Singer Hariharan talks about the independent music scene in India, his new album, and collaborating with son Akshay

From playback singing in films to exploring new avenues with bhajans and ghazals, singer Hariharan has done it all! He is now ready with his new album Ishq with lyrics by Bickram Ghosh and produced by Sufiscore. Cinema Journal caught up with him as he basked in the quiet charm of an era gone by at Bharatpur in Rajasthan. Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about your new album, Ishq.

The album is about six short love stories produced by Sufiscore. All the songs have been shot in Kolkata; I love the city... I have been going there since the 1980s. This time I got a chance to shoot at North Kolkata, which has an old city vibe. It was like discovering something new all over again, within a familiar milieu.

Why do you think independent music is not as popular as film music in India?

That is because music companies don’t want to invest in independent music. Even on radio and television they only play film music! They only want to work with a formula. There used to be channels for pop music or rock music. But now it is more about Bollywood and other film music from different states in India. That is why when they came to us with this idea of a non-filmy album it was very heartening. We need to do more at all levels.

Hariharan with son Akshay
Hariharan with son Akshay

What change do you see in the Carnatic music scene in the country?

For people living in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Hyderabad learning Carnatic music is a way of life. Every family will train their children in music. These children grow up to become very successful in their professions but also retain a soft spot for music. They may not be professional singers or musicians but will be good listeners. Everyone has learnt some music in their house. So Carnatic music is thriving within the households of the listeners as well as the musicians. Carnatic music is a staple diet.

Music is being used as a form of therapy for mental health issues. What’s your take?

Music therapy started in India and became popular in the West. The frequencies of the notes play an important role in soothing down a troubled mind. If you are uneasy and not feeling one can listen to some specific raags which will immediately make you feel better. Meditative listening to music can cure major ailments. Why do you think people sing bhajans on religious occasions? That is because that particular kind of music has a cleansing effect on the soul. It removes all kinds of negativity. It gets you into a loop, which makes meditation easier. Music is the shortest distance between spirituality and humanity.

Do you think we are becoming less tolerant as a society?

There are so many groups with so many different schools of thought now. Aggression has become the order of the day. People are so angry that they vent it out all over the place. You may not like something happening around you but that doesn’t mean you have to indulge in vandalism! We are supposed to be a civilised society. Violence is not the solution, rather violence only breeds more violence! One can have different philosophies about life, but you cannot be fanatic about it. Moderation should be exercised from all quarters and for that people need to be educated! Only then will things change.

What are your upcoming projects?

My son, Akshay, is into electronic and fusion music and I have done a few collaborations with him. We will be releasing an album in August. My second son, Karan, who is an actor, features in Mora Man Megha Re, one of the tracks on Ishq. I am also working on a ghazal album based on Urdu love poetry.

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