Mahesh Raghavan composes his tunes on an instrument that would be the last one to cross a layman’s mind when it comes to a sophisticated art form that is classical music. We invited the artist to our special series, NewsX India A-List Influencers, for the new-age talent that has won him acclaim on the internet. Here you will find the excerpts from the interview:
We, first of all, asked Mahesh to walk us through how he uses the instruments of modernity to bridge the gap between technology and classical music. “This is my musical instrument,” said Raghav, bringing his iPad into the frame. Raghav told us that the application he uses to compose his music is called GeoShred. “Before I stumbled upon this, I was learning the piano, and I was also learning Indian classical music. On the piano, the notes are all black and white keys, there’s no way to slide from one note to another,” stated Mahesh, while explaining the problem that musical instruments couldn’t seem to solve when it came to composing classical music. “All of those blue-coloured and orange-coloured buttons are actually notes,” said the young composer while pointing to the application active on his iPad’s screen. He slid his finger through the notes across the screen and explained, “This ability to slide from one note to another helps me play Indian music. In Indian music, we have a concept called the ‘Gamaka’ which allows us to slide between notes.” He then proceeds to give us a demo by playing a quick but mellow tune on his iPad.
Sharing the story behind discovering the app that helps him fuse the tranquillity of classical music with the grooviness of modern lyrics, the artist recounted, “I stumbled upon this when I was doing my Master’s degree in music technology. I was researching a topic called controllersim where you can use electronics and devices to create music and I was looking up apps that enable people to play music on the iPad.” He continued, “I stumbled upon an app, back then, called Geo Synth which was developed by a keyboardist named Jordan Ruddes who plays for the band Dream Theatre. That evolved into the app I play today.” His interest piqued by the digital instrument, Mahesh started practising daily, honed his skills, and had an “enjoyable journey” doing so.
Describing the internet as a game-changer for himself, the composer said, “I used to live in Dubai and everyone who I have been working with is either from India or stay in the US, so it has been a virtual collaboration for me since the start, so I have been collaborating with musicians online much before the pandemic and it’s been working out great.” He further stated, “There was a way for me to upload my ideas, and soon a lot of people started liking those ideas.”
“I started off uploading my ideas that were predominantly in the Indian Classical Fusion genre.” Following his friend’s suggestion to compose a cover for a popular track, Mahesh picked Adele’s Hello and presented it in a “proper Indian Classical way.” Mahesh said, “That video became viral and then I did the theme track from Game Of Thrones and then one thing led to another.” He admitted that the fame he garnered initially was overwhelming.
Putting his thoughts forward on promoting Indian classical music using the catalyst that social media has proven to be in his own case, Mahesh shared an anecdote with us, “Around three years ago, I was part of a cover that was a Carnatic version of Shape Of You and that, kind of, blew out on the internet and it got 3M views in one day.” The song was well-received by the younger crowd and Mahesh was approached by several kids expressing their desire to learn Indian music. Further narrating the anecdote, the musician said, “That’s where we realised that kids actually find Indian music really cool if presented in a nice way.” He concluded his final thought with a suggestion for our viewers, “If you are a parent, take your kids to classical concerts, learn how to appreciate it, teach them how to appreciate it, and make them aware of how beautiful our tradition and our music is.”