The New Arrangers

The unabashedly experimental phase in Hindi film music includes music producers who find that ‘arranging’ a song qualifies them as composers.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published:September 11, 2012 12:13 am

The unabashedly experimental phase in Hindi film music includes music producers who find that ‘arranging’ a song qualifies them as composers.

Several music directors I know merely record the tune of a song they are composing on their iPhone and mail it to the music producers,leaving them to do the rest of the job,” says Daniel B George,who has extensively worked with Shantanu Moitra.

Earlier referred to as arrangers,the music producers,explains George,then lend the mood,groove and panache to the song and also decide on the instruments to be used in the recording. Since much of the work that goes into composing a song is done by a music producer,George has understandably decided to turn into a full-time composer.

His first assignment was Sriram Raghavan’s Johnny Gaddaar in 2007,for which he composed the background score. George also worked on Agent Vinod recently and hopes that more such assignments will come by.

Like George,several other Bollywood music producers today are opting to transform into music composers. Sachin-Jigar are perhaps Bollywood’s recent successful music producers-turned-composers. Hitesh Sonik,the man to whom Vishal Bhardwaj has been entrusting his tunes for over 15 years,made his debut as a music director with Stanley Ka Dabba and Pyaar Ka Punchnama. Sonik now has three more assignments underway,which include composing background scores for two films under Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions banner. Clinton Cerejo,who has extensively worked with A R Rahman,gained acclaim for the background score of Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani.

The transition from a producer to composer can be attributed to the changing dynamics of Hindi film music. “Earlier,a song was all about the lyrics and the singer’s voice. Today,its arrangement and ‘feel’ also matters,” says Sonik,adding,“For instance,while composing Dhan te nan for Kaminey,the challenge was to lend Gulzar’s grim lyrics a groovy,contemporary feel.” Similarly,the declining trend of lip-sync songs helps since the focus then is on the music as opposed to the voice.

What has also helped is the increasing knowledge and acknowledgment of the producer’s contribution to songs,which is far more balanced today,like in the West. “The composers openly give credit to their producers now,certain award functions have introduced a special category for music producers,and full-page credits for all the instrumentalists in the CD-inlays,” explains Jigar Saraiya of Sachin-Jigar. Given the extensive role that technology plays in composing music — the sound of most instruments is reproduced using various software and equipment — Saraiya is also of the opinion that most great composers are equally good arrangers. “Under the tag of music composers,AR Rahman,Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy or Amit Trivedi are all gifted music producers too,” he adds.

However,making a transition isn’t smooth,since the industry tends to typecast music producers as technicians as opposed to artistes. “You’re taken as someone who lacks the talent and ability to compose melodious music,” he says.

In that respect,this year’s MTV@ Coke Studio has offered several music producers,including Cerejo and Sonik,the platform to demonstrate their songwriting and composing skills. Cerejo’s composition Madari has been this season’s biggest hit with around four lakh YouTube hits. “I wanted people to take me seriously as a songwriter,and that has happened with Coke Studio,” says Cerejo,who hopes to bag a few more assignments as a composer.

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