Sid Sriram is a wonder kid. At 20 something, he has been personally recruited by multi-award winning musician, A.R.Rahman, for his compositions; is a regular on Chennai’s classical music circuit, plays for an indie music band and has recently come out with his debut LP, Entropy. We sat the young inspiration down.
You were just a year old when you moved to the States but your roots never left you, owing to your musician parents. How did it shape you?
I was born in 1990; my family moved to the US in 1991. I grew up in Fremont, california, a suburb about an hour outside of San Francisco. My mother started her Carnatic vocal music school in 1992, so I was surrounded by Carnatic music from a young age. I think the most profound thing about growing up with carnatic music around me was that it really became an elemental part of my life. The Carnatic music form made its way into my subconscious and intuition. From a very young age, my mother instilled the importance of open throated singing. Through the years, I simultaneously worked on evolving my musical intuition and strengthening my voice. These two processes working in tandem really gave me my artistic frame of reference. I approach all my creative endeavours with this robust foundation and framework.
What pushed you to choose it as a career then?
I went to an academically rigorous high school. I was into some subjects and pretty disinterested with others. Music was always a constant, something that I did every day without really thinking much. I subconsciously always knew that my calling lay in music. The summer after 10th grade, I discovered Berklee College of Music. This is when I realised that I had the option of music being a true career path; it was a no brainer. I went to Boston for my auditions at the Berklee campus. The minute I got there, I fell in love with the place. After I got accepted, I was a little doubtful about the decision, but my parents really pushed me in that direction. My time at Berklee is what really moulded me to become a professional.
“I think his (A.R.Rahman's) magic captivated me when I first heard the Roja album, when my mom played it in our car. Everything from the melodies, to the rhythmic movements, the sonics, all of it made me feel something pure.”
Tell us about your experience at Berklee and the importance of the part it played in training you as a musician.
When I first got to Berklee, it was a welcome overload of stimuli. There was literally music everywhere. From other students to professors and visiting faculty, I was surrounded by so many new sources of information and inspiration. The variety of music I listened to grew exponentially. I got my degree in Music production and Engineering. This is where I really started creating my vision as an artist and finding my own unique voice.
Take me back and describe the time when A.R. Rahman worked his magic on you and how life changed from there.
Well, I think his magic captivated me when I first heard the Roja album, when my mom played it in our car. Everything from the melodies, to the rhythmic movements, the sonics, all of it made me feel something pure. My first interaction with A R Sir was via email. I’d sent him a cold email with some links to my original music. I never expected a response but he shot me a reply real soon...it was surreal. My first time meeting him was even more surreal. He was extremely warm and made me feel super comfortable. I remember the first time I entered his studio; he had me sing one of the original R&B songs I’d sent him and some carnatic music. It was an insane experience. A few months later, I got the email to record Adiye for Mani Ratnam sir’s film Kadal.
Tell me a little about your debut LP.
My forthcoming debut LP, Entropy, is a 12-song album that creates a cross section where pop-soul, my Indian classical roots and ambient/alternative electronic music all collide.
Since you can’t read or write in Tamil, hasn’t diction been a problem? How do you go about the song-writing process?
Carnatic music has countless compositions in Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu and other Indian languages. The time I’ve spent and continue to spend with Carnatic music has pushed me to perfect my pronunciation. Furthermore, my work in cinema music has further refined my pronunciation. But, I would like to clarify something—all of my original lyrics are in English. I don’t write lyrics in Tamil. I do plan on taking some serious time in the future to learn to properly read and write the language so I can start writing original lyrics.
“We’re all so vastly different from one another, but there is also a palpable universality to the human experience. I intend to express and inspire this ethos through music and art at the highest scale. All love, no hate.”
What are your dreams made of?
My dream is to continue creating music, being a part of as many artistically/musically uplifting experiences as possible, performing around the world for as many people as possible. I will always continue learning every day. If someone had told the 10-year-old me that this would be what my life would be at 28, I would’ve looked at them wide eyed. And for the future, I look forward to continue scaling what I’m doing and branching out in as many authentic ways as possible.
How does 2019 look for you?
I closed 2018 with 12 concerts through the December Margazhi Carnatic season. We’re going to release the Entropy LP in early 2019. I’m releasing the album with Saavn Artist Originals. I’ll be touring the album across India and North America through February and March. I can’t wait to perform these songs live, each piece of the album is like a deep snapshot of a profound moment in my life. Touring this album will be like spreading my message directly to fans. The songs I’ve sung for South Indian cinema, way back from Adiye to Inkem Inkem now, have blessed me with such a dedicated and passionate fanbase. It’s been beautiful seeing the crossover of those fans to my Carnatic concerts and my original music. I’m trying to be as present as possible so I can really enjoy and live every second of this journey. In the next 5 years, I will spread my message of healing through music and art on a global scale. I’m going to be an ambassador for the power of seamlessly bringing together different worlds and experiences. We’re all so vastly different from one another, but there is also a palpable universality to the human experience. I intend to express and inspire this ethos through music and art at the highest scale. All love, no hate.
Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani