Mahesh Raghvan is a Carnatic Music Fusion artist whose artistic goal is to present and create Indian Classical Fusion Music in contemporary ways for modern audiences. We had the pleasure of talking to him about his music, journey, artists he would like to collaborate with and more.
What inspired you to take the path of recreating the international and electronic music into your own version of Carnatic music?
I have been training in Carnatic music since a very young age. I’ve seen many instances where students stop studying Carnatic Music because they find the pure form really boring and it doesn’t interest them so much. Sadly, a lot of my friends avoid going to pure classical concerts for the same reason. I’ve always wanted to prove the fact that ‘Carnatic Music is very cool!’. Hence, I’ve been presenting popular Carnatic repertoire in forms that the young audiences of today can relate to. It is surely one way of including Carnatic music on a typical millennial’s playlist!
Did you think that your music would reach out to many thousands of people who actually will appreciate it?
I would have never imagined that my music would connect would so many people. However, the reach and numbers don’t really matter to me. The most important thing is the creative satisfaction I get out of making and experimenting with music, and that’s what keeps me going.
Tell us a little bit about your journey as a musician.
I’ve always been inclined to music since a young age, thanks to the support of my parents. My childhood was filled with Carnatic vocal lessons, keyboard classes, Trinity College exams and music performances. Apart from music, the other passion of mine was technology – I was always experimenting with computers, software, hardware etc. In order to pursue both my interests, I pursued a Bachelors in Audio Production from SAE Institute Dubai and an MSc in Digital Composition and Performance from the University of Edinburgh.
I’ve always wanted to play Carnatic music on an instrument and I was never satisfied with my efforts on a keyboard/guitar. I discovered a few iPad music apps (GeoSynth, GeoShred) a few years ago. After playing with them for a few months, I developed a technique to play Carnatic gamakas (ornamentations/bends), and since then, there was no turning back. I still practice the iPad instruments everyday to find new techniques and methods to get better at what I do.
If there is one musician/ artist you would like to collaborate with, who would it be and what would you do?
There were two people I had always wanted to work with. One of them is the keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess (keyboardist of Dream Theater and inventor of the app that I play). I was really fortunate to have had the opportunity on collaborating on a piece ‘Light Becomes Day’ with him along with Manjunath BC and Mohini Dey this October. I had played GeoShred and had produced the music for it. The other musician I had always wanted to work with and learn from was the late U Srinivas. I had always looked up to him, and I still listen to his recordings and try to replicate his technique on the iPad.
Tell us a bit more about your YouTube music project.
My YouTube music project was created with the intention of presenting Carnatic music in contemporary and innovative ways. Most of the videos feature me playing Carnatic Music on modern musical instruments such as the iPad and ROLI Seaboard RISE. As of now, I work with two concepts: One of them is contemporary/electronic versions of Carnatic Music pieces and the other is making Indian Classical/Carnatic versions of popular pop culture themes/songs. Both these concepts together have helped me reach a variety of audiences.
How have the responses to your music been so far? Is there any special incident you would like to share?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I never expected to reach anywhere when I had first started. It feels great to see a lot of people pick up the iPad and download the music apps that I use after watching my videos. One of the most special moments was when I heard that my friend’s daughter wanted to learn Carnatic Music after listening to my work. The whole purpose of what I do is to promote Indian Classical Music and it is always special to see people develop an interest for it.
Through your work, you have made classical music reach out to a wider and larger international audience base. What were the challenges you faced while doing so?
In almost all my music productions, the main challenge I face is keeping a listener engaged. In this day and age when social media users skip videos and posts at the blink of an eyelid, there has to be a lot of thought put into engagement. The other challenge is that there are only 24 hours in a day. On almost all my projects, I take care of everything myself at all stages from recording and arrangement to video editing. I had to learn a lot of new skills myself that were unrelated to music, some of which included video editing, social media skills, colour correction, graphic design, motion graphics, lighting, cinematography etc. I learnt everything through online courses. Because of this, it takes me a lot of sleepless nights, time and effort for each production. It does get tiring and sometimes even affects my health, but at the end of the day I really enjoy what I do!
Any upcoming music we can look forward to?
I have quite a few pieces that I’ve done along as part of the IndianRaga 2017 US Fellowship. Plus, I have a few original pieces and a few collaborations that I have been working on; which I plan to release on my YouTube Channel.
Your message to independent artists like you who are just starting out.
To all those who are just starting out, my advice to them would be to keep doing what they love without giving up. Patience and persistence is the key to success. Nothing happens overnight. Also, practicing and learning new things to improve is a must!
This interview was published in our November 2017 issue: http://bit.ly/2i97UKD