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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Striking The Right Chords

Composer Ram Sampath on finding the concept behind a song for Coke Studio’s third season

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Pune |
July 5, 2013 3:44:13 am

While other film composers see the Coke Studio@MTV stage as a platform to exercise freedom of creating music on a blank canvas without the narrative brief of movies,Ram Sampath chose to draw out a theme for his set of six songs in the show’s third season. “I have to have a concept else I won’t be able to create songs,” says Sampath,in a lunch break amid marathon recording sessions for the show at the Film City. 

Each Coke Studio song,at an average,takes four takes and two hours to record — as his female singers take centrestage. Sampath’s theme is the concept of Devi,and he has put up an imaginative set — from Rajasthani folk singer Bhanwari Devi to hip hop artiste Hard Kaur,from Carnatic classical vocalist Aruna Sairam to his “much better half”,singer Sona Mohapatra. 

This trait,to find an outline to his music,has enabled Sampath to slip effortlessly into the Hindi film music scene. After a somewhat promising but patchy start with films such as Khakee and Family,his career took a new turn with an astounding score for Delhi Belly,and more recently,Talaash and Fukrey. The marked difference in the two career phases has been his ability to re-imagine film music: composing songs that blend with the narrative rather than filling the chartbuster requirements of an album.

“When I signed Delhi Belly,it was a one-song film. But when I made the songs and presented Aamir the film along with them,he was like ‘arey yaar,this great,” says Sampat.

His music has an indie ethos. He started with rock band Colour Blind in 1998 but it has never constricted his exposure to music,resulting in his control over a variety of genres,folk to rock,electronica to classical,hip hop and dubstep. Like many of his peers,Sampath marks the watershed moment of Hindi film music with the arrival of AR Rahman.

“Till then,all of us were like we need to have a pop scene as we can’t be operating in Bollywood. But when Rahman came in,we knew how to be a part of this business,bringing our sound,sound of our generation into Bollywood,” he says. Otherwise too,Sampath’s admiration for Bollywood music has been inclined towards the not-so-typical film composers. “People like Shiv-Hari,Zakir sahab,Ilaiyaraja and Pancham da have done so much more outside film music. They weren’t just film composers; they blended genres. I hope to be in that space as well,” says. “You can be really versatile and still be a Bollywood composer. Its a big space — like a universe,” he adds.

The trick to strike a balance between personal sensibilities and the Bollywood template,is to find the right producer,an open collaborator,as he seems to have found in Aamir Khan. “The biggest difference between him and 90 percent of Bollywood producers is that he doesn’t come from a space of fear. He is ready to take a different take altogether. That vibe is there,and you know that ok these are opportunities and not problems,” says the musician.

While making music,Sampath is kicked by the unending possibilities it can throw up when blended with moving images. It has made for some great audio-visual experience in Delhi Belly (sample the opening credits set to Saigal Blues) and Talaash. But Sampath is particularly pleased with the picturisation of Ambarsariya from Fukrey. “Its so old school. Boy and girl,neighborhood,and romance,” he says.

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