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NY-based guitarist Shubh Saran eyes Bollywood, says industry opening up to indie musicians

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

With an EP and debut album 'Hmayra' to his credit, New York-based Indian composer Shubh Saran says his next stop could well be Bollywood.

An alumnus of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, the 25-year old Saran hopes to return to India one day and work in Bollywood as he believes the industry has become more welcoming towards independent artistes.

"I have always considered coming back at some point. Bollywood is something that I definitely would love to get involved in I know it is tough to grow individually because you are working with the director but there are some incredible composers who have set the scene," Saran, primarily a guitarist, told PTI in a telephone interview from New York.

"I am friends with many local Indian artistes and I think they are doing interesting things with their music."

Saran, who grew up and lived in India, Egypt, Switzerland and Canada before moving to the United States, joined a liberal arts college in Toronto after graduating from high school. But after one year he decided this was not what he wanted from life, and set out to chase his dream - a career in music. This dream delivered him to the Berklee College of Music in 2010, one of the most competitive colleges for contemporary music where admission is a prized commodity.

"In high school, I would listen to a lot of bands and that's when I started to fall in love with Indian fusion. A R Rahman is someone in the Hindi film industry who has been very inspirational. I love his music," Saran said.

Among other Indian composers who have influenced the young composer are Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Clinton Cerejo.

While studying at Berklee for his B.A. In Music Performance and Music Engineering Production, Saran started performing. He played before audiences not only in the United States but also in Bangladesh, Vietnam and India.

At Berklee, he got a chance to perform with Rahman who was visiting the college. He has also collaborated with international artistes like "Cheerleader" hit-maker Omi, Grammy award winner Timothy Bloom and American Idol's Michael Lynche.

Now, Saran is busy promoting his album 'Hmayra', which was released earlier this month and is also available on iTunes and Spotify.

The nine-song album revolves around the pain of creation. Hmayra is a word from ancient Syriac language and means "hostage," but with a different connotation. It refers to a hostage taken not by force but handed over willingly as a pledge between kingdoms to honour an agreement.

Such hostages were selected mostly from the younger members of the royal family and treated so well that they often had a lifestyle superior to the one they were used to at home. Still, for the hostages the sacrifice of giving up home and family was all too real.

"Artistes like to transcend and go beyond themselves in trying to create something greater than themselves. It comes with a lot of sacrifice and hard work. The theme of the album is about this sacrifice and pain that an artiste goes through willingly," said Saran, who as the younger of two siblings is himself a bit of a Hmayra.

The album has received good reviews, especially for the number "It Was You." Obscuresound.Com wrote that the number "shows the impressive power and atmosphere Shubh produces in his song-writing, culminating in an excellent second-half where the brass and guitar work combine for a melodically riveting listen."

Saran is also planning to come up with another EP and tour Indian cities with his group from New York. Collaboration with Indian musicians is also on the cards.

Saran said his formative years were spent listening to bands like Indian Ocean, Advaita and Shakti and that's what inspired his love for Indian fusion music. He said his exposure to Western music helped him come up with a unique style that is a mix of classical and contemporary Indian music, modern jazz, neo-soul, and rock.

"When I started college, I was introduced to jazz and more academic music, and now that I am out of college I rediscovered the older styles that I liked a lot. I have started fusing my jazz influence and vocabulary with Indian music, R&B and with rock and pop. I am happy that I got to study jazz but I am also exploring other things," he said.

Although independent music in India has always been overshadowed by Bollywood, Saran believes the industry no longer caters to a particular genre and has become a confluence of different schools of music.

"We consider Bollywood a genre but I don't think it is a genre anymore. It was at some point but now it represent so many genres. Bollywood music is becoming more varied and that's what we need. It will lead to more independent musicians being employed by directors.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sun, May 14 2017. 10:42 IST