Songs from the heart
Sid Sriram, the most sought-after singer-songwriter and music producer of the South Indian film industry, talks about making independent music, participating in interesting collaborations and connecting with audiences in spite of the language barrier of his work
Sid Sriram is the next big thing in the Indian music industry. The singer-songwriter who has now turned music producer with Mani Ratnam’s production Vaanam Kottattum, was brought up in California. While he learned Carnatic music from his mother, he went on to graduate in Music Production and Engineering from the prestigious Berklee College of Music before coming back to India and working in the South Indian film industry.
“Growing up, music was everywhere around me at home. My mom started teaching me when I was three, and when I wasn’t learning from her directly, I’d be passively taking in music listening to her teach her students. This foundation in Carnatic music and just subconsciously taking in music as a fundamental element of life really shaped the way I view the world. When I started studying at Berklee in 2008, this same fundamental came to life in a different way. I was surrounded by music, music students, teachers, facilities. I was exposed to a wide spectrum of new genres I was never aware of before. I started learning different theoretical and technical processes that went into vocalising, understanding music and creating music. From my childhood to my college days, music was like oxygen to me. When I graduated from Berklee in 2012, all the years before then had prepared me to enter the professional world of music. I had always had the passion for the art form, but now I had the skillset and the discipline to pursue this career not only with love but also with intellect and intelligence,” says he.
Sriram became an instant hit when he sang Adiye composed by AR Rahman for Kadal. “AR sir has been music god to me since I was a child. Getting to meet him in 2011 and subsequently start my career in India cinema with him in 2012 taught me one huge lesson, that dreams are possible if you believe in them.
From 2012 to now, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt from AR sir is the importance of curiosity and humility while creating music. Time again, I’ve seen how powerfully you can create when you are a vessel and let the universe work through you. AR sir is the epitome of this lesson,” says he.
The 29-year-old artist has won accolades and awards for his work including tracks such as Ennodu Nee Irunthaal, Thalli Pogathey, Inkem Inkem Inkem Kaavaale, High On Love, Enadi mayavi nee, Parayuvaan and so on. Mani Ratnam has also been another mentor of sorts for him. “More recently, I worked with Mani Rathnam sir on the film Vaanam Kottattum as a composer. I was terrified going into that process because this is my debut film as a composer. From him, I think the biggest lessons I’ve learnt are the importance of intention while creating. Whereas before, I’d indulge in some superfluous creative ideas that just seemed ‘cool’ to me, through the process of making music for Vaanam Kottattum and working with Mani sir, I’ve learnt how each and every small bit of a song or score needs to mean something. His trust in me has also taught me to believe in my creative vision without apology or doubt,” says he.
Will he be making his debut in Bollywood anytime soon? He answers, “If the right song comes my way, I’d love to sing in Hindi. I would want the song to be something really unique and one that allows me to breathe my own soul/identity into it.”
When he’s performing in Chennai, he’s obviously a rage with the audiences who can relate to his lyrics and music. But the case can be different in cities like say Pune, where only a portion of the audience will understand the language. But Sriram believes that he can make a strong connection with audiences anywhere ‘just by singing from the heart’. “I think music is a universal language that can speak to people beyond any barriers created by humans,” he adds.
Beyond film music
While Sriram is the hottest name when it comes to the music of South Indian films, he has bigger ambitions. Talking about his independent music, he says, “I released my path-breaking, self-composed/produced solo album titled Entropy in February 2019, which brought together my influences of Carnatic music, indie/alternative music, lo-fi hip hop, R&B and electronic music.” In fact, the artist has been releasing independent material since 2009, which caught AR Rahman’s attention in 2010. “But it was with Entropy that I was able to seamlessly blend the different shades of my identity together to create for one unique sonic/conceptual experience,” says he, adding, “I’m working on my next solo album now. We’re going to make a big global statement with this next album.”
Sri Lankan origin, Canada-based rapper Shan Vincent de Paul recently mentioned that he would love to collaborate with Indian hip-hop artists such as Raja Kumari, Divine and Sid Sriram. On this, the Kannaana Kanney hitmaker says, “He (SVDP) is incredibly authentic and talented. I can feel by listening to his music that he means everything he raps about with deep conviction. We’ve connected on social media and am sure we’ll link up in person soon.”
The artist has collaborated with his sister, Pallavi Sriram, a Bharatnatyam/movement artist on projects. “We have an insane connection because we grew up together. So much of how I view art, the symbiotic relationship between movement and sound, I’ve learnt from her and our work together. We’re currently working on our next production, which we’ll be taking around the world later this year,” he says.
Sid Sriram will perform at Creaticity, opp Golf Course, Yerwada, on February 16, 6.30 pm onwards