Urban indie pop artist Sid Sriram is singing the Tamil blues in a new movie called “Kadal (The Sea), ” from internationally acclaimed filmmaker Mani Ratnam. Up until recently the primary audience for this Carnatically-trained vocalist could be found on YouTube, where he shares his original songs, EPs, and soulful renditions of Sam Cooke and Adele hits. Read our interview with Sriram to find out more about how he made the jump to singing for an international audience of film fans.
Performing the single “Adiye” for the soundtrack of “Kadal” meant that the recent Berklee College grad had the opportunity to work with A.R. Rahman, the man Time Magazine described as the world’s most prominent and prolific film composer (a.k.a “the Mozart of Madras”). The song’s distinctive sound combines Sriram’s blues and gospel vocals with a Tamil folk song about love and longing.
The single is not the first time Sriram has melded different musical styles into his performances, as listeners may know from his classical Indian riffs in songs like “Loveshine.” He hopes to take his personal style of soul on the road this summer in the U.S. and abroad and also in a third EP tentatively titled “Westcoast Night Fall.”
How did you end up on the soundtrack for Kadal?
I had sent AR sir a demo via email a while ago. Last year, while I was in Chennai singing Carnatic concerts for the December season, one of the engineers from his Chennai studio emailed me asking me to come to the studio.
I went to the studio and met AR sir for the first time which was unreal. I sang a little Carnatic and my R&B stuff for him, a few months later he told me about Adiye from Kadal, and we recorded! I take all of it as a huge blessing, as I’ve grown up being hugely influenced by AR sir’s music. To be able to work with him, learn and get advice from him has been so amazing.
What was it like to perform live with AR Rahman? Will you be working with him in the future?
It was insane! The first performance I did with AR sir was during his Chennai show on December 29th which later aired on Jaya TV. The crowd was around 40k people, so the amount of adrenaline during this show was crazy. Outside of that, I got to perform with AR sir during the Kadal Audio Launch events in Hyderabad and Chennai. It was great to be able to interact with Mani sir during these events as well! I will definitely continue learning, interacting and working with AR sir.
Congratulations on graduating from Berklee College last year. How is life different for you, now that you’ve graduated?
Thank you! Since graduating life has gotten really busy, with some business stuff progressing in LA, to working with AR sir on “Adiye,” to writing and putting together a couple new original projects, to being in Chennai for Carnatic concerts. I think the main way life is different is now, I’m just working full time on my music career. Berklee gave me such amazing skill-sets and I’m now able to apply them full time.
What was it like to grow up in Fremont, California?
Fremont is a great city and I loved growing up there. It was interesting because the demographic of where I lived was predominantly Asian-American, so there was a huge emphasis on academia in my community. But, I was blessed that my mom has a Carnatic music school in Fremont, so I was always surrounded by music. I also really love the hills in Fremont.
How would you describe the response so far to your music?
The response has been extremely positive. I started releasing music around 2 1/2 years ago and it’s been a gradual process of building and refining my music and sound. Through all of it, the fanbase has been growing and really becoming a part of the movement I’m putting forth. The fact that I can acquire the following that I have thus far completely independently is very exciting, encouraging and I can’t wait to continue progressing!
I hear that you plan to split your time between the U.S. and India. Where are you now? How do you think it will work out in terms of work, family, friends and daily life?
Right now I’m in California, working on the project and planning out some business moves. My daily life, since graduating has become my work which is music and I love every second of it, even when it gets tiring/hectic. I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends, but it’s definitely been more challenging to see them. My parents and sister play a huge role in my career, from all perspectives so it’s been great to continue building this with them.
If you weren’t pursuing a musical career, what kind of careers might interest you?
Damn, I can’t even begin to think what else I would do if I wasn’t a musician.
All About “Adiye”
If you’d like to know more about the single Sriram sings for the soundtrack to the film “Kadal (The Sea),” and you don’t know Tamil, a good first stop might be this version of the lyrics that provides an English version to read while listening to the song.
As I noticed while checking out tweets of the song’s lyricist Madhan Karky (@madhankarky)—a second-generation lyricist with a son named Haiku—the song has lots of fans, including one who created a clip art version of Adiye.
A.R. Rahman describes “Adiye” as the risky song of the album that fell into place after he interacted with Sriram over Skype. “Most Christian gospel songs in the US that I’ve heard have a blues feel to them. I thought it would be interesting to incorporate this into a folk song picturized on a village boy.”
What does the man who has won virtually every musical award that exists think of Sriram? “He has this rare combination of being able to sing blues and Carnatic music. I found that very striking.” (The Hindu)