He believes in staying one step ahead of the times, be it with a rock-meets-raag composition he made 16 years ago, or his new digital release Khizaan Ke Din, a collection of 4 tracks that integrate Momin, the 18th century poet, with a sound as ‘today’ as a Blues Guitar. Screen has a chat with classical maestro Somesh Mathur

  1. The obvious question first – why have you chosen to come out with four tracks digitally rather in physical format?

    To be honest, it’ quite a revelation! I had no idea that the digital media would be so effective. I get a feedback within 30 minutes of someone downloading these four new songs. Even economics-wise, while a company can hide physical sales from an artiste, how can you hide hits and downloads? I get exact and instant information on how many people sampled the songs and how many were actually downloaded.

  2. Still, what about the other aspects like fidelity, the use of music videos and publicity. And how does the revenue model work?

    The quality is as good, if not better, than an audio CD. This is high-resolution, 224 bit MP3. My songs are also being promoted by iTunes, Hungama.com and artistaloud.com. There will also be ground events. Tie-ups will be there across music and FM channels and there will be ads on Hungama platforms. Ring-tones will also happen. The songs can also be downloaded through TataSky. Hungama has a great plan of action. For me, Khizaan Ke Din is both a revelation and a revolution. And it has been successful enough for me to now think of a music video.
    The digital era is here to stay. The PC has replaced the television in terms of a target audience from five to 50 years of age, like I get mails complimenting me on my old songs and videos because they have watched it on YouTube, not on some channel!

  3. Is there a theme in Khizaan Ke Din?

    Today every moment the listeners, especially the youth, need something fresh, radical and exciting, and I have tried to give them all three. Woh aankh is written by Jan Nissar Akhtar and I have composed it in pure Raag Bhairavi but given it a lounge groove. Kya kaam kiya humne was a composition based on a poem by Monin that lent itself to a Jazz and Blues harmonic progression. Dil ke haathon is also written by me and uses a pop-rock base. And Sufi meets Lounge in Allah ne yeh farmaaya hai which is in Raag Raageshri. What I have done is given uniform sound, production values and gaayaki to all four songs but treated them all differently, musically speaking.

  4. Are you off films, after the songs you contributed to Bullet – Ek Dhamaka five years ago?

    I am actually doing two films, both produced by Vikram Razdan, one of which he is also directing. They are very challenging assignments right up my alley. One film could be loosely compared to A Wednesday!, while the other has a strong base for theatrical and Indian classical music and an international lounge sound.

  5. As a person who is into classical music, are you clued into contemporary film music? How do you find it today?

    Laughs In India, you cannot escape film music! Today’s music has only one problem – it is all so assembly-line! Unlike in the days, when every composer, writer and singer had their own styles, this time it is about a model that runs and has to be re-created. But that works in automobiles, not in creativity!
    Today’s songs are therefore very, very perishable. Most films become forgotten history after the first weekend, and so does their music. There is no concept of making something of archival value. There is also a certain ignorance, like calling something Sufi music. Sufi, I need hardly add, is about thoughts and thus about lyrics, just like the ghazal is not a musical form but a poetic one.

    You pride yourself on being ahead of time. We would like some light shed on how a raag or a Hindustani classical form can be blended with various Western forms and grooves.

    Let me first tell you about my exposure to music – every musician is exposed to different musical styles and absorbs and reproduces them. My parents are both classical musicians – Pandit Sarvesh Chandra Mathur and Sudha Mathur. I was raised all over India and did my MBA in Delhi. So many classical stalwarts have stayed for days in my house. But on the other hand, my sister was fond of rock-and-roll, so I was exposed to both Indian and Western music like a locomotive running on two parallel tracks. Even today, I compose on a guitar or a piano, even though my training is in Hindustani classical vocal and I give performances in khayal, thumri, dadra and of course the ghazal set to music.
    So to answer your query, music for me is melody – the composition or dhun, that is. As a musician, how you blend the classical and the Western depends on how much you have learnt or got exposed to beats and grooves and various genres.Yes, depending upon how you look at it, I have been accused or complimented for being ahead of my time!

  6. For example, I composed a pop-rock song, Accha hai, in Raag Bhimpalasi in 1994, recorded it in 1995 and released it in 1996! The song had a very unique video directed by Ken Ghosh. Pop-rock was something thatwas not really prevalent then, and today it is a common enough style in India, 14 years after I did it!
    What next?

    I am working an Indian epic written in English. I will be composing and singing a small part of this 2000-page epic. That’s all I can reveal at the moment.

    He believes in staying one step ahead of the times, be it with a rock-meets-raag composition he made 16 years ago, or his new digital release Khizaan Ke Din, a collection of 4 tracks that integrate Momin, the 18th century poet, with a sound as ‘today’ as a Blues Guitar. Screen has a chat with classical maestro Somesh Mathur

  7. The obvious question first – why have you chosen to come out with four tracks digitally rather in physical format?

    To be honest, it’ quite a revelation! I had no idea that the digital media would be so effective. I get a feedback within 30 minutes of someone downloading these four new songs. Even economics-wise, while a company can hide physical sales from an artiste, how can you hide hits and downloads? I get exact and instant information on how many people sampled the songs and how many were actually downloaded.

  8. Still, what about the other aspects like fidelity, the use of music videos and publicity. And how does the revenue model work?

    The quality is as good, if not better, than an audio CD. This is high-resolution, 224 bit MP3. My songs are also being promoted by iTunes, Hungama.com and artistaloud.com. There will also be ground events. Tie-ups will be there across music and FM channels and there will be ads on Hungama platforms. Ring-tones will also happen. The songs can also be downloaded through TataSky. Hungama has a great plan of action. For me, Khizaan Ke Din is both a revelation and a revolution. And it has been successful enough for me to now think of a music video.
    The digital era is here to stay. The PC has replaced the television in terms of a target audience from five to 50 years of age, like I get mails complimenting me on my old songs and videos because they have watched it on YouTube, not on some channel!

  9. Is there a theme in Khizaan Ke Din?

    Today every moment the listeners, especially the youth, need something fresh, radical and exciting, and I have tried to give them all three. Woh aankh is written by Jan Nissar Akhtar and I have composed it in pure Raag Bhairavi but given it a lounge groove. Kya kaam kiya humne was a composition based on a poem by Monin that lent itself to a Jazz and Blues harmonic progression. Dil ke haathon is also written by me and uses a pop-rock base. And Sufi meets Lounge in Allah ne yeh farmaaya hai which is in Raag Raageshri. What I have done is given uniform sound, production values and gaayaki to all four songs but treated them all differently, musically speaking.

  10. Are you off films, after the songs you contributed to Bullet – Ek Dhamaka five years ago?

    I am actually doing two films, both produced by Vikram Razdan, one of which he is also directing. They are very challenging assignments right up my alley. One film could be loosely compared to A Wednesday!, while the other has a strong base for theatrical and Indian classical music and an international lounge sound.

  11. As a person who is into classical music, are you clued into contemporary film music? How do you find it today?

    Laughs) In India, you cannot escape film music! Today’s music has only one problem – it is all so assembly-line! Unlike in the days, when every composer, writer and singer had their own styles, this time it is about a model that runs and has to be re-created. But that works in automobiles, not in creativity!
    Today’s songs are therefore very, very perishable. Most films become forgotten history after the first weekend, and so does their music. There is no concept of making something of archival value. There is also a certain ignorance, like calling something Sufi music. Sufi, I need hardly add, is about thoughts and thus about lyrics, just like the ghazal is not a musical form but a poetic one.

    You pride yourself on being ahead of time. We would like some light shed on how a raag or a Hindustani classical form can be blended with various Western forms and grooves.

    Let me first tell you about my exposure to music – every musician is exposed to different musical styles and absorbs and reproduces them. My parents are both classical musicians – Pandit Sarvesh Chandra Mathur and Sudha Mathur. I was raised all over India and did my MBA in Delhi. So many classical stalwarts have stayed for days in my house. But on the other hand, my sister was fond of rock-and-roll, so I was exposed to both Indian and Western music like a locomotive running on two parallel tracks. Even today, I compose on a guitar or a piano, even though my training is in Hindustani classical vocal and I give performances in khayal, thumri, dadra and of course the ghazal set to music.
    So to answer your query, music for me is melody – the composition or dhun, that is. As a musician, how you blend the classical and the Western depends on how much you have learnt or got exposed to beats and grooves and various genres.Yes, depending upon how you look at it, I have been accused or complimented for being ahead of my time!

    For example, I composed a pop-rock song, Accha hai, in Raag Bhimpalasi in 1994, recorded it in 1995 and released it in 1996! The song had a very unique video directed by Ken Ghosh. Pop-rock was something thatwas not really prevalent then, and today it is a common enough style in India, 14 years after I did it!