Chennai Artist Harini Iyer’s Trippy New Song ‘Rowthiram Pazhagu’
Iyer teams up with New York-based Ukrainian bassist-producer Han Beyli for the first of more material coming out this year
In April this year, vocalist Harini Iyer heard Tamil freedom fighter and poet Bharathiyar’s poem “Fire” recited by her mother, recounting it as an intense experience. The Chennai-based fusion artist says, “I live for such spurts of passion that leaks into a completely different aspect of my life.”
That poem along with a short bass loop sent over by New York-based bassist-producer Han Beyli led to the creation of Iyer’s latest Tamil-English single “Rowthiram Pazhagu,” which loosely translates “practice anger.” Iyer says, “The spirit behind this phrase is a much-needed reminder in current times, as we find ourselves drowning in a sea of information, stormy and polluted as it is. We are constantly overwhelmed by a range of emotions, and often helpless, tired and conflicted with our own prejudices and privileges.”
Over a trip-hop style beat that’s anchored in bass and tabla patterns, Iyer traverses different styles seamlessly with layered vocalizing and impassioned verses about “the charade for conformity,” amongst other calm yet potently foreboding lyrics. While Iyer is part of experimental guitar and vocal duo Red Earth and Pouring Rain with Abhijit Nath, she says she’s released a couple of singles prior to “Rowthiram Pazhagu” and written more of her own music but has always been “shy about sharing my vulnerabilities.” While her need for expression was sated through writing, Iyer says it got to a point where she “can’t keep them [songs] bottled up anymore.”
Influenced by everything from Latin jazz to Afro-Cuban music, neo-soul/R&B artists such as Hiatus Kaiyote and Carnatic music, Iyer undertook a diploma in contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2017. She’s channeling all that and more into upcoming solo releases (including one more with Beyli) as well as recording with Nath for Red Earth and Pouring Rain. “The bright side to this year has been about wrapping up all my pending projects,” she says.