“I Think My Big­gest Strength Is Also My Big­gest Weak­ness!”

From lend­ing his voice to many chart­busters to cre­at­ing mu­sic, Clin­ton has done it all. Col­lab­o­rat­ing with the likes of Vishal Bhard­waj, this tal­ented mu­si­cian was dis­cov­ered by the mae­stro AR Rah­man him­self while work­ing at a mu­sic stu­dio. Read on as STA

Stardust (English) - - MUSIC ROOM - Words DIVYA RAMNANI

You be­long to a fam­ily that has no mu­si­cal back­ground. Did you al­ways as­pire to get into the mu­sic in­dus­try? I come from a pretty aca­dem­i­cally ori­ented fam­ily. I think mu­sic was al­ways a part of my con­scious­ness even though, due to my fam­ily back­ground, it took me a long time to em­brace the idea. I fi­nally de­cided to take mu­sic se­ri­ously when that in­ner voice got so loud that it be­came re­ally dif­fi­cult to ig­nore it.

Who has been the driv­ing force in your life? I would say my wife and kids have been the driv­ing force be­hind my ca­reer and life in gen­eral. My wife Do­minique has al­ways held a mir­ror and pro­vided a re­al­ity check to my am­bi­tions and yet en­cour­aged me to be bet­ter ev­ery day.

How has your jour­ney from be­ing a play­back singer to be­com­ing a mu­sic com­poser in Bol­ly­wood been? The jour­ney from singer to mu­sic pro­ducer to com­poser has felt quite nat­u­ral ac­tu­ally

as I’ve al­ways felt my voice has been a ve­hi­cle for my mu­si­cal ideas and not the other way ‘round. The melody of a song, the or­ches­tra­tion, the groove, the ar­range­ments, it at­tracted me. So I think the tran­si­tion was in­evitable.

You have worked with some of the most notable mu­sic com­posers. Please share your ex­pe­ri­ence…

I think I’ve been lucky and blessed to have worked with some of the great­est mu­si­cal minds in our coun­try and I’ve not taken it for granted. I think the three peo­ple I’ve learnt the most from are Vishal Bhard­waj, AR Rah­man and Ra­jat Dho­lakia. Each time I’ve worked with them I’ve come out richer. And I feel I had true free­dom while work­ing on their mu­sic be­cause of which I re­ally pushed the en­ve­lope.

Tell us about your first break in Bol­ly­wood.

I did a lot of work as a pro­ducer and ar­ranger for Bol­ly­wood’s big­gest com­posers but I think my first break as a com­poser was Jugni. It will al­ways be spe­cial to me be­cause it was a vo­cal de­light and had many fan­tas­tic singers like Ra­hat Fateh Ali Khan, Nakash Aziz, Rekha Bhard­waj, Javed Bashir, Neha Kakkar, Jazim Sharma, Bianca Gomes, and even Vishal Bhard­waj sang a song for me. The first time he’s ever sung for another com­poser other than him­self. And the fact that AR Rah­man also had a song in this al­bum made it all the more spe­cial. And the ic­ing on the cake was to have both my mu­si­cal men­tors AR Rah­man and Vishal ji at the ‘ Jugni’ launch in­tro­duc­ing my mu­sic.

From the re­lease of your first song to now, is the ner­vous­ness same?

Oh, ab­so­lutely. I think you never lose that feel­ing. Ner­vous­ness is a part and par­cel of my life and now it’s pep­pered with a healthy dose of ac­cep­tance. I mean ac­cep­tance of a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive out­come. It’s im­pos­si­ble to have longevity in this ca­reer if you don’t main­tain that ob­jec­tiv­ity.

Which is your most favourite mu­sic genre? As a mu­sic pro­ducer, I don’t think one can af­ford to have a favourite genre as ver­sa­til­ity is the name of the game. But I would still say I’m par­tial to Jazz, soul and funk. I also love dif­fer­ent folk forms from around the world. I’ve al­ways been in­flu­enced by bands like Steely Dan and artistes like St­ing, but I feel equally at home with the mu­sic of Baba Maal, Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan or the Man­ganiyaars for ex­am­ple.

Apart from movies ,you have a band as well. Which one’s more ex­cit­ing to sing for?

Well I think if the song is an ex­cit­ing one then it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. I’m equally ex­cited to get be­hind the mic and just give it all I’ve got. As a singer you can al­ways bring your own per­son­al­ity to a song. It doesn’t mat­ter if it was writ­ten by some­one else, there’s a lot you can do with it vo­cally and in­stru­men­tally to make it your own. I’m for­tu­nate to have a great band com­pris­ing some of the best play­ers in the in­dus­try. And I also reg­u­larly per­form with two fan­tas­tic singers Bianca Gomes and Sudeep Jaipur­wale. Sudeep brings his clas­si­cal train­ing to the ta­ble with his soar­ing aalaps and cut­ting taans while Bianca to­tally nails the pop, funk and soul sound. To­gether, we are a lethal com­bi­na­tion.

If not a singer, what else would Clin­ton Cerejo be?

Def­i­nitely a food and life­style writer. It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways en­joyed and I spend a fair amount of time and money each year in pur­suit of culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences by my favourite chefs. I’ve also re­cently launched an in­for­mal food blog of sorts to chron­i­cle my ex­pe­ri­ences.

I fi­nally de­cided to take mu­sic se­ri­ously when that in­ner voice got so loud that it be­came re­ally dif­fi­cult to ig­nore it.”

My mu­sic is a re­flec­tion of all that I ab­sorb and im­bibe on a daily ba­sis.”

Com­pe­ti­tion in the mu­sic in­dus­try is grow­ing day by day. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s the one thing that af­fects us all and af­fects us the most. I guess the trick is to learn not to com­pare your­self to oth­ers as ev­ery­one’s tra­jec­tory is dif­fer­ent. How­ever, it’s far eas­ier said than done. So­cial me­dia plays a huge part these days in fu­elling that com­pet­i­tive side in all of us. So­ci­ety is voyeuris­tic and you have to try to stay fo­cused on who you are and what your iden­tity is rather then look­ing around you and get­ting in­tim­i­dated or bogged down.

What is your big­gest strength and weak­ness?

I think my big­gest strength is also my big­gest weak­ness. I find it re­ally dif­fi­cult to com­pose some­thing that I don’t re­ally love to lis­ten to my­self. How­ever, I guess it’s a strength as well in the sense that the mu­sic is al­ways hon­est and comes from a place of au­then­tic­ity.

Your wife Do­minique is a play­back singer too. Is mu­sic the rea­son you both met?

Yes, she’s an in­cred­i­ble singer and was an ex­tremely busy vo­cal­ist when we met. We met through a com­mon friend and soon learned that we shared a lot of com­mon in­ter­ests. We were in a re­la­tion­ship for five years be­fore we fi­nally de­cided to tie the knot. Mu­si­cally she’s my most hon­est critic and also my best friend. It was not an easy choice for her to con­sciously de­cide to take a back seat as I got busier and busier, but when I see how our kids are blos­som­ing I’m ever grate­ful for it.

You have sung for many well­known faces in Bol­ly­wood. With whom was have the best ex­pe­ri­ence?

I think I’ve re­ally en­joyed singing En­dren­drum Pon­na­gai from Alai­payuthey (the orig­i­nal Tamil ver­sion of OHum Dum Su­niyo Re for AR Rah­man, Kya Ka­roon for S. E. L. and Yaaram for Vishal ji. Each of these com­posers have such dif­fer­ent styles but wrote such great songs that were chal­leng­ing vo­cally.

Be­cause mu­si­cians work be­hind the screen, do you think they get the de­served ap­pre­ci­a­tion?

Frankly, I think a good song is its own re­ward. If you can adopt that line of think­ing then you’ll never be “work­ing” a day in your life. How­ever, the flip side to that ar­gu­ment is that we’re all artistes and art re­quires an au­di­ence. This is why I’d re­ally like to see the in­de­pen­dent mu­sic scene grow even more in this coun­try. We need to see a thriv­ing pop in­dus­try where artists don’t have to lean on Bol­ly­wood to be pop­u­lar.

Your favourite mu­sic com­poser in Bol­ly­wood?

That’s like ask­ing me to choose a favourite city be­tween Lon­don, Barcelona, Paris and Tokyo. I just can’t de­cide.

What is that one thing that you would like to change about your­self?

It would be my in­abil­ity to re­lin­quish con­trol at ev­ery minute stage of the creative process. I guess I’d be able to work a lot faster and more ef­fi­ciently if I was less of a con­trol freak.

You have given your voice for some of the most fa­mous ro­man­tic num­bers in Bol­ly­wood, which song is the clos­est to your heart?

I think one that’s es­pe­cially close to my heart is a song that I didn’t sing my­self but one that I com­posed. It was sung by Ari­jit in the film Ka­haani2 and it’s called Mehram. Another close se­cond is a song called ‘I just want to spend my life with you’

which was com­posed by Salim Su­laiman in the film Neal&Nikki.

Your coke stu­dio sin­gle Madaari went on to be a rage, how do you feel? It was such a sur­prise to me and the en­tire MTV team ac­tu­ally when that hap­pened. Hon­estly, no one ex­pected that song to be such a run­away hit, but when it hap­pened I was re­ally happy it did. I think there was some­thing spe­cial about the way all the el­e­ments came to­gether that day on the set that made that song re­ally spe­cial. The lyrics by Manoj Ya­dav, the voices of Vishal Dad­lani and Sonu Kakkar and also the way the band played it with so much magic.

You made Amitabh Bachchan sing for TE3N. Please share your ex­pe­ri­ence… It was an ab­so­lute hon­our to have Mr Bachchan sing a song that I com­posed. I went over to his house to go over the melody with him and re­alised how pas­sion­ate about mu­sic he is. He has a mu­sic room in his house with a state of the art dig­i­tal pi­ano. He turned it on and was giv­ing me an overview of how it works. It was a pretty un­for­get­table evening. I was struck by how easy it was for him to emote and get to­tally un­der the skin of the char­ac­ter.

What is your take on the ac­tors who are try­ing their hands in singing. Isn’t that giv­ing rise to some tough com­pe­ti­tion?

I think the peo­ple who are re­ally se­cure in their art form are not afraid of com­pe­ti­tion. I mean if you’re a singer, no one’s stop­ping you from act­ing. So how can you grudge an ac­tor who may want to try his hand at singing? Ul­ti­mately what you and I think is im­ma­te­rial, it’s the au­di­ence who de­cides who they want to watch and lis­ten to.

You have com­posed the mu­sic for sev­eral award win­ning com­mer­cials. Which are your most favourite and mem­o­rable ones? I’ve been com­pos­ing ads for close to 18 years now and

It was an ab­so­lute hon­our to have Mr Bachchan sing a song that I com­posed.”

I’ve scored well over 2,500 com­mer­cials in this time. The ones I re­mem­ber, which re­ally made a dif­fer­ence, were Voda­fone Black­Berry Boys com­mer­cial and the Google Re­union Ad which went vi­ral. It also bagged the pres­ti­gious Dadasa­heb Phalke award for best mu­sic. Also, Lifebuoy Gon­dappa was a land­mark com­po­si­tion which won a Gold for mu­sic at the Abby’s (Goa Fest) and the Hyundai Ad with Ari­jit Singh in which I also fea­tured in the film as my­self and cre­ated a track en­tirely out of car sounds that I recorded. More re­cently, I gave mu­sic for an ad that was com­mis­sioned by the Jammu & Kash­mir tourism board is one of my per­sonal favourites es­pe­cially be­cause a month af­ter the ad re­leased, I vis­ited Kash­mir my­self with my fam­ily and ex­pe­ri­enced the warmth of the peo­ple of that land. My big­gest re­ward was when the Chief Min­is­ter Smt. Mehbooba Mufti had tears in her eyes at the screen­ing.

What do you en­joy more – con­certs or play­back singing?

I think they’re two sides of the same coin. When you sing a song in the stu­dio, you sing it with the view that it gets pop­u­lar and you end up per­form­ing it on stage to a re­cep­tive au­di­ence. I think I like them both equally. It re­ally helps hav­ing a rock­ing band that drives you on stage to push your­self and give the au­di­ence a hun­dred per­cent.

You re­cently fea­tured with your band on the TED Talks on Star Plus. Tell us your ex­pe­ri­ence.

I was ex­tremely hon­oured that the Clin­ton Cerejo Band was in­vited to per­form on the first edi­tion of TED Talks In­dia. I com­posed a song Laf­zon Ka Kaafila es­pe­cially for the occasion Meet­ing SRK in his green room post shoot was awe­some and I had a bit of a fan­boy mo­ment. It was also a great hon­our to re­ceive a per­sonal mail from Juliet Blake, the Bri­tish film di­rec­tor who now is the cu­ra­tor at TED world­wide in NYC.

You were the first con­tem­po­rary In­dian com­poser to be in­vited by the Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic to con­duct a Mas­ter Class and men­tor the stu­dents. How was the ex­pe­ri­ence? It was hon­estly a huge hon­our for me and a true tes­ta­ment to the fact that mu­sic some­times speaks for it­self. I con­ducted a four day res­i­dency in Bos­ton and was re­ally sur­prised to find out how much in­ter­est and ex­cite­ment there was for In­dian con­tem­po­rary mu­sic. They had stu­dents from Is­rael, Rus­sia, Egypt and so many other parts of the world learn­ing sargam and In­dian mu­si­cal con­cepts with so much en­thu­si­asm. It was un­be­liev­able.

What’s next com­ing up? I’ve com­posed the mu­sic for three songs in the lat­est film Three Storeys, there’s a love song Bas Tu Hai sung by Ari­jit Singh and Jonita Gandhi. The se­cond track is a sooth­ing, heart-warm­ing num­ber called Aazaadiyaan sung by Bianca Gomes and Yours Truly. And the third num­ber is a pop funk com­po­si­tion ti­tled Za­roori Be­wakoofi, fea­tur­ing Mo­hit Chauhan’s vo­cals.

Meet­ing SRK post shoot, made me had a fan­boy mo­ment.”

With Roger Brown, Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic

With Amitabh Bachchan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.