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Exclusive Premiere: Carnatic Meets Hip-Hop in Yanchan’s ‘I Know’

The Sri Lankan-Canadian singer/producer creates a fusion of South Indian instrumentals and hip-hop drums in latest single

Jessica Xalxo Jun 28, 2019

Sri Lankan-Canadian hip-hop artist Yanchan’s single “I Know” also features fellow Tamil rapper Shan Vincent De Paul. Pictured above: (from left to right) Shan Vincent De Paul and Yanchan. Photo: Courtesy of artist.

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When Sri Lankan-Canadian singer/producer Yanchan Rajmohan aka Yanchan showed up to his first Carnatic vocal lesson at the age of six, he didn’t know it would lead him to play the mridangam. He surely didn’t expect his fingers to take to the instrument and create an eclectic blending of cultures, one that would later fuse his love for Carnatic music and hip-hop beats. In his latest single, the Carnatic/hip-hop track “I Know,” which also features fellow Sri Lankan-Canadian rapper Shan Vincent De Paul, Yanchan introduces the mridangam to his repertoire of sound. 

When Yanchan first arrived in the music industry, people did not take him seriously. They refused to believe that the two genres could actually sound good together. “One of the biggest challenges was finding the right balance between blending these two sounds. I didn’t want to bombard my productions with too many south Indian elements to the point where it lost its hip-hop touch and vice versa,” he says. With added mastery over the kanjira, ghatam and thavil, and a production prowess that won’t silence its roar, it’s safe to say that while there is still resistance, Yanchan’s sound is making itself heard.

In “I Know,” the lead of the mridangam, with the ringing of its tonal end and the booming sound of the bass end, blends into the resounding pulse of what sounds like the kanjira. Shan’s powerful rap verse bridge melds with the harmonics and elevates the beat while Yanchan uses variations of the instrumental sounds to create an immersive sonic experience. Coupled with Yanchan’s husky, assertive vocals and the synth patch that forms the bed of the song, “I Know” is a fusion knockout. 

The Carnatic/hip-hop single was born out of Yanchan’s want for his listeners to understand that success emerges from a bedrock of sacrifices. His parents fled their home country as refugees in a civil war, making their way to Canada. They started with nothing, struggling and working hard to build a new life for themselves. Yanchan inherited the same drive and perseverance through blood. “I took the leap to do music as a career and although it comes with its ups and downs, I’m enjoying the journey as I go. Don’t be afraid to pursue something you love just because others do not see your vision. As long as you stay committed to the process and look at the long game, things will unfold in your favor eventually,” he says.

Yanchan and Shan’s collaboration was a natural process. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Shan, like Yanchan’s parents, was forced to leave Sri Lanka during the civil war. The hip-hop artist has since become a force to reckon with in hip-hop. Having previously collaborated on Shan’s 2017 EP SVDP 1 for the R&B/soul track “Slow Love,” the artists connected because of their roots and background, going on to create from common ground. It was an especially natural process as Shan was able to understand and appreciate all the sounds Yanchan brought to his production. “I don’t think there’s anyone in our [Tamil Canadian] community doing it like him right now,” says Shan about the rapper/producer’s fusion of classical Tamil sounds with contemporary hip-hop. 

What started as an idea in Yanchan’s head is now a reality but the hip-hop artist has only scratched the surface of how far this sound can go. “The more I experiment and the more I work with different artists who don’t know about the mridangam and Carnatic music, the more it gets me excited because they all love what they hear. I want the world to hear all the beautiful South Indian drums and instruments I grew up with,” shares Yanchan.  

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