Bringing Indian sounds to S'pore

Bringing Indian sounds to S'pore

India's pop music duo Leslie Lewis and Hariharan, better known as the Colonial Cousins, will be performing at the Kalaa Utsavam, Esplanade's annual festival of Indian arts, on Nov 23.

The duo are back in Singapore for a live concert after almost a decade and will be performing songs from all their albums, including their latest Colonial Cousins Once More which was released last year after an 11-year hiatus.

The duo, who joined hands in 1992, have been credited with popularising the Indo-pop fusion genre, mixing jazzy, bluesy rhythms, rock beats and folk stylings and giving them an Indian twist.

However, since the heady days of the 1990s and early 2000 when Indian pop music was at its peak, the genre has been on a steep decline. The Colonial Cousins believe it was systematically pushed out of the radio and music channels which were bombarded with Bollywood music.

"After 2000, there came a point when there was no media for independent music to be exhibited. Independent music is important. One should have the sensibility to give it a status," the Colonial Cousins told tabla! in an e-mail.

In their latest album the duo have tried to revive Indian pop music by bringing Indian sounds to the fore, with the hope of appealing to the new generation.

They said: "We have fans from six to 60 years old. Taking the new generation into consideration, it was important when we did a new album to keep them in mind."

They spoke about their first album, Colonial Cousins, with which they introduced international sounds with an Indian classical influence. Those sounds may or may not be relevant today as people are more exposed to international and fusion music.

Thus, their new album focuses on the younger generation, giving them back the Indian sounds they may not be familiar with.

The duo said: "We wanted to introduce to this generation the wonderful sounds of Colonial Cousins - which is our Indian roots that originate from our folk culture."

The musical partners believe their relationship helped them grow as musicians.

The 58-year-old singer Hariharan, who is from Kerala, credits Leslie, 52, with spearheading the Hindi pop genre with songs like Pari Hoon Main and Janam Samjha Karo.

Hariharan (below right) has also been inspired by Leslie's concepts of arrangement and sound, facets of which can be seen in his ghazal albums like Kaash and Waqt Par Bolna.

Leslie, who is a singer-composer, claims he has learnt to be a better singer with the help and guidance of Hariharan. "Hari still gives me tips in how to preserve and not strain my voice. You could say that Hari is my vocal guru," he said.

Hariharan is trained in Carnatic and Hindustani music. He is the recipient of India's fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri, and has won the National Film Award twice. He has sung in Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Bhojpuri and Telugu films.

Leslie's inclinations lay in Western music, where he was most influenced by the works of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. He began his career as a jingle composer.

The duo have released five albums together - Colonial Cousins, MTV Unplugged, The Way We Do It, Aatma and Colonial Cousins Once More.

The Colonial Cousins are looking forward to their performance in Singapore. They said: "Since we haven't performed for the Singapore audience in such a long time, we are looking forward to having a blast. The different genres of music will create a seamless fusion, a trademark of Colonial Cousins."

The Colonial Cousins Once More concert will be 21/2 hours long, with a 20-minute intermission.

The Kalaa Utsavam is bringing under one roof Indian artistes from the fields of music, dance, theatre and literary arts over 10 days. Visitors can get a unique taste of Indian arts ranging from Girish Karnad's acclaimed play Flowers to a unique Indo-German collaboration C Sharp C Blunt. You can also get up close and personal with two of India's biggest- selling authors, Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi.

The Colonial Cousins Once More musical concert is on Nov 23, 7.30pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall. The duo will be in Singapore to take part in the Kalaa Utsavam, Indian Festival of Arts, which will be held at Esplanade from Nov 15 to 24. Tickets are priced at $40, $60, $80 and $100 and are available from SISTIC.

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