French musician Mathias Duplessy, composer of Finding Fanny Fernandes, thrives on the natural sounds of instruments and experiences of other cultures.
In 2008, when French musician Mathias Duplessy came to record a song in a Mumbai studio for an international folk album, the first thing the sound engineer showed him was a computer. It was loaded with all the necessary music samples of all instruments. Duplessy’s reaction — who is used to working with natural sounds of wood and skin rather than programmed music — was of shock. The recording started once the microphones and live instruments were brought in.
This was Duplessy’s first recording experience in Mumbai. It also proved to be a lesson for him in operating in the city’s music industry in the years to come. “There is no place here for studio musicians because everybody is just focusing on programming sounds,” he says. It is also perhaps the reason why he chose to record his latest work, the album of Finding Fanny Fernandes at his Paris studio rather than Mumbai. The only song released from the album — he has composed four songs and the background score — is O Fanny re, a breezy blend of whimsy and soul.
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“It’s not formatted or sung with an autotuned voice. That, and the sheer liveliness of its acoustic sounds, add to its freshness,” says the 41-year-old. Another surprising element of the music is that for a film intrinsic to Goa, it doesn’t use Goan folk elements. Instead, he has played with the Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian and French music of the ’60s and ’70s. Another touch of ingenuity is employing his long-time collaborator, Rajasthani folk artiste Mukhtiyar Ali. “The Goan music wasn’t going with Homi’s (Adajania) description of the film as ‘dirty and quirky’,” he says.
Duplessy got his first assignment in India — recording an album for Senegalese musician Ameth Male — after his manager got married to an Indian. Initially, he started playing at social gatherings and parties in Mumbai. It’s at one of these events that Peepli [Live] director Anusha Rizvi heard him. Impressed by his style, later, the film’s producer Aamir Khan met him when he was on a holiday in France and offered him to stay in Mumbai to compose the film’s music. “I told Aamir, I will take seven days to do the entire thing, but he said I can have 20 days to myself,” says Duplessy, who has worked in several small independent films such as Bombay Summer (2009), Delhi in a Day (2012) and Mumbai Cha Raja (2012).
The musician’s strength lies in his virtuosity with a range of instruments, largely his inventive playing of the guitar and other stringed instruments — one technique involves drumming on the body of the guitar, using it for rhythm. Duplessy got into jazz as early as 12, and by 18, he was on his own pursuing a professional career in music. His coming of age as a musician happened when, “seeking other cultures”, he landed in Spain enchanted by the complexity and the playfulness of the flamenco. The spiritual side of his music came alive after discovering Mongolian music.
Apart from films, Duplessy also creates music for theatre and dance shows. “ I go with my heart. One of my wishes is to do a typical Bollywood lip-synced song and collaborate with a composer from Mumbai,” he says.
The story appeared in print with the headline Tripping on new sounds