RAJIV VIJAYAKAR of the Deccan Herald, India, May 23, 2010

He composed a rock-meets-raag track around 1994. In 2007, he composed vintage ghazals for Asha Bhosle in the album Asha.
And a few weeks ago, he launched his new digital release Khizaan Ke Din, online. Pandit Somesh Mathur believes in being ‘with it’ even in the field of Hindustani classical music.

“To be honest, the effectiveness of the digital media is quite a revelation to me. I get a feedback within 30 minutes of someone downloading these songs!” says an excited Mathur. “And 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! All this apart from the creative freedom and no pressures.”

The composer-singer has ensured that the quality is as good, if not better, than a physical CD with high-resolution, 224 bit MP3. “My songs are promoted by iTunes, Hungama.com and artistaloud.com,” says Mathur.”Besides ground events, tie-ups across music and FM channels and ads on digital platforms, ring-tones can also be downloaded. And I can now think of a music video.”

He adds, “Digital is here to stay. I get mails complimenting me on my old songs and videos because they have watched it on YouTube rather than a TV channel. Yes, the PC has replaced television!”

His natural tendency towards radical, new stuff is reflected as usual in his musical content. ‘Woh aankh’, written by the late Jan Nissar Akhtar, is set in pure raag Bhairavi with a lounge groove. ‘Kya kaam kiya humne’, a composition based on a ghazal by pioneer Momin has a jazz and blues harmonic treatment. ‘Dil ke haathon’ has a pop-rock base with Mathur’s own lyrics, while the Sufi ‘Allah ne yeh farmaaya hai’ is in raag Raageshri with a lounge treatment again.

Pandit Somesh contributed to the songs of Bullet — Ek Dhamaka in 2005. Why is he not doing more films? “I am actually doing two films produced by Vikram Razdan, one of which he is also directing. They are very challenging assignments right up my alley. But as of now, they are in early stages of pre-production,” he says. His views on contemporary film music, however, are not very complimentary. “Today’s music is all so assembly-line!” he laments. “Unlike in the days when every composer, writer and singer had their own styles, this time it is about a model that has run and has to be marketed again. But that works in cars, not in creativity! So today’s songs are very perishable. There is no concept of making something of lasting quality. There is also a lot of ignorance, like calling something Sufi music. Sufi, like ghazal, is about thoughts and lyrics, not a musical style.”

What are the principles in blending Western formats with raag? “Every musician is exposed to different musical styles, and absorbs and reproduces them. My parents Pandit Sarvesh Chandra Mathur and Sudha Mathur are both classical musicians. 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 even today, I compose on a guitar or a piano, even though my training is in Hindustani classical vocal. Music for me is melody — the composition or dhun. As a musician, how you blend the classical and the Western depends on how much you have learnt or gotten exposed to other genres. My pop-rock song, ‘Accha hai’ in raag Bhimpalasi was composed in 1994, recorded it in 1995 and released it in 1996, and rock has become common only in the last few years here!”