Stephen Devassy has just released an album that features only instrumentals. The pianist and keystar player, who has worked with AR Rahman and Hariharan, among other top names, tells us about his journey, leading up to the release of Project 70.
When Devassy aced the Trinity College London's (UK) piano exams with a 92.2% score, word about his talent spread quickly, leading to Hariharan inviting him to tour with him. "I have done around 300 shows with him. He is like an elder brother; I have learnt a lot from my association with him," says Devassy.
He has worked with musicians like Rahman, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, L Subramaniam and Zakir Hussain. Ask him about working with Rahman, and Devassy says, "I have done over 50 shows with him all over the world. I was not used to his style of working, and rehearsing all night, but now I am. His professionalism is remarkable." Devassy recollects an instance where Rahman, also a keyboardist, complimented him. "He said that when I played the keyboard, he got positive vibes. It means a lot to me, since he understands the nuances of the instrument. I also felt honoured when he attended my recent performance," says the young musician.
Performing for three popes - Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis - is another career high for Devassy. "The concert for Pope Francis in 2013 was the biggest; around 15 lakh people attended it in Brazil," he recalls.
Explaining why he did not want to feature vocalists on Project 70, the keytar artiste, says, "Singing connects people, but instruments speak a different language. We all enjoy Yanni's music, even though his albums do not have vocals. The most powerful love song written is an instrumental piece - Beethoven's 'Für Elise'."
The album has nine instrumental tracks, comprising 'orchestral and synthetic sounds'. As an indie artiste, Devassy says that going ahead, he wants to "merge the audience that follows the filmy and non-filmy kinds of music, which both, the concert-hall audience as well as autorickshaw drivers, would enjoy."