Singer from Sydney, tabla from Chennai: How Kollywood composers use technology to record songs

You don't have to be in the same studio or even country any more to create a song together.
Singer from Sydney, tabla from Chennai: How Kollywood composers use technology to record songs
Singer from Sydney, tabla from Chennai: How Kollywood composers use technology to record songs

What connects Sid Sriram, Aryan Dinesh Kanagaratnam (now popularly known as ADK), Arjun Chandy, Aditya Rao and Jonita Gandhi? The most obvious connection is that they are all playback singers, who have to their credit several chartbusters in recent times, in movies like Accham Enbadhu Madamaiyada, OK KanmaniKaatru Veliyidai, I, among others.

But there's something else that links them all - Sid Sriram, Aditya Rao and Arjun Chandy have been brought up in the USA, Jonita Gandhi is Indo-Canadian while ADK is a Sri Lankan rapper based in Singapore. And yet, here they are, making waves in Kollywood and Tollywood!

Though it was their hugely popular online presence that gave them the initial traction, one of the main factors that has enabled these singers to stay put in this competitive field is that the face of music production is rapidly changing in India, with an increasing  number of music directors seeking out talents from all over the world and collaborating with them remotely for their albums.

With scores of Indians migrating to various parts of the world over the last couple of decades, the talent pool is highly diversified and the geographical location of a person no longer has a significant bearing on his/her attempts to pursue opportunities in the Indian music industry.

Singer Vijaynarain started getting active in the South Indian music scene about five years ago, providing backing vocals for AR Rahman (Kadal, Enthiran, Raavan etc) in addition to other projects. His day job as an IT consultant took him to Sydney, but the move did nothing to deter him from pursuing his passion for music.

Over the last couple of years, Vijay has made a mark as a playback singer to watch out for, singing several songs across languages, some of which have gone on to become superhits, like Maya Visai (Irudhi Suttru) and Ei Suzhali (Kodi) - all of this operating from halfway across the world in Sydney!

Speaking to The News Minute, Vijay explains how he was quick to leverage the technology of remote collaboration for music productions by getting his own recording equipment set up in his studio apartment.

"I got an opportunity to record some tracks for music director Santhosh Narayanan in person when he was here in Sydney, and soon we developed a great rapport and working relationship. That is when the idea of remotely recording the lead vocals for Maya Visai happened. The music director typically sends me a karaoke or a minus one track with a reference vocal through a secure channel, and I send back the track with my vocals added. Once he approves, I incorporate the feedback and usually record the final version in a professional recording studio in Sydney, according to the specifications of the director. “

With the availability of high-speed internet connections, communication tools to monitor live and provide feedback, secure servers to share compositions and tracks, and studio costs being comparable to those in India, remote music production is almost as seamless as recording in person, feels Vijay, who has worked in this fashion with several other music directors.

Social media provides a level playing field for aspiring singers to promote themselves and music directors are now open to the idea of scouting new talent from across the globe and collaborating with them regardless of their location.

A recent instance is that of music director D.Imman roping in YouTube sensations Luksimi Sivaneswaralingam (Sri Lankan based in Toronto) and Diluckshan Jeyaratnam (based in Denmark) for songs in his recent movies, Bogan and Podhuvaga En Manasu Thangam, with their parts of the songs being recorded in their respective locations.

Providing some fascinating technical insight into this is Sai Shravanam, the man who dons multiple hats of Music Producer, Scoring/Mixing/Mastering Engineer, and holds the honour of being part of the sound production team of Life of Pi.

This was one of the earliest instances of remote collaboration at a global level from India, and the film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2012. He also pulled off another hugely successful international collaboration for the British biographical film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, a biographical account of the Indian mathematical genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan. He was credited as its Indian music producer, recording and scoring engineer, and percussion artiste.

Sai recounts the innovative experience of collaborating with music director Mychael Danna at Fox Studios in Los Angeles:

"We used Source-Connect, which is a pioneer in remote recording technology and still remains the most cutting edge software, and this enabled us to virtually connect the studio in LA to my studio in Chennai. We were all present at the same time and working together, giving each other feedback instantly - but it was all on the cloud!"

Bombay Jayashri's vocal track for the song Pi's lullaby and several other Indian music elements for the rhythm section were recorded thus in Sai's studio in Chennai. Mycheal speaks of his contribution to the soundtrack with very high regard, and Sai muses how despite never having met the music director in person, they share the pride of an Oscar.

Back home, he feels that the trend is surely catching up among Indian music directors as well, citing instances of collaborating with music director Santhosh Narayanan by remote playing-recording the tabla tracks for the song Maya Nadhi in Kabali, and also mixing and mastering some of his other recent projects remotely.

"The camaraderie that can be achieved by the whole production team being physically co-located is compromised to an extent. However, the advantages of remote collaboration open up endless possibilities, removing all geographical restraints and thus enabling the best of talents from across the world to come together. It's enough if all the involved parties are highly equipped with the technology and the know-how," says Sai.

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