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Premiere: Vocalist Harini Iyer and Guitarist Nishad Pandey’s Pensive New Song ‘Maatram’

The Chennai musician’s latest track ruminates on change being everlasting, buoyed by the Berlin jazz artist’s improv work

Anurag Tagat Oct 16, 2020

Guitarist-composer Nishad Pandey and vocalist Harini Iyer wrote 'Maatram' last year. Photo: Kriyang; Art: Karthikeyan Karunakaran

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Last year, much before most hadn’t even heard about coronavirus, Chennai vocalist and composer Harini Iyer found herself in a limbo that many may be familiar with now. The balm for the soul arrived for Iyer in the form of “Maatram,” an introspection of change in Tamil, gently carried over with guitars by Berlin-based Nishad Pandey.

Iyer, who previously released her trip-hop/fusion track “Rowthiram Pazhagu” earlier this year, says she wrote the song after Pandey sent over a chord progression in September last year. The two met at an international residency in Chennai, funded by the Goethe-Institut in August 2019. “Like her, I am influenced by different genres of music in a fluid and non-binding way,” Pandey says.

In the song, Iyer sings about the everlasting nature of change and yet how it never lets you forget. “It shakes you up, willingly or unwillingly because what you’re doing currently does not align with what you ought to be doing.” While “Maatram” seemingly addresses a person, it also beckons the rain, supplementing the earthy sonic atmosphere created by Pandey. Iyer adds, “I initially thought of singing on it or writing another verse but I felt I had already expressed everything I wanted. Spaces and silences are sometimes a lot more effective in communication especially when it involves poignancy.”  

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While the song was in the works since last year, both Pandey and Iyer gave their collaboration more focus this year, with “Maatram” being the first released work. Pandey says, “I recorded my guitar parts at my place in Berlin and then Harini went to a studio in Chennai to record her vocals, once it was safe to do so.”

Listen to “Maatram” below. Stream on more platforms here.

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