Raag Kirwani on Android

It is 9 am and Bangalore is engulfed in the drone of a workday traffic.

Written by N V Shoba | New Delhi | Published: May 19, 2013 8:44:57 pm

Indian classical music is now on your fingertips,thanks to a smartphone app

It is 9 am and Bangalore is engulfed in the drone of a workday traffic. Negotiating his way through the chaos,Anirudh R,an engineer,is uncharacteristically calm. In fact,for the past month,the 28-year-old has been looking forward to his daily 17-km commute to Electronics City. The reason — a music app on his phone that is docked into his dashboard. Presently,it is streaming a serene contemporary piece set in Raag Kirwani by Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Anirudh,a self-confessed “blues and rock person”,never knew he had an ear for classical music until he chanced upon Twaang,a free app for Android that is slowly changing the way Indian classical music is heard. The VM Bhatt rendition,part of an album called Stargazing,was released early this year exclusively on Twaang. “I had been looking for relaxing music. I never imagined I would find it in a classical music app,” says Anirudh.

In an age when smartphones,3G and YouTube have changed the way we listen to music,Anirudh is part of a growing tribe of young men and women who prefer to get their daily dose of entertainment while on the move. While Bollywood music is easy to stream on your phone,there aren’t many apps that bring you legal non-film music. Twaang does just that. With a library of about 85,000 tracks by over 4,000 artistes,Twaang has emerged as the largest collection of Indian classical music available for a smartphone. The impetus for the app came from a drive such as the one we shared with Anirudh. One evening in April 2012,Vishnu Raned,a former software sales executive,found himself stuck in traffic. He had no CDs in the car and an irksome RJ was on air. “It made me think about how film music was easy to access on a smartphone but not classical or folk music,” he says. Raned,whose tastes in music range from suprabhatam to jazz,decided to build an app to make classical music more accessible. He roped in Shirish Hirekodi,a friend and former colleague,to develop the app,and set about talking to record labels and artistes and creating a Facebook page that today has over a thousand likes.

The first to come on board was Shubha Mudgal,who calls Twaang an “empowering” platform for musicians. Co-director of a record label herself,the tech-savvy musician says she is delighted to be a part of the Twaang repertoire. For,what started as a music library is now also a digital distribution platform. “This isn’t something we planned for,” says Raned. “We are readying to release 15-20 albums by eminent artistes such as Sudha Raghunathan and Pravin Godkhindi that will be available only on Twaang. And we look forward to launching albums by upcoming musicians,” he says. Raned’s wife,Madhuri Vaidyeswar,a doctor,moonlights as an album cover designer and app tester for Twaang.

The app today has a user base of about 7,000 and is used 450 times a day. It is easy to use: search for an artist,album or song or pick one from the recommendations page. “We wanted to keep it simple. Being a techie,it was hard for me not to squeeze in a setting button,” says Hirekodi. All tracks stream at 320 kbps; later this year,a download feature will be available to users who pay a monthly subscription fee. A few bugs remain,but Raned promises to iron them out soon. “Our chief priorities this year will be to expand our user base and deal with the challenge of adapting to low download speeds in areas with limited internet access,” he says.

Twaang is tying up with advertisers and may opt for a round of funding in the future. Who would want to advertise on an app for classical music? You’d be surprised. One metric from the app that has amazed musicians is the demographic profile of users. According to Raned,83 per cent of Twaang’s users are below 44,and of these,over 70 per cent are between 22 and 33 (to create playlists,users must log in through Facebook,giving the app access to their date of birth). “This is also the target segment for advertisers. We are in talks with electronics and headphone companies,for instance,” Raned says.

Musicians who have tied up with Twaang are glad their albums are reaching younger audiences. As Jayanthi Kumaresh,a Carnatic veena exponent whose music is on Twaang,puts it,“There is music on an artiste’s fingertips,and now,with Twaang,it is on yours.”

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