Midival Punditz Talk New Album, 10 Years of ‘Hello Hello’
Producer duo Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj recently worked on ‘Train Song’ for Bollywood film ‘Gully Boy’
A decade is perhaps a long time for someone like Midival Punditz, considering it’s been an important one. Since the release of their seminal album Hello Hello in 2009, producers Gaurav Raina aka GRAIN and Tapan Raj solidified their place as seasoned electronic artists with a fluid approach to music. After all, prior to Hello Hello, they had already performed around the globe, began working with New York multi-instrumentalist and tabla/electronic veteran Karsh Kale and provided music for films such as Monsoon Wedding (2001).
Fast forward to 10 years later – counting yet another path-building electronic fusion album (Light) – and the Punditz have kept their sonic spectrum varied. Whether it’s live shows that involve collaborators such as singer-producer Komorebi or taking influence from rock and techno in different measures, the duo’s diversity in new material is a continuation of Light, which released in 2015. In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Midival Punditz talk about working on a song for the recently released desi hip-hop Bollywood film Gully Boy, a decade since the release of Hello Hello and their next album. Excerpts:
Over the years of scoring film work and managing Midival material, how much of it feeds into each other?
Gaurav Raina: A lot of it feeds and permeates into each other. I think, one thing about being a musician is that every time you hear music it teaches you something new if you’re listening. You tend to take something you hear from one field into the other, all the time, and it’s a really interesting process.
You’ve worked on background scores, remixes as well as songs for films – you’ve helmed the soundtrack for movies too – which ones still count as the most rewarding for you?
Raina: So far, Monsoon Wedding and now Gully Boy have been the most rewarding movies we’ve worked on. The former put us on the international map and the latter has now put us well on to the national map, yet again. In both these cases, we were really happy, as we gave them a song we had already worked on and it was completely devoid of any other story narrative except the one from the original composition.
How is work on new material coming along? You’ve played a few live over time and tested them out, but how do you decide when a version of a song is ‘final’?
Tapan Raj: When we’re working on a song, the song is constantly talking to us, signaling the changes and what needs to be done. When this voice stops and the track sounds perfect, we know that the process is complete. We are currently working on a new album and it is at its conceptual stage. It’s more of an exploratory and experimental album, that is making us dive deeper into folk music of India.
It’s 10 years since the release of Hello Hello. It came out at a time when you had already topped the electronic music game in India and received global exposure. What was the aim when the album released and how do you look back on it now?
Raj: Hello Hello was a very special album for us. We had been struggling with a writer’s block at that time and invited our dear friend and multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale to help us out by producing the album with us. He very graciously obliged and helped us to take the album in a very interesting direction. We look back at the music and can still feel the sense of excitement and satisfaction we had felt, back then.
How difficult was it to focus on putting out a follow-up to something as successful and almost timeless as Hello Hello?
Raina: One of the biggest issues that has plagued musicians from time immemorial, is how to be better or at least as good, as your last hit. We feel the best way to circumvent this problem is to be completely honest with the music during the writing process and to remember to have fun while doing it. Our follow up to Hello Hello, – Light was conceptually a live album written for the stage and we wanted to explore visuals along with a cinematic sound.
Like Karsh Kale, you prefer to keep live performances as fluid as possible – sometimes it’s just the two of you and sometimes there’s a band, and then there’s an even bigger band. If you could really scale it up and be given a blank cheque, what would an ideal Midival Punditz show look like?
Raj: I think the ‘ideal’ Punditz setup would have all our collaborators from all our albums, on stage with us. This would include Anoushka Shankar, Ustad Sultan Khan, Abida Parveen, Vishal Vaid, Kailash Kher, Karsh and many more. Visually the show will be set against a beautiful, historically rich background such as the Old Fort or Qutub Minar in Delhi and have all our friends, family and fans in attendance.
What’s coming up in terms of gigs and other things through 2019?
Raina: 2019, for us is going to be completely about writing the new album. We’ve already started the process and hope to accomplish a lot this year in terms of finishing the album. We would love to play some of the festivals to test out the new tracks also.