New Album From Canadian Singer Abby V And Grammy Winner Ricky Kej Makes Indian Classical Relatable

New Album From Canadian Singer Abby V And Grammy Winner Ricky Kej Makes Indian Classical Relatable

Aarambh is a full-length album, which has found its rightful home in the UK-based, South Asia-focused platform known as Sufiscore

Kasmin FernandesUpdated: Monday, October 16, 2023, 04:51 PM IST
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Sona Mohapatra and Abby V |

A peculiar friendship was forged between two desis in the city of Toronto, Canada. Youtube star Abby V found a kindred spirit in multiple Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej. Over the last three years, this unlikely duo has birthed a musical creation they've aptly named Aarambh.

Aarambh is a full-length album, which has found its rightful home in the UK-based, South Asia-focused platform known as Sufiscore. On the album, classically-trained singer Abby has lent vocals an ensemble of compositions crafted by Kej.

“My journey into classical vocals started at a young age because my dad sings and he loves ragas. He isn’t classically trained but he is fascinated by them,” Abby told FPJ from his home in Toronto.

He adds that Indian classical music has a fundamental system called ragas (which are scales or a collection of notes in different combinations and they create different moods). These combinations are beyond mere notes. The placement of these notes can have a life completely of its own. Every raga breathes its own identity.

Abby V

Abby V | Anirudh Agarwal

He elaborates, “I fell in love with the concept of ragas, thanks to my dad. When I was a kid, he would sing a song like Mere Naine Sawaan Bhaadon and explain that this song was in a raga called Shivranjini. This is how I learnt that one note can change the mood of a song. My first love has always been pop music and when I started training under gurus, I fell in love with the grammar and language of classical music.” Says Bengaluru-based Kej about the album, which releases on November 24, “Its heart is traditional Indian classical music, but the instrumentation is very modern — it’s in a palette that will appeal to people who listen to many kinds of music. We’re taking Indian classical music to listeners that would not normally listen to it.”

The first single off the upcoming album is the single Ghule, which features singer Sona Mohapatra. Ghule is a special ode from both Abby and Kej. It represents the album's essence—a blend of diverse art forms, unique vocal stylings, intricate production, an array of languages, and voices that encompass a wide range.

The decision to have Mohapatra to lend her voice to 'Ghule' was a natural choice. “Sona has a strong pop identity and sings a lot of Indian folk melodies — her voice is extremely recognizable to a lot of people,” says Kej. The song is rooted in the ancient raag Puriya Dhanashri, an intense melody that resonates with the fervour in her voice. Says Abby, “She has a very rooted, full-throated voice. It’s a very Indian and distinct voice; that’s what Ghule is about. It’s a unique raag similar to Raga Puriya Dhanashri and Sona’s strong voice was the perfect choice. She brings in that folk, old Hindi flavour while I come in with the tarana-taanam and aalaap.”

"Ghule is one of the first songs that Kej sent Abby as part of the album. It has an electronic vibe to it. If you notice, in the chorus itself it starts off as synth hits. This hasn’t really been explored in a raga-like Puriya Dhanashri. Its inspiration has, of course, been the fact that Ricky is like an ambassador of world music, bringing people together through music and that translates to this song too. I love taking what I know in terms of classical music, rooted ghazal or Sufi music and merging or marrying that with pop music. This song is the perfect amalgamation of all those worlds,” he says.

Aarambh has summoned an ensemble of vocalists, each sharing duets with Abby. It's a collection woven from threads of Indian classical melodies, electronica, strings, and the rhythms of ambient beats.

Says Abby, “The other songs on Aarambh are equally interesting, if not more. We are not only celebrating different artists through collabs on every track, but the technical framework is also celebrating something unique in every song. The next release Jaa Gaa – which is probably my favourite – is with Benny Dayal, who is an incredible vocalist. This is the only male vocal collaboration on the album and the song celebrates a complex classical idea. In Carnatic music, it’s called graha bhedam; you have the same set of notes and when you start at one point, it’s one raga and on another point, it’s another raga. In the song, we are singing the same notes, but Benny is starting on a different level and I am starting on a different level. Both these points are running parallel and it’s almost like a rap battle but with sargam. We are trying to make classical music as cool and relatable as possible. Benny and I celebrate our culture and that’s our vibe. Ricky has brought in the most incredible production for this track.”

The interludes are in Hindustani classical and Carnatic music. Abby feels that both schools have similar ideas that run parallel; tarana and taanam, for example. Both these concepts are rich classical elements, rarely heard in the same song. Ghule combines these different ideas seamlessly.

Watch the music video for the first single Ghule:

The album Aarambh will be out on 24th November on Sufiscore while the next single 'Jaa Gaa' featuring Benny Dayal releases on 20th October.

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