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'A R Rahman found Chekele supercool!'

September 30, 2013 09:15 IST

'A R Rahman found Chekele supercool!'

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

When 33-year-old lead guitarist of A R Rahman's orchestra, Sanjeev Thomas, released the single from his album Chekele on YouTube, it did not get the kind of response it has got now, ever since Rahman tweeted about it and appreciated it on his Facebook page.

Suddenly, the song has become one of the most popular on the web.

Sanjeev Thomas talks about the single Chekele and his album Epic Shit that is going to be released on October 2. He has sung and composed all the songs and all except one were recorded live.

Did you send the link of your single Chekele to A R Rahman?

Yes, I sent him the link by email. I told him I was releasing this album, and this was my first video. He shared it a few hours later on both Twitter and Facebook.

Were you surprised that he did so?

Yes, I was surprised. He usually does not share other people's music. He replied to my email saying it was good, supercool.

But it was a shock to me that he shared it on his Facebook page and tweeted about it.

Is Chekele actually a folk-song?

Yeah. It is quite an old song, but it is not known when it was written. It was made popular by C J Kuttappan,


Image: Sanjeev Thomas


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'Springr is a platform for all kinds of art'

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Shobha Warrier

Why did you select a song that told the story of landless labourers, something that happened in Kerala many years ago?

It was recorded at Springr studio, which is in a 200-year-old warehouse! The building itself has a long history.

I was introduced to lots of things connected to Kerala by Springr. Though I am a Malayali, I was born and brought up in Kuwait. I was here only for a short time during the Iraqi occupation. I started coming to Springr after it started.

 How did you get introduced to Springr?

First it belonged to Dhanya and Abhinav. Dhanya was my friend and so I decided to help them out by creating a track which she could use for promotions. When I got familiar with Springr, I found it was similar to what I wanted to do.

Was Springr formed to promote folk music?

It is a platform for all kinds of art. This year we are focusing on music. It is a place where artists can come together and collaborate. That is how the music scene gets better and things move forward.

Something like this was missing in Kerala. After I did the track, I gave a proposal and they liked it, and I became a director of Springr.


Image: Sanjeev Thomas


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'The album is recorded live and produced track by track'

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Shobha Warrier

Why did you choose the song Chekele and released it as a single?

I liked the song. Once I understood the meaning behind the song, the theme of the song-- which is basically about throwing away fear from your heart-- I started playing it casually. Then I decided I had to do it.

Is this going to be the most important song of the album?

No. Usually when you release a new album, people expect new songs and there are new, original songs in this album.

Another feature of this album is that it is recorded live and produced track by track.

Are all the songs on the album folk songs?

There is one more folk song in the album.

I would categorise it as, maybe, World Music. You can call it independent or alternative music.

Are all the songs in Malayalam?

No. Only the two folk songs are in Malayalam. The rest are in English.

Why did you name the album, Epic Shit?

That is the slang, lingo, we used at Springr. When we used to discuss big ideas, we would wind up saying we would do only epic shit!


Image: Sanjeev Thomas


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'I started learning the guitar when I was eight'

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Shobha Warrier

How do you plan to launch the album?

We will have the digital launch on October 2, through all the online stores like iTunes, etc. We are having a launch event at Cochin on October 5. It is in partnership with SWD lifestyle magazine.

How did you become a musician?

I started learning the guitar when I was eight. My family does not have a musical background except that they appreciate music, especially my dad. He was the one who was initially after me to practice. Even though I liked it, it is difficult at the start with the guitar.

The Gulf War changed all our routines. I stayed away from music because it was not as important as before. We shifted to Kerala, and then dad was away. Afterwards, when I left Kuwait and came to Chennai for college, I took part in competitions.

Then after my degree, I decided to take up music full time.

Have you learnt music?

I have learned different features of Carnatic and Hindustani for short periods of time. I haven't gone through any rigorous training. I prefer to be a musician by ear than anything else.

When did you decide to be a professional musician?

After my commerce degree. I My father wanted me to be a CA or MBA. But if I had done that, I am sure I would have forgotten about music!

I took a bold decision. It was hard on my parents, but they have always supported me.


Image: Sanjeev Thomas


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'I became A R Rahman's lead guitarist without any audition'

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Shobha Warrier

How did you happen to become A R Rahman's lead guitarist?

That happened in 2006 when AR Rahman wanted a guitarist for a song called Vote for the Taj.

He made this track as a theme song for the UN. He was to get a guitarist from Mumbai but then my friend Sindhu, who was working as an engineer for him, recommended my name to him.

 One day I got a call from his manager and I was connected to ARR. He asked, ‘do you play the acoustic or the electric?’ I said I play both. So he asked me to bring both my guitars with me.

I went straight to the recording and played.

Without an audition?

Yeah, without an audition! Straight for the big one! I have been playing with him for his shows since then.

I used to record for songs, but now the song recordings have reduced because I have moved to Mumbai. His recording happens mostly in Chennai or LA. So I don't play that much.

I travel with him on his tours, shows... we have one on October 1 in Kolkata.

Do you feel the buzz around your Chekele single is because of Rehman's tweet?

Of course. He has such a fan following. Without his tweet, I could not have expected even half of the hits. After all, these are independent albums; they don't have the visibility or the budget of film music.

It was amazing because for one thing, he never shares music like this. It is like he has kind of approved it. And when he approves of something, there are a million people to say yes, he's right. 


Image: Sanjeev Thomas and A R Rahman


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'The album is recorded live and produced track by track'

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Shobha Warrier

What has been the response from outside India?

They say even though they don't understand the language, they still feel the song. So that is great.

Why did you move to Mumbai?

I've been in Chennai for 14 years, so it was time to move. Even the opportunities in Chennai were getting less. I was getting more work in Mumbai.

It ended up very good for me. I am currently scoring music for a Hindi film Ikkatop directed by Trezan Karim

Do you have great expectations from your album?

Already great stuff has happened, now it is for people to like the new stuff. I hope they like it. I have composed and sung the songs.

I am a little sceptical because it is in English. English songs do not get the popularity of regional language songs. But now with the hype, hopefully people will actually listen to it!

 

 


Image: Sanjeev Thomas


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