In today’s day and age, it’s all about inter-mingling of cultures, and music is its best expression, says Karthick Iyer, Chennai-based violinist and music writer, whose outfit, Karthick Iyer Live, recently launched its album, IndoSoul: Looking Within to Look Beyond with two gigs in Chennai and Bangalore. He has drawn influences from genres that pan the globe, and celebrate the core of Carnatic Classical music. The album — comprising six songs — is a deeply textured and layered articulation of music that is rooted but eclectic. Excerpts from an interview.
(Left-right) Vikram Vivekanand, Ramkumar, Naveen Napier, Sumesh Narayanan and Karthick Iyer of Karthick Iyer Live
Q. Firstly, de-mystify the title of the album for us...
A. IndoSoul is the genre that we are creating with this album. The sound that our songs have merits a name that is more specific than contemporary Carnatic/Indian. Since the beginning of Karthick Iyer Live, we have been calling our genre of music as contemporary-Carnatic. Looking Within to Look Beyond is the way we have gone through creating this sound, in a literal sense. The answer to creating true music lies deep within us.
Naveen Napier, Ramkumar, Karthick Iyer (seated), Vikram Vivekanand and Sumesh Narayanan.
Q. So, IndoSoul is a genre itself, and you are pioneering it?
A. Yes! The term is something that we coined recently. But the sound has been in the making for close to three years now. One has to listen to feel it. Indo represents the vast Indian civilisation and its historical tradition of music. It also represents her (India’s) tolerance to absorb new cultures yet retain her core identity. I believe this album is just the first step in the growth of IndoSoul as a genre.
Q. Do you think the fact that IndoSoul is rooted in the Classical form — Carnatic Classical, to be specific — may prove to restrict its listener-ship/consumption?
A. Not at all. Our music is a collaboration of Indian Classical music with other genres such as Rock, Pop, Progressive Rock, Soul, et al. The idea is to take Indian Classical music on to a global platform, and make it palatable to an audience beyond. When there is a meeting of minds between musicians from diverse musical cultures, a new sound comes out and this interests people irrespective of their specific leanings.
Q. How relevant is music like yours in the context of now?
A. In this day and age, it’s all about inter-mingling of cultures from different parts of the world. Music is one of the best ways to express the feeling of different cultures coming together; as much for a musician as for a listener! Besides, the world is increasingly looking at India for her vast history and ancient knowledge, which also includes our age-old Classical music.
Q. Tell us about the sounds in the album. What would constitute among its prime influences?
A. For most songs in the album we went with what we felt and sounded good. While composing a song, plenty of ideas fly around; some work, some don’t. Boundless is an interesting track wherein Shanmugapriya, a Carnatic ragam, intersperses with heavy and powerful Rock Metal riffs. Another track, At The Theatres, is a vocal song with Pop and Soul influences, and talks about people going to a play, which raises some questions about relationships. The main intent behind all the songs is to straddle the bridge between Carnatic music and other forms of music like Rock and Pop, and find a genuine sweet spot between both.
Q. Is your music a reflection of who you are? Tell us a little about your own musical arc?
A. My music is an expression of who I am deep down. I’ve always wanted to create my own music. Back from the days when I was a freelancer playing for some amazing outfits such as Oxygen, Emergence, the Raghu Dixit Project, and Susheela Raman (some of whom I continue to play with even today). I gained amazing exposure and insight into crossover music. Working with these musicians who came from different perspectives, has been a deeply enriching experience. I brought all that experience to bear when I started Karthick Iyer Live and have had the fortune of finding some amazing musicians to work with as well. This, I will say, is just the beginning!
Q. Have you performed for audiences in Mumbai?
A. Plenty of times. I’ve played at blueFrog several times, with Emergence and the Raghu Dixit Project, in addition to several private events.
Q. What are your thoughts on the musical sensibilities of the city?
A. There is never a dull concert in Mumbai. The audience is energetic and loves to let their hair down, and enjoy a good concert after a long day at work. I remember once when I played a song at the launch of the first season of Coke Studio along with Shankar Mahadevan, I played a short solo alaap in Carnatic style. I felt as though the crowd was with me literally through all the ragam variations in the phrases that I played. The audience’s reaction was audible when I moved from one raga to the other, and this reaction left me pleasantly surprised!
Q. Are you planning to launch the album in Mumbai? If yes, when?
A. I would love to! We’ve just wrapped up a launch in Chennai, and Bangalore, and hopefully, we will be in Mumbai soon.