Social Media Star of The Week: Hrishikesh Balaji

The musician wins for introducing the world to Carnatic music with his aesthetic and viral pop fusion Reels
Hrishi (above), who has been working on fusing pop and Carnatic music in an aesthetic way for four years now, released his first Reels in June 2021; Styled by: AmbiKa “B” Sanjana (Eric LaRokk)
Hrishi (above), who has been working on fusing pop and Carnatic music in an aesthetic way for four years now, released his first Reels in June 2021; Styled by: AmbiKa “B” Sanjana (Eric LaRokk)
Updated on Oct 24, 2021 12:42 AM IST
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ByKarishma Kuenzang

Born in Puducherry, Hrishi aka Hrishikesh Balaji moved to the US as a toddler. Now, at 23, he has embraced his cultural roots and the result? His Carnatic infused pop-songs have gone viral.

The Carnatic Reels was a random idea for Hrishi, who has been working on fusing pop and Carnatic music in an aesthetic way for four years now. With more time in hand during the pandemic, he released his first Reels in June 2021. “Most recently, while listening to Charlie Puth’s Attention, I thought, ‘what if I replace the catchy melody with a Carnatic bit? It’s hard to sing really fast, so it was like I was challenging myself,” he says. But not only did he go viral, he got more than 100k views in a couple of days, besides messages from creators.

A secret love

Growing up, Hrishi was exposed to a lot of Tamil film songs, while his paternal grandmother taught him Carnatic music whenever she visited. Then he took classes for five years with a local teacher, but lost interest. Four years later, he re-started the lessons to improve his singing. “I thought maybe I should use real classical music to know film songs,” says Hrishi.

rowing up, Hrishi was exposed to a lot of Tamil film songs, while his paternal grandmother taught him Carnatic music whenever she visited
rowing up, Hrishi was exposed to a lot of Tamil film songs, while his paternal grandmother taught him Carnatic music whenever she visited

But his Carnatic music stayed a secret in school. “Growing up in the US, you get subtle cues about brown culture. Mainstream American culture hasn’t readily adopted other cultures,” he says.

Winning culture

However, when he saw Aziz Ansari and Hasan Minaj embrace their culture, he was inspired. “Music as a language pierces deeper barriers,” says Hrishi, who has released five original songs and has 30 more in the bank.

Are his parents supportive? “Amma reads every comment on IG and TikTok,” he smiles.

Follow @kkuenzang on Twitter and Instagram

From HT Brunch, October 24, 2021

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021