Sridhar/Thayil Get Down To Brass Tacks
How Kishore Kumar’s favourite trumpet player made it to Sridhar/Thayil’s self-titled debut
As Sridhar/Thayil get ready to release their debut album this week, expect jazz-tinged melodies, provocative word-play, soaring sopranos and copious, copious amounts of whimsy. The album titled STD has some stellar collaborations that not only include the likes of Asian Dub Foundation’s Dr Das but, as we found out, some leading musicians from vintage Hindi film music orchestras such as Kishore Sodha on the trumpet.
Sodha has been a trumpet player in Bollywood since 1978 and was a part of R.D Burman’s horn section. He reels off a list of composers: “I’ve worked with Kalyanji-Anandji, R.D. Burman, Bappi Lahiri, Anu Malik, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Anand-Milind, and contemporary composers like Salim-Suleiman, Vishal-Shekhar, Sajid-Wajid and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.” But Kishore Kumar, he says, was particularly close to his heart. “The first song I ever played trumpet on was ‘Rote Hue Aate Hain Sab’ in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. I was Kishore Kumar’s favorite trumpet player; I’ve performed at almost all his shows.”
Sridhar/Thayil invited Sodha to be a part of the album since some of the tracks took on a retro Hindi film music sound. Sodha first met vocalist Suman Sridhar in 2011, during the recording of the Dev Anand classic “Khoya Khoya Chand”’s new version for the film Shaitan. Was it difficult to approach the Sridhar/Thayil sound considering how far removed it is from Bollywood? “I didn’t have to approach their music differently,” he says. “Woh kehte hain na, musicians kisike bhi rang mein rang sakte hain, music bhi aisi cheez hai. I really enjoyed working with them; I played on ‘Punk Bhajan’, which was very different and unique.” Sodha says he went into the recording to play on one song but finally recorded over three tracks. “I’m happy they [Sridhar/Thayil] liked my work enough to feature me on three songs.”
Jeet Thayil, meanwhile, can’t say enough good things about Sodha. He relates an anecdote from their time in the studio. “We were recording at the Blue Frog studio and we had some technical screw-ups with Suman’s laptop, so while we were figuring that out, we played him a track just once. It had taken us a while, weeks actually, to actually nail some of those runs and changes in that track.” Thayil adds that Sodha listened to the track while he texted away on his phone and seemingly paid little attention to it. “As soon as the laptop was fixed, he put his phone down, picked up his instrument and nailed it on the first take. That’s when it occurred to me that these are the guys who play for Bollywood. They are our jazz musicians, they are that good. In any part of the world they would be famous soloists; they’d be doing major concerts. Here of course they end up playing for Bollywood.”