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Who is this guy?

He may not have Rahman or Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s fame, but Clinton Cerejo has done vocals in English in almost every Bollywood song you know.

music Updated: Mar 22, 2011 16:39 IST
Nikhil Hemrajani

There’s a common link between the soundtracks of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal Bhardwaj, Pritam or even AR Rahman. Thirty-three-year-old Clinton Cerejo, who mostly sees his name printed in the album inlay artwork with credits including ‘programmer’ and ‘vocal arranger’, is the man who literally brings the music to life.

“On 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), Hitesh Sonik and I were credited as the music producers and we were involved in every aspect of the soundtrack. Vishal Bhardwaj composed the tunes, but we put together all the orchestration and instrumentation. We took a call on what the groove ought to be and whether live musicians were required. Obviously, Vishal had to approve,” says Cerejo who last sang rap in O mama… for the film.

It may sound surprising but Cerejo joined the film industry with Rahman’s Tamil film, Taj Mahal (1999). “I was doing a vocal arrangement at Fourth Dimension Studios in Century Bhavan, Prabhadevi. Rahman happened to be in the studio next door and heard me singing harmonies. He asked around about who the person was, but no one gave him my name. A month later, I was coincidentally called in as a chorus singer for his Jana Gana Mana project, and that’s when I spilled the beans to him,” Cerejo says. “I guess I impressed him, for he entrusted me with the entire vocal arrangements. A week later he invited me to Chennai to work on a film project.”

But more than Bollywood, 80 per cent of Cerejo’s work is in ad jingles for brands like Pepsi, Vodafone, Philips and Colgate. “I was the music director for the recent Blackberry Boys ad. The song is entirely by me, start to finish,” he says.

Karthik Calling KarthikWhile Cerejo’s been rocking the boat since the late ’90s, younger blood like Nikhil Dsouza and Neuman Pinto are also slowly climbing up the ladder. Both studied at St Xavier’s College around the same time and competed at college festivals like Malhar. "Cerejo noticed my singing and called me in for backup vocals," says Pinto, whose film repertoire as a background vocalist includes Udaan (2010), Dev.D (2009) and Aisha (2010). "I also wrote and sang the English song So close… in Wake Up Sid (2009)," he says.

Dsouza, 29, studied Geology and worked at oilrigs before entering the music industry. He is most famous for singing Sham… from Aisha (2010) that also has Amit Trivedi and Neuman Pinto doing background vocals. “I also have my own band called ‘Nikhil’ that plays alternative and folk music. The sound is slightly heavy with an emphasis on melody and lyrics. We’ll be playing live soon,” Dsouza says.

Cerejo’s most popular work
7 Khoon Maaf – Vishal Bhardwaj
Karthik Calling Karthik – Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Ishqiya – Vishal Bhardwaj
All The Best - Pritam
Wake Up Sid – Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Kaminey – Vishal Bhardwaj
Partner – Sajid-Wajid
Omkara – Vishal Bhardwaj