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Classical, Folk and Fusion Performances Take Centerstage on Video Platform The Engineer’s Pick

Producer and live sound engineer Anish Ponnanna has so far invited Swarathma’s Varun Murali, Parvaaz’s Khalid Ahamed and more

Anurag Tagat May 23, 2021

Producer and sound engineer Anish Ponnanna. Photo: Courtesy of The Engineer's Pick

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In the crowded sphere of video content, Bengaluru-based Anish Ponnanna’s channel The Engineer’s Pick didn’t start out for the sake of gaining subscribers or views, but more as a “pure-play passion project” driven by the seasoned sound engineer and producer’s satisfaction. As it turned out, that focus still worked wonders for The Engineer’s Pick, which has over 67,000 subscribers and over 13.6 million cumulative views on YouTube.

Ponnanna began working in live sound engineering in 2010 and has since become the go-to man behind the console for composer-singer Clinton Cerejo, singer Vijay Prakash, plus fusion acts like Indian Ocean and Swarathma. Along the way, he often noticed “inefficiencies of live shows” when it came to delivering quality sound. In 2018, he launched The Engineer’s Pick from his own funds. “The live character was the focus. Musicians were informed in advance that there would be no overdubs or pitch corrections post production; and that they had to perform as if they were performing for a live audience,” Ponnanna says.

What has worked so far, as numbers show, are traditional Kannada songs revived with pristine production, like vocalist Ananya Bhat’s rendition of “Sojugada Sooju Mallige,” which went viral and currently stands at nearly 13 million views. Other artists featured on two seasons of The Engineer’s Pick include folk artist Bindhumalini and vocalist M.D. Pallavi, folk-fusion band Swarathma’s guitarist Varun Murali rendering a quiet flip of “Bolo Kya Hai,” multilingual fusion act Shubham Roy Collective, vocalist Varijashree Venugopal and more. Most recently, they uploaded a performance of Kashmiri folk song “Aies Bayo” by Parvaaz’s Khalid Ahamed, violinist Apoorva Krishna and percussionist Rahul Shivakumar.

Anish Ponnanna, Bindhumalini and MD Pallavi
A behind-the-scenes shot of Ponnanna (center) with artists M.D. Pallavi (left) and Bindhumalini (right). Photo: Courtesy of The Engineer’s Pick

Ponnanna says, “I like to blur the boundaries of genres and languages, although I would like artistes to perform in their own mother tongues. It is the timbre (characteristics of a voice or an instrument) that I’m after.” So far, they’ve had performances in Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Tulu and Kashmiri. Curated by the producer, he says he approaches an artist and lets them pick the composition. “I have an episode coming up in Bengali. I may even have an episode in Kodava Thak – my own mother tongue. I experiment with both classical and contemporary styles. Experimentation is key; I do that a lot,” Ponnanna adds.

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Previously self-funded, The Engineer’s Pick did run into trouble with finances and management once the pandemic took hold across the country. They then received funding from non-profit organization The Whitefield Project for the Arts & Culture and the Sanjeeth Shetty Foundation, which Ponnanna calls a “blessing” that’s helped keep the channel afloat. Another sponsor came in the form of audio company Shure, who provided high-end microphones.

Above all, there’s a certain science on the acoustics and production front that helps increase repeat listening. The producer says, “The mid and high frequencies are not too pronounced like they usually are in commercial music releases. This approach makes the compositions grow on you. I also choose compositions that suit this style of mixing. This methodology is what I believe is bringing subscribers to the channel.” With six episodes out from the second season of The Engineer’s Pick, at least eight more are in the pipeline. “You will surely get to hear some soulful music,” Ponnanna says.

Watch the video for “Aies Bayo” below.

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