piece has been composed by Pt. Rakesh Chaurasia, and features Darshan Doshi, Nyzel Dlima, Jarvis Menezes, and Rushad Mistry.
Sitar Maestro Purbayan Chatterjee is also set to release his global collaborative album Unbounded – Abaad on September 10 with the London-based label Sufiscore.
Its first single Shanmukhapriya – The Mystic released on July 28 and has achieved much acclaim in a short span of time. The album brings together numerous legendary musicians from around the globe, several of whom are Grammy award winners. This particular track features Composer Antonio Sanchez, Bassist Michael League, U. Rajesh on the Mandolin, and Shankar Mahadevan on vocals.
“The idea for this album was driven by COVID-19 because, at this point in time, live performances are far from the horizon. I had composed some songs on which I wanted to collaborate with international artists on, and Sufiscore paved the way.
Ustad Zakir Hussain brought many people on board – even the most reticent ones like Béla Fleck!” shares Chatterjee.
Hyderabad-based Singer Peekay aka Pranati Khanna, strongly believes in collaborating with like-minded artists. For her latest single, You Don’t Have To, released on July 24, has teamed up with popular Producer Jonathan Edward, Keshav Dhar for mixing and mastering, Couch Potato Productions for the video, and Daniel Sharma, a talented 3D artist for quirky visuals. The result is a vibrant, quirky video to accompany her peppy song.
She says, “I am blessed that I had all the right people around me who I wanted to collaborate with. I wanted this to be a big, fat Hyderabadi collaboration and it turned out perfectly.”
What Drives these Collaborations?
Whether local or global, it is the act of creating an impactful work of art together that drives multi-artist collaborations. Subir Malik, Founding Member, Manager, and Organist of Parikrama, has collaborated with numerous artists and groups over the years. Though 90 percent of their collaborative experiences have been performed live, the joy and experience of working in tandem stay the same, no matter the mode of performance.
He explains, “It is very rewarding to work closely and creatively with people you admire, and in the process become friends for life. We also learn a lot from each other musically and grow together.”
Pianist, Composer, and Performance Studies Scholar Anirudh Varma, tapped into the collaborative experience well before the pandemic, when he launched the Anirudh Varma Collective in 2018. This project, based out of India, comprises over 150 artists from India, the U.S.A, and Canada. Its sole aim is to present Indian Classical music to the world, in a contemporary format. Their latest collaboration was with Canada-based vocalist Abby V, best known for singing 73 ragas in one go.
“The most rewarding part of a multi-artist collaboration is experiencing the amalgamation of one’s own artistic identity with the identity of the collaborators. Multiple personalities and artistic abilities come together to create one beautiful work,” explains Varma.
Rewarding though they may be, assembling multi-artist collaborations can be quite challenging too. For the team behind ‘Synthesis – The Indian Muse’, the biggest stumbling block was the timely coordination of receiving and piecing together every artist’s portion. Videos were recorded on smartphones due to Covid-19 restrictions, which meant stark variance in the quality of the clips received, yet the team worked with what they had.
Despite these difficulties, however, Dhanashree Pandit-Rai, calls the process exciting,
“No greatness can be achieved without some craziness right at the start. The most exciting part for us all was to see the song germinate bit by bit. First, we got the catchy melodic line, then the lyrics came in and seamlessly blended with the music, then came the instrumental bits, and vocal parts from different artists. Each time the song would come back with something added in, and watching it grow was very exciting!”
Both Varma and Malik believe that the key to overcoming problems in the collaborative process, is to ensure that every artist is on the same creative page, communication lines are open, and egos that are left at the door.
Speaking about the challenges he faced during his upcoming album, Chatterjee says,
“Since these artists are absolute legends in their own regard, it was sometimes tough to direct them! But they are exceptional team players too. I wanted to bring their vision to each song, and they have been excellent collaborators. Somehow it all came together.”
Is this the Future of Music?
With the rise of digital mediums for the creation and consumption of music, physical boundaries no longer stand in the way of unique works. Keeping this in mind, Varma believes multi-artist collaborations are the foreseeable future of music.
Singh refers to this practice as a show of collective artistic spirit.
She feels it is the artists’ attempt to rise as a fraternity above the difficulties inflicted on them by the pandemic, allowing nothing to dilute their sound or their spirit.
The name of Chatterjee’s album, Unbounded – Abaad too reflects this sentiment by assimilating musical cultures from different parts of the world, even in times of social isolation.
He ends with, “This unique collaborative method is the music industry’s response to the shackles imposed by the pandemic. With music we are unbounded. The only thing we feel tethered to is our need to create.”