'We do versions, not remixes'
Instant Karma comes up with a new sound
They call themselves Instant Karma.
Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonca are already part of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy team who scored for the successful Dil Chahta Hai, as also their just-released album Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai, which is climbing up the charts.
Apart from their filmi commitments Ehsaan and Loy along with Farhad are also part of a remix band that has been doing versions of R D Burman and other composers over two albums.
Now, Instant Karma's third album Dance Masti... Again is out, and the trio is raring to go, says Subhash K Jha:
First a word on your new film album Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai. It suffers from heavy Dil Chahta Hai hangover.
Ehsaan (E): I know. We create the sound according to the brief the director provides. So we had to go by what Hansal Mehta wanted. Now when you hear what Shankar, Ehsaan and I are doing for Honey Irani's film Armaan, you will realise it is a completely different sound.
We're also scoring for Farhan Akhtar's war film Lakshya and David Dhawan's film for Subhash Ghai Ek Aur Ek Gyarah. We are very happy with the tunes we have created.
Loy (L): We're just out here having fun with the works of some great composers. We haven't really restricted ourselves to R D Burman. But it just so happens that we keep going back to his songs. I guess we come from the same headspace.
RD wasn't into ripping anyone else's music. He thought light years ahead of everyone else. He was very global in what he did. Even with limited technology and media coverage, RD did exemplary work.
As a kid, I used to listen to a lot of classical music on the radio. I don't really come from a film music background, but I could make out a lot of RD's influences from the music my Dad played at home. We had all kinds of global music playing at home.
Farhad: I'm a musician like Ehsaan and Loy. I also produce pop albums for other musicians. For Instant Karma, we do versions. Deejays do remixes.
We re-record every bit of the original tune add new riffs. The only thing that remains of the old song is the old melody and lyrics.
Ehsaan and Loy, you're almost like a resident composer for the Akhtars?
E: *laughs* Javedsaab says we are their family composers. Lakshya will again be a different experience. We have to work on theme pieces, etc. But I must tell you I was really upset when everyone slashed our music for Kamal Haasan's Abhay.
Loy, how did you get together with Shankar and Ehsaan to compose film music?
L: See, Shankar was a computer programmer and an aspiring singer. He came to do some jingles for me and Ehsaan. He's such a brilliant musician. The three of us work really well together.
I'm often asked how we function within a trio. I tell them you must try sitting on a two-legged chair *laughs*. In any energy-driven ambience there's always a force working behind the scenes.
All famous composing duos have a lyricist, an arranger or both lending them a hefty helping hand. Maybe we're more comfortable sharing fame and glory. You know it's great to be called music directors but somewhere deep down we are just musicians. We love playing music. That's the most important thing.
Whether we compose a five-minute song or a 50-second jingle, we enjoy doing both.
Why Instant Karma?
E: Why not? We came out with our first album six years ago. We never wanted to do remix really. We just did new versions of old songs starting with Rajesh Roshan's Dil kya kare from Julie. That became very popular.
In fact, it was one of the first version songs that wasn't savaged by everyone for ruining the original. Then we did another album Bahon Mein Chale Aao. Now two years later, Instant Karma is back with a third album.
L: Sometimes our schedules as film composers and as Instant Karma do overlap. But we're quite used to chaos *laughs*.
F: Instant Karma is just something that happened. Bally Sagoo had just come out with his album of versions Bollywood Flashback. We thought we would do something comparable, if not better. We just did two songs and forgot about them.
Then Sony Music marketed Dil Kya Kare and it was a huge hit. That's how we started with Instant Karma.
Now, Ehsaan and Loy are doing their movie projects while I'm producing albums for Mahalaxmi Iyer and a new guy from Assam called Zubin Garg.
Why this gap between Instant Karma's last and new album?
E: We got busy with other things. My career as a film composer with Shankar and Loy is completely separate from what I do with Instant Karma. Farhad, Loy and I have been friends for years.
Even Shankar who isn't part of Instant Karma, sings some of our songs. So he's very much part of what we're doing.
L: We love doing film songs. Instant Karma is such a great learning experience for me. But there's a method to our madness, which is to bring evergreens down from a listening environment to a danceable dimension.
Just like clothes undergo fashion changes, so do music grooves. Twenty years ago you couldn't dance and enjoy music at the same time.
Are you comfortable doing new interpretations of time-tested songs?
E: Yeah! It's great fun. They're such gorgeous songs.
But they're other composers' property!
You know, I really think if R D Burman were alive, he would come to us and tell us, "Why don't you do my songs?" *laughs*. It's really sad the way RD died. I've heard the music company wanted some other composer for 1942: A Love Story. But Vinod Chopra insisted on RD.
L: I think RD would have approved of Instant Karma. Composers write music in different ways. When we wrote Jaane kyon log pyaar karte hai in Dil Chahta Hai, we did it one way. Others are most welcome to do it in another.
There are always variations to a song. It's a living, constantly mutating entity. So for me to do an RD song is an honour. Today we're fighting for a lot of things that he did. We're successful because RD paved the way for us.
F: We don't do just RD. We also do Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, eh? Strangely we end up doing an RD song nine out of ten times. Would he approve of what we're doing? Any musician would take a version of his song as a compliment.
Because a version gives a new lease of life to the original. When we did Bahon mein chale aao, many mediapersons didn't know it was a song from the film Anamika.
Mozart would have died long ago if he weren't kept alive by musicians who followed. If RD Burman were alive, he would be collecting royalty.
So Instant Karma will go on?
E: Yeah, for now. Maybe two years from now we'll do something else. Everyone, from my mother to little kids, loves our versions. It's great fun.
F: Instant Karma is on for now. I might produce [singer-dancer] Shiamak Davar's new album. I may even do music for movies. But Instant Karma should continue.