Please tell us about your new album Ishq – Songs of Love?
Hariharan: We were playing table tennis for two months and the ball was the song. He used to send me a song, then I used to sing it and send it back. Then re-sing certain portions. It has lovely compositions and the genre is geet. Yeh 6 gaane aise khelte khelte ho gaya in one-one and a half month. And I loved the compositions because they had Indian melody, the beat is raag or folk-based. I really liked the subject because it was six stories of love with different endings to the story but the basis was love. I really enjoyed singing and when you enjoy something, it finishes up quickly. So I sent the songs back to him. Then Bickram worked on the songs and arrangement of the sound aspect of it. He added some beautiful rhythm and harmony. So the voice was gliding on a streamlet of beautiful compositions of harmonies and rhythms. The tabla has its place and it’s very musical. It’s traditional but used in a very innovative and modern way. That is what drives the songs and makes the songs sound different. We really enjoyed the process. After this came in six videos. The recording company – Sufiscore, supported us in every way and gave a tremendous kind of push from their side, and we really enjoyed it.
Bickram Ghosh: Well, four years back, I had sent Hariharan Ji a song and I had requested him to sing it. He immediately sang and sent it back - but I realised at that point and he too mentioned that I had only sent him one antara - normally a song has two antaras. That’s when I realised that my engineer and I had made a mistake. Strangely, after that, four years just went by and we never got down to getting the second antara done of that song. Of course, Hari Ji and I have performed together on several occasions including one massive concert we had done at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2010. Then there were other occasions when Ustad Rashid Khan, Hariji and I have performed. So we have done shows in the past but we have never collaborated on an album before. So, during the pandemic, we suddenly got chatting and I said, “Can I send you the song again?”. He said, “Sure, send it!”. Now this time I sent it with both the antaras and in two days, it came back, sung like a dream. Then I sent him another one and then again, he sang and sent it in a couple of days. So, this became a process over the next month or two. And in a couple of months, we had done all six songs. During that time, it was pretty crazy because of the pandemic so we were not travelling. If one is constantly travelling, you can’t do a project from start to finish. So, we got a break in the middle. In this case, there was no travelling for either of us. It just got finished very quickly in record time. And as Hari ji has said it himself, this is the fastest album he has done. I then spoke to a very dear friend, a famous director from Bengal, film director Arindam Sil and he came on board after we spoke to Sufiscore. Sufiscore was really excited and very supportive of the entire project and said, ‘Please do whatever you need to do’. We decided to shoot all six songs as videos. Then we got Arindam on board and I requested Hari Ji to come down to Kolkata to shoot this entire project. He came twice to Kolkata and we did all six videos in about four or five months. And of course, I travelled to Mumbai also, due to mixing and mastering which was done in Hari Ji’s studio in Mumbai. So that’s it! The project was ready.
Hariharan sir is a singer and Bickram Ghosh sir is a percussionist as well as a composer. How did this collaboration happen?
Hariharan: When a composer and a singer match each other’s wavelength, it’s easy to work.
Bickram Ghosh: There are two aspects to what I do. One is being a tabla player or being a fusion artist, and the other, is a composer. So as a composer I make the melodies and do all the arrangements of all the songs and drive the soundscape of the song. So I had done some melodies initially and basic arrangements and then sent it to Hari Ji. But you have to understand that Hari ji is a mammoth singer, and when he digs into a song, he sings the song as his own and gives it a different kind of life. So when he sang the songs, I felt that I had to arrange it one more time because then it would be more in-sync with what he has done. He had given some interesting and new thoughts to the songs. That’s why I worked again on the songs and we really achieved a wonderful synergy of sound, arrangements, singing and of course, my tabla playing pretty much came right at the end because I wanted to play it in a way that it does not disturb the flow of the song and yet, doesn’t sound typical. That’s how it was done and I think that’s how it stands out. There is a unique freshness to this album. It is not like what you would hear today or you may feel some feelings from the past may creep into the songs. But eventually, it’s a very fresh sound and a special kind of approach for making these songs. As Hari Ji described as “geet” which are soft melodies that are hummable. And the soundscape is very different. Also, the way Hari Ji sang it, he has sung in such a way that you won’t find similarity of his singing with the body of work he has done. So it’s very unique what he has done. So I think that’s what made the album special and I would say that all of this was possible because we were so focussed throughout the period. We have really put our heart and soul into this project.
Hariharan sir, you are a legendary singer with so many wonderful songs and your musical career has been amazing. How did it all start?
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