In a league of his own
Veteran singer Hariharan, who has completed 10 years of singing with his partner Leslie Lewis for the band Colonial Cousins, says the band is an extension of his musical identity.
"Basically, Colonial Cousins is an extension of my musical identity. And my basic identity is the classical style and ghazals. That's where I come from. And the derivatives that have followed from there have always given me satisfaction," Hariharan told IANS in an interview.
He draws parallels between his early days and today's talent pool.
"The kids are young and bright. I like to be around them, give them a helping hand, advise them not to sing like the singing legends, go to a guru to get a new perception on sound."
"The reason was...the 1980s - action movies, no scope for substantial singing. Till the early 1990s I stuck to ghazals. Two of my albums Reflections and Gulfam became very popular. In the 1990s the scenario changed. Roja and AR Rahman happened to me. Suddenly people discovered the new singer called Hariharan."
The singer laughs heartily at the ironies of life. "Suddenly there was lots to do, new innovations, more room for melody...Since then I've been trying to re-invent myself. In fact, I'm on the verge of releasing a new album called Lahore Ke Rang, Hari Ek Sang.
"It was inspired by my visit to Lahore and the sounds and music there, last year. All the veteran composers from Lahore have contributed. It's certainly something I believe in. It's got thumris, ghazals and geet. If I can balance such a raga-rich album with the contemporary sounds of Colonial Cousins then I guess I have it made.
Hariharan is cautious about the future of film music. "I don't know where I fit in. Basically they've to compose a song keeping me in mind. That very rarely happens. I don't mind experimenting with my style and voice.
"But Bollywood continues to stick to a formula-based sound, although it seems as though a lot of innovation is happening. There's innovation in production and voices, yes. But the basic format of film music hasn't changed...at least not to the extent that we see in other spheres of cinema.
"Lately a lot of pop elements have come to Hindi film music, but not in the vocal but instrumental sections."
But the veteran singer is wary of remixes. "Though once in my life I did dabble in what you'd call re-mixes. For the film Dil Vil Pyar Vyar we re-arranged all of Panchamda's songs. I sang all the songs. But we were careful not to change the basic sound.
"If re-mixes make old music reach youngsters, without violating the original, then they're fine."
Hariharan is also ready with an album called For You From Me. "It extends the sound in my earlier album 'Kaash' .... I feel the scarcity of dependable music companies. The costs of producing an album are exorbitant. I've mixed my new album From Me To You in Canada.
"It has cost me a lot of money, time and energy. But I'm yet to find a music company. What does a creative person do? I can't thwart my creativity. I've so little time to express all that's within me. One way of releasing music is through downloads on the portal."
As far as 'Colonial Cousins' is concerned, he says: "We're doing a lot of shows. We went to China and Australia. And we're planning an album. The bonding is unbroken because Leslie and I are honest to each other. We don't allow differences to come between us."