I’m in Mumbai and I’m on my way to meet Ram Sampath, a composer, music producer and musician who started his career making ad jingles and then moved to writing music for pop albums and Bollywood soundtracks.
As I arrive at the OmGrown Music offices, Ram takes me straight into one of the studios and starts telling me his story: “When I was 21, my dream was to go to the West and become the next Nirvana.
“But at the same time, I felt there was something wrong about leaving India. At the time, many young Indians left to work in the West after university. To give you an idea: 52 of the 56 students in my year left the country after we graduated. But I felt the fight that had to be fought was right here in India.
“Of course I still wanted to be a rock star and I was a rebel. But a rebel with a cause. And the cause was, and still is, India. There were so many things to fight for! Social inequality, discrimination against women… We are losing the connection with our roots, stories, philosophy and aesthetics… To me, leaving the country would have been like giving in and admitting defeat.”
“So how did you start your fight? By going into politics?” I ask.
“No, definitely not!” Ram says laughingly. “My weapon is my music. I want to instigate change by being disruptive. My strategy is Rock ‘n’ Roll and Divinity.”
“Sounds interesting,” I say. “Can you explain?”
“I want to keep the rebellious edge of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but at the same time make sure I am popular with and relevant to young people. And then, I unleash my hidden agenda on them: divinity.”
I look at him questioningly and Ram explains: “I want to create new ancient music. I know it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but I’ll show you what I mean,” he says as he clicks on a video file on his computer screen. “Watch and learn,” he says with a smile.
The video starts playing and Ram turns back to me. “This is one of the most interesting collaborations ever. It’s a crazy mix of two completely different worlds: Bhanvari Devi’s traditional, powerhouse Rajasthani vocals fuse with Hard Kaur’s scorching rap.”
I’m completely blown away by the intensity of the music. When it stops, all I can manage is an awestruck, “Wow!”
“You ain’t seen nothing yet!” says Ram with a cheeky smile. “I’ll show you how I can be disruptive in India’s most popular media: Bollywood. It allows me to reach hundreds of millions of people. Here’s a song I wrote for the film Delhi Belly. What you’re about to see has never been done before!”
As the video starts, I imagine Ram unleashing his hidden agenda on me: things do not have to be the way they are. Just stop resisting the change and go where the music takes you.
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